Rating: 14.5/20

  • 54 Marcus Clarke Street, City, 6247 4042
  • www.courgette.com.au
  • Owner and chef James Mussillon
  • Open lunch Monday to Friday, dinner Monday to Saturday
  • Licensed and BYO, corkage $15 a bottle
  • Wheelchair accessible, with one low step at the door
  • Waters Edge: Commonwealth Place, Parkes, 6273 5066
  • Chef James Titheradge
  • Open lunch Wednesday to Sunday, dinner Tuesday to Sunday
In the Courgette kitchen with chef James Mussillon.
In the Courgette kitchen with chef James Mussillon. Photo: Marina Neil

James Mussillon brings a certain artistry to the plate at Courgette and Water's Edge, his two top-end Canberra eateries.

He's had other restaurants here, moving to Canberra from Sydney in 2000 to cook at Atlantic in Manuka, before opening his own restaurant Aubergine, in Griffith, since sold to chef Ben Willis. He also opened Sabayon but that's sold now also.

It seems Courgette is his culinary home. It's where you'll find him in the kitchen, hunched over complex dishes all his own.

It's a rather hushed, formal place, but not uptight. There's a sense of calm in the carpets and white linen, well-spaced tableware and pretty elegant service.

On the plate, you'll find lamb rack (mains $38) encircled by single beans - a chickpea, a kidney bean, a piece of green bean.

Or a warm duck terrine (entrees $22) within a magic circle of dried figs, radish, apple and the like, all cut to a uniform size (described on the menu as a ''salad''). A courgette flower is filled with ginger and pumpkin, and comes with house-made ricotta ''rolled with mixed grains''.

For dessert (all $18), you'll get the appeal of Kahlua and malt souffle, with violet ice cream and bitter caramel sauce.

So there's artistry in the presentation and complexity and personality in the delivery. Courgette is not where you go for a raucous night. Definitely in the special-night-out league, it's the kind of place you go if you want some privacy for a dinner for two, or for your boardroom lunch meet.

Water's Edge is a slightly different place. Still complex and elegant food, in the likes of rabbit and speck galantine with duck-liver parfait (entrees $21) and beef-tongue carpaccio with watercress cream and smoked bone-marrow jus (mains $38), but a more open, contemporary look here on the lakefront in front of Old Parliament House.

Not many places you can eat this close to the water. We can count them on one hand. Actually, three fingers, unless you've got an invite to dinner with the Governor-General at Yarralumla.