by Bimbi Flor
Amazing architectural design.
Snapshots at the Arboretum
The last two months have seen me exploring more restaurants in the nation’s capital and this time around it was off to try out The Conservatory Restaurant, to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. Located at the Village Centre of The National Arboretum Canberra the restaurant serves breakfast only on weekends but is open for lunch daily. To avoid disappointment, book early as the day we were there, guests were rolling in non-stop and the place was completely booked out. The food is reasonably priced and portions are amazingly large, even for one’s big appetite. The most amazing of all is that the price of your meal doesn’t cover the spectacular views of the 250 hectare of the arboretum because all that comes free. Enjoy your meal as you capture the magnificent and panoramic views over Lake Burley Griffin and all the unique beauty that is Canberra.
Some important history - they say from the ashes, new things are born and clearly the arboretum is a magnificent example of this as it was created as a result of the bushfires of 2001 and 2003 when sadly the Himalayan Cedar forest lost about one third of its trees and surrounding plantations completely burned. In 2004, the ACT government held a nation-wide competition for a creation of an arboretum and the winning design proposed 100 forests and 100 gardens which featured endangered, rare, and symbolic trees from around the world. Planted since 2005 the arboretum includes ceremonial trees planted by visiting heads of state, the latest, Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who will visit the National Arboretum Canberra for a tree planting ceremony on Thursday 24 April 2014.
Bonsai on loan from private collections
The impressive architect-designed Village Centre not only houses the Conservatory Restaurant but Sprout Café with ample space for family to dine in as well as a gift shop. Step out into the fresh beyond and you are in The Canberra Discovery Garden which features landscaped garden rooms that provide tips on sustainability for the changing seasons. As you take inspiration from the magnificent displays of the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection of Australia, the children can enjoy the Pod Playground which features giant acorns. Unfortunately, it is strictly for children and accompanying adults only, hence I missed out.
But there’s more to attract guests and locals…the Pavilion and Amphitheatre is a popular venue for concerts, performances and lately for weddings. The Dairy Farmers Hill lookout, the free guided walks as well as self-guided walks are available for nature lovers who prefer to discover the blue yonder and convene with nature on their own. The picnic and BBQ area is nestled among the Himalayan Cedar forest and is one of the oldest forests at the Arboretum, like the Cork Oak forest. There are walking trails to help you discover the many natural reasons why the Arboretum has become a popular destination for visitors to the region. But don’t just take my word for it – check it out or visit http://www.nationalarboretum.act.gov.au/ for more information if this hasn’t already enticed you.
Another on for your list is Au Lac Royal Vegetarian Restaurant located along Woolley Street, Dickson. My son Julian’s pick of the night was definitely the best decision for my curious palate and meticulous appetite. While I have always been intrigued by the restaurant I was never daring enough to invite my meat-loving husband to give it a go. Top marks for uniqueness and all around service. Service was quick, despite the venue being extremely busy and the staff was friendly, courteous and informative of the dishes on offer.
While I almost always prescribe to a seafood diet, I cannot call myself Vegan just yet. The dishes on the menu, however, are definitely enough to convert me, if only I could cook and serve as spectacularly as the Au Lac chef does.
As it is Vietnamese cuisine, the dishes served are Vietnamese in origin like Tui Tien (Pocket Money Bags) and Banh Mi Chien (Soy Shrimp on Toast). The mains menu reads like an encyclopaedia and you could end up over ordering because you just want to try them all. But that’s not a problem because they’ll gladly box it up for you to take home.
Initially it was hard to order the meat dishes and trying them out because my brain has been designed as a carnivore. Meaning if I order duck, you get duck. But I don’t eat duck but on that night I delightfully ate the soy duck or Vit Quay because it was a delicious combination of tofu, mushrooms and the freshest ingredients. We also tried eggplant in clay pot, soy fish and a whole lot more.
Caramel flan without egg, a specialty of Au Lac Restaurant
The restaurant offers banquets that range from $25 to $27 and each banquet gives you eight dishes including desert. They have special lunch boxes on weekdays for the busy worker and serve MSG free, egg free, cholesterol free dishes. Their drinks menu is comprehensive with freshly-squeezed fruit juices including my favourite coconut juice, three coloured bean and soy bean drinks, served hot or cold. Your meal will not be complete without trying the desert menu. That night, I tried the Caramel Flan with no egg and it was so light I could have had two.
Au Lac is open for lunch and dinner and they also do take-away and catering. Whether or not you practice veetarianism, I highly recommend Au Lac for overall service, price, atmosphere and most definitely the food. You have to experience it at least in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.aulac-restaurant.com.au/ and check out their homepage for their philosophy and the intricacies of their creations. Also check out their Facebook page when you can.
That’s about it for now. Happy birthday greetings to my children Jules and Amelia. For now enjoy reading and be inspired.