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  • Dougie

Small town on a cold autumn morning.

We drove to Gundaroo in New South Wales for lunch in a restaurant named Grazing to mark Spike's 49th birthday which falls on Tuesday (when we'll both be at work). The restaurant is in the former Royal Hotel established, I think I recall from a sign, in 1865. I assume it was once a coaching house on a route from Sydney, Australia's largest city by far in the mid-1800s, to southern regional towns -- agricultural centres like Albury, gold mining towns in Victoria.

The food was good rather than outstanding (the restaurant has a reputation our lunch didn't quite live up to). We were persuaded to try the pre-entrée appetisers. Spike enjoyed her four oysters (two different preparations). I enjoyed my 'small' prawn brioche sandwich. Rather larger than an appetiser in both cases. My tortellini starter filled with ricotta on a potato puree was pleasant rather than "wow". Spike's kingfish 'pastrami' slices were nice (damned, I suppose, by faint praise).

We both chose ocean trout with fennel, mussels and what might have been a mild prawn and tomato bisque. My trout was overcooked, I think it's fair to say. The mussels were a salty contrast but the fennel got lost somehow; overwhelmed by the bisque (whatever it might have been and that wasn't clear to me). My choice of dessert was a salted caramel and hazelnut parfait, hazelnut brittle and chocolate cookie crunch which I did enjoy very much. Spike chose coconut mouse with rhubarb, lime and Davidson plumb meringue. It was delightful too, the sharpness of the rhubarb in particular. Desserts were the standout dishes of the day.

I don't mean to sound overly critical. We had a good meal in a pleasant restaurant, sitting at a table next to a roaring fire. And Spike seemed happy which is all that matters.

After lunch we wandered down Gundaroo's main street. It's another of those tiny towns that was once on a route between important places. I imagine there were times of vibrant activity, coaches coming and going, travellers, dramas.

Now it's a sleepy wee place on the Canberra wine trail with a good restaurant, a pub, a pizza place and not much more. It's 15 minutes drive from the federal highway that bypassed such towns thirty years ago. It's forty minutes drive on a quiet Sunday morning from our house in south Canberra. And a light year away from it's founding purposes.

But we enjoyed our day.

Spike bought some books in a secondhand shop (she's almost finished reading one of them) and a milk jug for $68, part of a Royal Doulton tea service from the 1940s. On the way home we stopped in Bunnings, Fyshwick where Spike bought some earth. Tomorrow, a public holiday, she may plant some bulbs.

As for me? Same as always. Grateful and happy to spend time with Spike, making our way through the world together.

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