In our household, we take our food and our wine very seriously, including the combination, so it’s nice to find a local establishment that does the same. And Vincent’s in Barton is very local (for us), so we don’t even have to cross that divisive Canberra bridge to get there.
Vincent’s Restaurant is quite new to the scene and has been inserted into its encompassing building and government surrounds with not a lot of fanfare and just a bit of stealth. But find the relevant intersection of streets in Barton, where many a public servant may venture, and you will see the subtle signage, and step through the door and you’ll find a dimly lit but sleek wine bar and restaurant, which is one as much as it is the other. Seating is on high stools around long bars or little islands, and the feeling is modern without being austere. The scrabble-tile menu and low-hanging globes speak of the grown-up funky mood that’s still welcoming to a range of ages.
Food comes in either small or large, and it’s up to you to mix it up as you please. Our (limited) selections were pleasing, cooked with precision and presented with care, with taste combinations that really work even if they aren’t outrageously different. The slivers of Peking duck with raspberries served with bean shoots and cashews on fried wontons was light and an excellent pairing of flavours and textures, and even inspired a replication of the meal in our own kitchen the next evening (excellent too though not quite so pretty). The pork belly was perfectly rendered and nicely offset with chunks of just soft-enough apple and lightened with softly-softly cabbage, and the prawns were cooked just as they should be, and in this case accompanied with Jerusalem artichoke and a bit of crumble. At $19, larger eaters though may have been disappointed to find just a pair of them on the plate. A bowl of the chunky chips may fill in the corners.
For those with larger appetites, you can choose the degustation tasting menu for $70 per person. Although we didn’t venture there, I noted with disappointment that dessert was not included in this selection and was considered an ‘add on’. Or you can go for some little snacks and a drink or three. Lots of ways to mix it up.
The breadth of alcohol choices is intentionally narrow – wine, beer and water only – allowing more range within those categories, and allowing you to sample a number of different wines or beers. As a wine drinker, it’s refreshing to be able to choose from a number of more interesting wine varietals – such as an albarino or a fiano in the whites, and Mr T was pleased to see a Delas Crozes Hermitage on the wine list. Wine prices range from $9 to $14 per glass, or $19 for champers.
The friendly waitress was keen to explain and help us through our choices, with a gentle push towards their recommended pairings of wine and food, as each plate has a matched pairing. But if you’ve got a good idea of wines it’s really not rocket science and we preferred to choose our own and run just a little wild.
If you’re into beer and were hoping for a run down on that side of life, I’m sorry to disappoint. Beer does not form a part of my world, so I studiously ignored it. Make your own investigations if you will. And if you’re just into cocktails, bad luck.
Ambient noise is often such an issue in places like this, where the aesthetic appeal of steel and concrete don’t provide the sound cushioning required for easy conversations, and Vincent’s doesn’t escape this dilemma. Even mid-week and not chockers, it was difficult to hear the waitress. Perhaps larger groups are used to speaking up and listening hard.
Vincent’s was a good find. Now we know where it’s lurking, we’ll venture back another evening to try out a couple more of the wines, but I still won’t drink the beer.