11th March 2012

Teatro Vivaldi Restaurant

ANU Arts Centre, University Ave, Canberra ACT

This is a slightly up-market restaurant tucked into a beautiful corner of a lovely campus, next to some of the largest willows I’ve ever seen. The menu offers a wide range of  main meals that are specially marked as vegetarian, and gelati and sorbets. But it also states that special diets are catered for, so I put them to the test and asked for a vegan meal. The challenge was superbly met! A dish emerged of penne in a rich tomato sauce containing aubergine, zucchini and black olives, its intense taste nicely complimenting the pasta. Sitting beside it was a side salad of crisp small leaves, cucumber and tomato, a fine contrast with the main dish in texture, taste, colour and, come to think of it, nutrition. An old friend suggested this would be a good place for catching up over lunch, and as is usually the case the recommendation of a local was spot on. Viva Italia!

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4th March 2012

Punjabi Palace

135 Melbourne St, South Brisbane Qld

This is a well-established restaurant in an inner suburban area that has been changing character, so that it now finds itself on the fringe of a tourist area. But there’s no reason why locals can’t enjoy it, and we began our meal with a plate of nicely cooked onion bhaji pakoras, before passing on to a satisfying vegetable dahl and an alu palak of spinach and potato. Perhaps it was exposure to Popeye the Sailor Man that led to my love of spinach, but I’m always happy to sit down to a dish of this vegetable, and usually appreciate the way it has been cooked, as I certainly did at the Palace. This dish is also available as paneer palak, and there is no shortage of paneer (cheese) dishes on the menu. An Indian salad comes as a tricoleur of cucumber, tomato and red onion that are laid out to form stripes, a beautifully fresh and moist accompaniment to the main dishes which has a strong enough taste to be able to hold its own against their spices, and the pan fried alu paratha, utterly non-greasy, is a winner. It being lunch time we didn’t linger, but walked into the street in very good cheer.

Punjabi Palace on Urbanspoon

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