Name: Urban Pantry
Address: 5 Bougainville St, Griffith ACT, 2603
Ph: 02 6162 3556
Hours: Monday to Friday: 7:30am-late. Saturday: 8am-late. Sunday: 8am-4pm
One week before the beginning of summer. And it’s raining.
Not just raining, but pouring. It’s the sort of rain that instantly soaks through everything, dropping in sheets rather than drops. An evening you could swim through, right before the heat comes along.
This meteorological aberration on a Friday night can dampen the spirits (if you excuse the pun). So to brighten them, I searched for three words that speak of summer to so many Australians: meringue, cream, fruit.
Yes, pavlova, that 80-something year old classic, named after the one of the greatest dancers of her time, then pronounced badly by us in the southern hemisphere (we extend the “o” sound more than the Russians). I am not going to enter into the trans-Tasman debate of the origins of the dessert, except to say that whoever created it did a wonderful day’s work that day.
Many of the food bloggers around the country are, this weekend, making their own versions of this, linking them all together in a celebration of the dessert. I have seen chocolate pavs, Black Forest pavs, purple mini pavs, and rainbow pav towers, as well as the classic style. Something for everybody.
I wanted to join in the fun, but alas my blog details my eating exploits, rather than my cooking. And so, instead of cooking a pav, I had to seek one out.
Unfortunately, it seems that, popular though they might be, pavlovas don’t grace many dessert menus. The promise of “Crisp meringue served w/ passion fruit fraiche & summer fruits” at Urban Pantry appeared to be the closest option.
Which brings me back to that waterlogged Friday, sitting outside by some large sheets of plastic that didn’t keep out the rain quite as much as would have been ideal. The corner location in Manuka is, I am sure, a lot more pleasant in the daytime.
The dessert came out, a picture of simplicity. A round, squat meringue was topped with a large dollop of cream. Strewn over this a kaleidoscope of colour, with a red, green, yellow and blue fruit salad made of strawberry, kiwi fruit, mango and blueberries. A drizzle of passion fruit rounded out the plating.
These are, to my memory, the classic pavlova fruits, which brings me to the question – did this dish count as a pav? What is the difference between a pavlova and a meringue with cream and fruit?
According to the wisdom of the internet, it appears to cornflour that makes the difference. It creates a spongier centre to the meringue, more filled than the chewiness and air of the French version.
At Urban Pantry, once you got through the disappointingly soft shell, the centre was that sort of light, airy sponge. If I had to put money on it, I’d say there was cornflour. Which surely means it was a pavlova, so why not simply name it that?
Although, it wasn’t as sweet as many of the pavlovas I have had. And this was possibly the problem, because without sweetness, there is very little left. In its classic form, it doesn’t really balance the sugar with much. There’s no bitterness, very little sour. It’s really only the touch of fattiness in the cream that cuts through at all.
And that’s fine. A big punch of sugar and cream is a wonderful thing. But it means it needs the sugar, so this was a little disappointing.
Much more exciting was the maple syrup tart, thick, sweet and warm. By itself, it wouldn’t have worked, being too dry and a little cloying. But pair that with salted cashew gelato, a smooth hit of cold nuttiness, and the balance I your mouth hits right on.
Though I guess that tart was a little outside the scope of this blog hop.
Also out of scope would be the excellent savoury dishes, like the soft pillows of ricotta gnocchi with a rich veal and roast pepper sauce. Or the lemony hit of skodalia, underpinning pork and salt-heavy prosciotto and haloumi. A side of corn on the cob, covered in butter, chilli and salt spoke to me of summer even more than the pavlova.
A few glasses from a short wine list that hit all the important marks rounded out the evening. Service was friendly, though a little slow, leaving us having to walk inside to get the bill.
Urban Pantry is exactly what a café/restaurant hybrid should be. The food is good, the room looks great, and everything is sitting on that line between relaxed and classy. And it will require a breakfast revisit, because where else in this town can you get Kedgeree?
It’s just a pity that pavlova was a little less impressive.
PS: It seems that WordPress doesn’t allow me to properly add Pavlova Blog Hop list, so go to www.ledelicieux.com to see the rest of the entries, and how to join.