Sitting outside under the dappled light shed by a gigantic oak tree towering overhead and looking out at roses, Pork Barrel Cafe surprises me with its beauty. The café’s name is a political reference to pollies who ply constituents with benefits to secure political favour. It is a clever title, but does not do justice to the prettiness of the outdoors café venue.
I had dined next door at the zen-like bamboo framed Lobby Restaurant next door, but until this visit only glanced at the café. I thought it was only served cheap sandwiches, take away coffee and ice-creams. They do in fact serve sandwiches, and by the look of it fairly good ones, but it is more upmarket than its casual chairs and tables suggest. And what it does best is pizzas.
And what pizzas! They were not the best pizzas I have tasted—the bases were too oily and the crusts undecided as to whether they were thick or thin—but certainly they were among the most visually spectacular I have seen. Small pizzas start at $15.90, but the large pizzas ($31 to $37 each) when shared between a crowd are more economical. With the clatter of conversation, laughter and good food, I felt like I was living a Dolmio commercial for the good Italian life.
We ordered six pizzas for our group of 13; this was more than ample and one pizza would probably be sufficient for three people to share, unless there were gusty appetites. Pesto ($33) was the first to arrive; it was topped with fresh tomato slices that could have been cooked a little longer, but was forgivable enough to entice me back for seconds. I also enjoyed another vegetarian pizza, melanzane ($33), topped with roasted pumpkin, olives, capsicum, pesto and other veggies. I didn’t get a chance to try the continental ($33) with pepperoni, but it looked good.
Then the more dramatic pizzas arrived: colleagues clamored for Bombay chicken, topped with spicy tandoori and adorned with a pappadum and raita ($37). Di mare ($37) featured generous chunks of salmon, large prawns and mussels – no complaints here of scrimping on seafood. And finally our meal was topped off with The Castle, a meaty pizza covered with PorkBarrel BBQ sauce and completed with two fried eggs.
In good weather, Pork Barrel Cafe would make a lovely and leisurely lunch venue for group visiting the parliament houses and summer blockbuster exhibitions in the Parliamentary Triangle – it is only a few minutes’ walk from Old Parliament House and across the road from the National Library of Australia and Questacon. It is in the Entertainment Book, and offers a discount of up to $30.
What: Pork Barrel Café
Where: 7 King George Terrace, Parkes
Opening hours: 10.00am to 2.30pm over the January holidays