If only everything could be as easy and straightforward as being asked by the reviewing team to trot down and have lunch at a place you love.
I can remember clearly the first time I wandered past Silo, way back in the 1990s, and saw the huge marble counter filled for what must have been the first time after Leanne Gray moved from Cornucopia in Braddon to open Silo. I marvelled at the European look to the place and some of the early dishes like vitello tonnato that Gray used to crank out, and, of course, the bread. Amazing bread. If you've travelled a bit, you will never have found anything better than what we have here in Canberra.
As a kindred baking spirit, I always feel connected here, but it can be a soul-destroying exercise as well - you make a loaf of bread, send it across the world via Twitter and Facebook tricked up with Instagram, but you come crashing down to earth when confronted with Gray's bread.
Today, there's a fairly relaxed atmosphere - it's busy, but not flat out and stressy as it can get at times.
One of the great themes to the menu is its seasonality and simplicity. Most dishes have a French or Italian, or lately, a Spanish country feel to them. You've strolled in from Andalucian hills, rosy faced from your exertions, into a small bakery in a picture-perfect village. Sit down to a plate of jamon, manchego, bread - of course the bread is brilliant, memorable - rubbed with late-season tomatoes, and it all costs $19. Strange. In your mind you are on the Iberian peninsula, but you're paying in Aussie dollars. The ham is fantastic, really good, quite meaty but with that well-aged fat that melts in the mouth. A thin slice of the great sheep's milk cheese of La Mancha, with that distinct zigzag pattern on the hard rind, slightly crumbly and sharp, goes so well with the jamon and the bread. To see off the last vestiges of spring, you wash this down with a light, crisp rose´, a simple wine, but given the setting, so in tune with the food that you praise the beret-ed owner for his ability to match the glorious food with such a wine.
Good food should take you places and this simple plate sure took me so far away that my guests were about to snap their fingers to wake me from my reverie.
It's Silo's ability to make a dish speak so loudly and clearly that has me coming back all too infrequently. A soup, yes I'm drifting off again, near the ocean now, autumn leaves, the path through the chestnut forest. Cold, the Mistral is starting to bite, then a house. A cream brick veneer with ensuite, no, a cottage, yes an ivy-cloaked cottage with good smells drifting into the late-afternoon air. The soup is filled with autumnal colours and flavours: Chestnut and chorizo, that beautiful nutty flavour given length and body with the spicy sausage. Seems like amazing value, coming back to reality, at $12. A glass of Martinsancho verdeja ($9) is the icing on the cake.
Another dish, fish siciliana ($24) (which will definitely be off the menu unless you have a handy time machine), is a cutlet of swordfish, simply grilled and dressed in olive, lemon and oil. Simple in a word, but so well cooked - soft and yielding, and fresh and zinging with the zesty dressing. This is the food you love to eat, well I do, no tricky stuff, just the ingredients selling themselves without fanfare, dressed in seasonal flavours.
The salad, mixed leaves like radicchio, arugula and mizuna, roasted beetroot and chevre-smeared walnut bread ($19) is so late autumn that you need a houndstooth jacket and sensible shoes to fully appreciate it. Along with this, there's plenty of bread and more wine from Hudson's eclectic blackboard mix.
Before we head out to the departing sunshine, a couple of tarts of prune and raspberry display the baking triumphs from this little kitchen. Super-short pastry filled with custard and then the fruit, as you get in the most-prized Parisian patisserie.
I come away thanking, yet again, the stars that must have aligned to have such a place here in the capital.
Address: 36 Giles Street, Kingston
Phone: 6260 6060
Owners: Leanne Gray and Graham Hudson
Chef: Malcolm Klose, baker Leanne Gray
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday breakfast and lunch, 7am-4pm, not open for dinner
Licensed: Yes, no BYO
Vegetarian: Good options
To pay: All cards
Wheelchair access: Yes, including disabled toilets, but access narrow through the restaurant
Seats: 49 inside, 10 outside
Value for money
Summary: Perennial favourite for the city's best bread, the well-run cheese room, the interesting breakfast and a terrific, simple and seasonally focused lunch.
11 something went wrong. 12 not so great tonight. 13 fine for a cheap and cheerful, not so for a place that aspires to the top end. 14 good. 15 really good. 16 great, when can we move in. 17-20 brilliant. The stars are a quick reference to the key highs or lows. They do not relate directly to the score out of 20.
Bryan Martin is a winemaker at Ravensworth and Clonakilla, www.bryanmartin.com.au