Since Morning Glory opened about a year ago, turning the idea of all-day dining on its head and raising breakfast in the national capital to a new level, I've wondered what the space would be like at night.
It's a beautiful fit out, dark tones of timber, stone and steel, full of light during the day with a glass atrium of sorts at one end, large glass doors at the other. How would it transform once the sun went down?
The team from Narrabundah's XO, who took over the space where A. Baker used to be in New Acton, never opened with the promise of dinner but perhaps it was always in the back of their minds. In May they started serving dinner Wednesday to Saturday.
We're here on a Wednesday, early too, it's 6pm and we have the place almost to ourselves. We joke we're getting so old we need nursery tea, but in a way it's nice to know we'll be well fed and still have the night ahead of us. Perhaps in days gone by we would have hit up the nearby Parlour Room or ducked over to Monster, but that's not how this night ended up, I'll give you a heads up now.
The menu is not large, five snacks, five smalls, five bigs, four sides and three choices for dessert. I'm a fan of a mix and match menu, the chance to try a few different things, food in the middle of the table to be shared. Our waitress, who was cheerfully attentive all night, walks us through suggested quantities and we're right to go.
We start with siu yuk, slices of pork belly with a peppered plum sauce ($20), and dumplings, made with chicken, chives, wombok and chilli oil ($18).
The pork belly is divine, close to the best I've ever eaten. The meat is tender, flavoursome and decadently fatty, the crackling perfectly crispy. Too often crackling becomes hard and takes an effort to get through. These fines slices melt in your mouth. The plum sauce is sticky and sweet and the perfect accompaniment to cut through the fat of the meat.
I love the dumplings as soon as they hit the table. There's a symmetry about them that appeals, four plump dumplings divided by a garnish of enoki mushrooms. They don't disappoint on eating either, full of filling, well seasoned, a little kick from the chilli oil. Even if you're not coming in for a full meal, treat yourself to an after work drink and a little bowl of these.
Making that drink choice wouldn't be easy. The drinks list at Morning Glory is an eclectic mix. There's is a local beer, a Bentspoke lager, among the small offering on tap, two choices of sparkling, one Australian ($15 by the glass) and one French, and a fun selection of cocktails. The wine list that extends from a local Nick O'Leary riesling to a burja zelen from Slovenia, which we didn't try, but after reading more about it will next time, a skin-on-skin wine with a distinct green tint prior to filtration.
The best food experiences take you outside your comfort zone, make you try new things. The XO (and now Morning Glory) team have always been about twisting Asian and European cuisines. At breakfast they came up with "eggs and soldiers" being served with kaya and matcha hotcakes with yuzu and at night they've applied the same sense of adventure.
Our first main is the S&S barramundi ($34), a turn on the old favourite sweet and sour. Four thick fingers of lightly battered fish are set, Jenga like, on a salsa of tomato, pineapple and Spanish onion, topped with a little bundle of crispy dill. It's not the most delicate looking dish, but quickly demolished, not Jenga like. There's something nostalgic about the flavours, for so many of us raised on sweet and sour, beef and black bean and honey prawns. The fish is well cooked, the sauce leaning more to the sweet than sour. It's more substantial than it looks.
We couldn't go past a side of duck fat potatoes ($12) but they're probably not the best accompaniment to the fish. They're lovely, however, crispy outside, fluffy inside, they'd be great just to douse in salt and eat on their own, but they are a bit overwhelmed by the sweet and sour sauce.
Our other side, the eponymous morning glory ($10), is a highlight. I had no idea what it was to be honest, but it turns out it's a water spinach, kind of like a thin pak choy, sauteed in garlic oil and finished with a sprinkle of dehydrated garlic that has gone all lovely and crispy.
It comes out alongside our other main, Crying tiger ($38), a generous portion of grilled wagyu flank, sliced into thin strips served with beansprouts and Thai basil and a spicy chilli jaew, or dipping sauce. I like my meat very red. This flank looks as though it has been quickly seared, a thin outer layer that's caramelised with flavours of perhaps palm sugar and oyster sauce. The chilli jaew packs too much of a kick for us, use it sparingly.
We haven't eaten much, but we're full and so we share a dessert, the peanut butter parfait ($18). A good layer of parfait is topped by a quenelle of luscious milk chocolate, there's a chocolate crumb and salted caramel shards. Our waitress warns us about the quenelle of milk chocolate, it could be addictive, she says, and she's right. It's the richest part of this dessert and not, surprisingly, the peanut butter parfait that is light and nothing like a mouthful of peanut butter straight from the jar. Not that I have ever done that.
It's been a great meal, excellent company, interesting food. It might be the early timeslot, or my age, but I like that there's nothing too over the top about the whole thing. While I love the attention at XO, it's nice here at Morning Glory, relaxing and laid back. The adventure is on the plate and that's the right place for it. All I want now is for daylight saving to kick in so I can do an early dinner again with that late summer sun streaming in through the atrium.
Address: 15 Edinburgh Avenue, New Acton
Hours: Sunday to Tuesday 7am-3pm; Wednesday to Saturday 7am-10pm
Owners: Greg Lally, AK Ramakrishna, Kent Nhan
Chef: Elliot Gotovac
Vegetarian: Great options, and vegan too
Wheelchair access: Yes
Noise: No problem