Ah, reluctant as we are to embrace unconstrained pork consumption, the pork cheek terrine at Muse is a beautiful thing.
Served with rye toast, green apple, pickles and smoked mushroom and thyme butter, it is probably the highlight of our meal at Muse, which is a surprisingly cosy and really pleasant space at the Canberra Avenue end of the East Hotel.
The terrine is soft and creamy, really good with the sharp dill pickles and crisp slices of green apple. The rye bread is good and the smoked butter a triumph. It's fresh and well balanced and reinforces the sense we had when we walked in that we are somewhere we want to be.
Muse looks in the daytime like a causal simple cafe but somehow, with the low lights and gentle music which I want to call soul, it becomes more moody at night.
The wine list is decent also, probably because Muse is part of the East Hotel trio of serious places to eat, set up by people well tuned into good wine, new trends and how people like to eat.
There's also Agostini's here, a big, happy Italian eatery, and Joe's Bar, a darker, snacky cool place for a drink and bar food.
At Joe's you'll find pizza and a bunch of appealing snacks, including calamari, polenta chips with gorgonzola, and something described as "brioche arancini". Your guess will be better than mine on that one. I have none at all.
The upshot is that East Hotel has the eating-out bases covered so if you're staying here or live in Manuka and Kingston, you would probably frequent the place for a drink and be happy to have it as a regular dining spot to boot.
Back at Muse, on the wine front, we're happy to see the local 2017 Mount Majura the Silurian bubbly on the list by the glass ($14), and we also enjoy the Larry Cherubino Laissez Faire fiano from Frankland River ($14).
The menu offers the food as "prologue", "chapter 1", "chapter 2", "footnotes" and "epilogue".
Fair enough, I guess. This is possibly fun if you're a cheery personality, and it reminds you of the theme of the place, where they also hold bookish events and talks.
The mains we eat tonight are an oddity. They sound good, and they're right for the season, with something of a hearty hum to them. But they're both rather soupy, for want of a better word.
There looks to be plenty on the menu that is not in this vein. You can tuck in safely to a steak and mash, with the offering of Cape Grim black angus beef sirloin, black truffle butter and Paris mash ($38).
Or the menu offers seared kingfish, confit duck leg, and, intriguingly, "baked sweet potato, pomegranate, broad bean, rye crumb, harissa-spiced mint labneh". We very nearly go there.
Tonight's dinner undecided? No more! Chunk a couple of sweet potatoes and roast them soft, top with onion jam, creme fraiche, loads of coriander or parsley and there you have it. Everything comforting in one. With the added advantage - for some of us the key advantage - that it took zero effort and no time so when everyone says yuck or no-one appears at the table you do not need to despair or care. Wonderful!
At Muse, where cares feel a long way away - the measure of all your favourite restaurants - we've ordered Moroccan spiced chickpea and date tagine with brown rice, quinoa and coconut yoghurt ($28).
The chickpeas and pumpkin are spicy and hot, with plenty of cinnamon in the mix. The brown rice is a bit watery, and could be more rugged and textural than it is. The right brown rice is a thing in itself, don't you think? The yoghurt tastes pretty odd with the coconut, for reasons I don't understand. In all, you might find this dish virtuous, and distinctly vegan. Vegan can be a good thing, an excellent thing in fact, but you wouldn't normally call it luxurious, and this dish feels decidedly more cafe than restaurant.
Lamb and ale ragout with leeks, pearl barley, artichokes, green olives and pumpkin mash ($36) is like a big stew. It's warming and wintry, with pumpkin puree and loads of chopped vegetables, plus also artichoke and green olives. There's good chunks of lamb, and it adds up to a rib-sticking dish that you would enjoy sitting in front of a fire and spooning from a big pot. But soupy.
Desserts get us back on track. Dark chocolate fondant ($15) will also keep you happy. It's not brilliant, but perfectly decent. It 's one of those versions we've seen a bit on menus lately that is a sum of two parts - a definite outside crust and majorly melted inside, like two separate components.
A caramel tart special is really good, the rich salted caramel filling cut through by the passionfruit ice cream alongside.
Address: 69 Canberra Ave, Kingston
Phone: 6295 6925
Owners: Paul Eldon and Daniel Sanderson
Chef: Steven Sweeney
Hours: Monday and Tuesday 6.30am-3pm; Wednesday-Friday 6.30am-10pm; Saturday 7am-10pm; Sunday 7am-noon.
Wheelchair access: Yes
Vegetarian: Yes, well covered
Noise: No problem