Dining: Silo Bakery
by The Editor
Though Silo Bakery certainly has had its share of problems over the last year, one cannot deny the success of this hole-in-the-wall bakery cafe over the previous decade. A long time hangout for Parliamentary members, staffers and journos, Silo has become the place to be for itinerant Canberra visitors with healthy expense accounts, while a sense of superiority from the staff and comparatively expensive coffee has also conspired to deter the daily visitor. Hell, even we have stayed away for a few years upset partly by the fact Silo comes across even wankier than we do.
The fishbowl nature of the front of the cafe means there is little room for a diner to scribble notes and take (somewhat substandard) photos via iPhone. Instead, we snuck down the long corridor to a small table up against the wall. From here we would investigate whether Silo still lives up the longstanding hype.
Glancing at the menu, the bakery maintains its modus operandi of associating sophisticated meals with the perfect glass of wine. Scanning down the list, varietals are both local and international, indicating as much attention is paid to the wine list as the long-standing cheese room (which we will have to report on at another time).
Graham Hudson, one of the owners of Silo, was working the floor that day. He’s been treading the boards since day one and, like Silo’s own whispering death, is quietly spoken and seemingly never more than a moment away. Appearing suddenly at the table with a docket book and ready to take an order, we get in a conversation about the appropriate course of action.
It’s cold outside, so the Toulouse Sausage and Oysters sound intriguing. As we hesitate Graham makes a suggestion, “We can do the Chestnut and Chorizo Soup as a half serve ($6.00), and you can think about a main later.” An excellent call, Sir! Bring a matching glass of wine while you’re at it.
First item to arrive is a thick pan, slightly warmed and holding three slices of Silo sourdough. Go into any of the finer restaurants around town and you’re likely to find a slice Silo bread on the side of your plate. This all bodes well for the soup.
Graham again materialises, this time with an elegant glass and bottle of wine. It’s the 2010 Collector Marsanne ($10.00), one of the label’s varietals we have not previously encountered, and a quick sip suggests the slight spice in the wine will match nicely with the chorizo in the soup.
When it arrives minutes later, the soup looks delicious. Flatleaf parsley rests on the surface, as does a thin pool of oil, and it’s scorching hot. Finely chopped carrot and potato is visible through the cloudy broth while an initial taste reveals a healthy seasoning. At the bottom I find the chorizo and chestnuts – also finely diced and softened in the soup. Together it all exudes warmth that defies the cold autumn weather outside. Before long the soup and bread have disappeared.
Having initially dithered over ordering the Andalucian Tripe ($24.00 – slow cooked for 16 hours with paprika, sausage and wine before being reheated on request in a ramekin), we finally settled on the Ocean Trout ($24.00). It was a tough call, but so many of the offerings (outside of pizza) contained sausage, so it seemed sensible to seek something different. Graham notes the order down and apparates back to the kitchen.
As the cafe fills with a busy lunchtime trade the ocean trout arrives; it’s not Graham delivering the food but one of his minions. The plate lands without announcement or ceremony, hitting the table with barely enough time to scramble papers out of the way. In a blink he has gone, and I am left to remember what the dish comprises and wonder where the matching wine might be.
The crispy skin on the trout is perfect, and adds a nice bit of crunch in accompaniment with the Daylesford aged jamon, while the butter sauce swimming around the bottom of the plate coats portions of the trout in a delicate sheen. Before complete dehydration strikes an observant minion spies my empty receptacle and asks if I might like another glass. Tempted to reply, “Not apart from the one I ordered,” I nod and ask again for the recommended 2010 Port Phillip Estate Chardonnay ($10.00). We sip the wine ($10.00) with its gentle though somewhat chalky flavours that balance beautifully with the lovely and moist fish. The servings of wine and trout are generous and, by the time we’ve finished the meal, a lovely haze has fallen upon us, courtesy of a full belly and a couple of glasses of wine.
A lovely vanilla brulee topped with boysenberries ($5.50) along with a Cosmorex espresso ($3.50) round out the meal nicely – both lightening the palate and stimulating the mind. The tartness of the boysenberries provides a nice contrast to the subtle sweetness of the brulee. All in all it has been a rather complete experience.
Despite some of the assistant floor staff still misunderstanding the basic concept of hospitality, when the old-schoolers are running the show Silo is proves it has not skipped a beat. While on Saturdays even making it through the door can prove to be a challenge, efforts to secure a table are returned in kind. Such a shame it’s not open for dinner, or Sundays or, in fact, the entire of January. Still, when your venue is this good you deserve to be that busy. Little wonder they treat themselves to a break now and then.
Conclusion? Well, the years have changed little about this tiny little bakery. Silo is a wank – but wonderful one at that.
36 Giles St Kingston ACT 2604
(02) 6260 6060
Tuesday to Saturday 7am to 4pm