Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Lynwood charm offensive

It’s one of those things about Canberra. If someone recommends a restaurant or tourist attraction as absolutely brilliant, then you’re bound to be disappointed.

It’s happened to me repeatedly. I’ve been told by every second person that this place or that is just so dammed fantastic, usually with reviews, awards and promo pieces to back them up. But when we get there, at best it's a reasonable experience – one I’d probably rate more highly if it wasn’t for over-inflated expectations – but often it’s just so much nothing.

Lynwood Café is a case in point. Lynwood isn’t bad by any standard but it wasn’t the gourmet explosion I was led to expect*. We’ve eaten at Lynwood twice now. The first time was a flying visit on a busy Sunday afternoon, so I wasn’t too disappointed when the service was stretched. We sat outside near the road which meant the charm of the building was completely lost on me.

I was hungry at the time and the shepherd’s pie (or was it lasagne) went down well. It wasn’t what I expected although it was a long way from the DMP rating for mediocrity. I can’t remember what my companion ate and neither can he, clearly it wasn’t that mind blowing (nor overly bad).

My second attempt at understanding the Lynwood mystique happened when we went to Collector for the pumpkin festival. This time we had a table inside and it was early in the lunch sitting, so no problems with the service. And any complaints I have about the food are relatively minor – the size of my roast pumpkin and rocket salad was a bit stingy at $15.50. The pumpkin was a tad undercooked but the flavours were well balanced. The side order of chips ($6) was competent if not great and my companion praised the taste and quality of the produce in his ham and cheddar toasty ($12.50).

What disappointed me was that I still couldn’t see what everyone in Canberra was raving about. Sure the old building had a quaint charm but not everyone comes from a place like Canberra where a building is considered National Trust material if it’s more than 40 years old. Perhaps it’s not Lynwood I should be disappointed in - much of it's popularity seems to have been built on the fact that people who read Gourmet Traveller can’t bear the thought of eating somewhere that hasn’t been vetted by Pat Nourse.

I’ll give Lynwood another go, but next time it will be on my own terms. DMP rating – good homestyle fare (or should that be fair?).

*I find the same thing with Silo – sure the bread and pastries are good but it’s also the place where I was served a poached egg with a completely cold (but still runny) centre.

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