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54 Benjamin just got cosier

Jodi Morrell

Belconnen has welcomed newcomer, 54 Benjamin, to the block with open arms. The bar has been embraced by locals and has quickly become an essential part of the bar scene in Belconnen. I met its new sidekick, The Tank, on Tuesday and I’m pretty sure the welcome will be extended. The Tank is the food cart that Thomas Greaby, the owner of both, has created to cater to patrons of 54 Benjamin. While The Tank will live at 54 Benjamin, it is also highly mobile and will be rolled out to events around Canberra to provide amazing food and cocktails.

As The Tank started warming up outside, it began emanating some really good smells too. Scott Kennewell, the head chef, wanted to create homely food which fits 54 Benjamin’s style and ethos, but with a tapas twist speaking passionately about how well Canberra restaurants do tapas.

“I’ve used this influence to turn it into high quality street food using fresh ingredients and incorporating seasoning and herbs as garnishes that also enhance the taste of the food served,” he says.

The result is elegant little tapas that are simple, satisfying and of a quality I can’t quite believe was made on a food cart outside. I tried Paprika buttered corn, Lime buttered corn, Mushroom cups with haloumi, basil leaves and a pickled eggplant sauce and cute little Chicken tortilla cones. But you have to be careful with the tortilla cones — the guacamole can get a bit drippy.

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For me, there were two highlights on the food menu. The first was the Beef chipolatas wrapped in prosciutto because I firmly believe that prosciutto makes everything better. The second, and by far the crowning glory of the menu, were the Miniature steak sandwiches. Simple, fresh and delicious the choice of sauces really set the tastebuds sizzling and the steak sandwiches are tiny, but satisfying.

For just a few more days, you can drop by 54 Benjamin to sample The Tank tapas menu for free! They’re offering complimentary samplers to promote the new addition to the family. As well as the gorgeous tapas menu, 54 Benjamin is launching their winter drinks menu this week too with $10 house drinks and $5 for everything else (except classic cocktails and bottles of wine), so you really have no reason not to drop by.

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But what made this visit extra exciting, is that in addition to sampling the food cart wares I sit in on the staff cocktail training session. Food and cocktails — I didn’t need much persuading.

Manager Matt Nimmo gets behind the bar to demonstrate how to make each cocktail, which resembles more of a ‘Show & Tell’. Matt creates each cocktail while explaining what he’s doing at the same time. He also challenges the staff to make sure they’re not only listening but they understand each cocktail by throwing out pop quiz questions every now and then. He then picks on bar staff to make the cocktail to reinforce the learning process, which includes brainstorming what kind of cocktail a customer may be in the mood for.

“This creates an understanding with the staff that ensures they can not only provide the customer with a drink they will enjoy, but also educate the customer about their drink too,” says Matt.

“It’s a place where customers can come and try something new without being worried that it won’t suit their taste.”

With its growing maturity, the homey and ‘welcome to my living room’ vibe is even more prevalent when you walk into 54 Benjamin, and you really do feel like one of the family.

There were a few standout drinks on the winter menu that are worth a mention…

Irish Coffee

A stout coffee drink that’s definitely a winter warmer with ingredients that include butter vodka, cold drip coffee supplied by the nearby Two Before Ten plus sugar, sweetened condensed milk and of course, stout. It’s a drink for beer lover who have never taken a likening to cocktails or vice versa — the cocktail and wine lovers who never took to beer.

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Irish Coffee

 

When teaching how to make this drink, Matt was careful to point out the need for a double shake on this drink, with a caution to be careful on the second shake because of the potential to explode and leave your face covered in stout. Despite the need for caution, with dark chocolate shaved over the top, this cocktail tastes like happiness in a pewter mug.

Hot Butterscotch

This one is sure to be a winter smash hit and deemed the most dangerous drink the 54 Benjamin bartenders will ever make as Matt reiterated plenty of safety precautions before, during and after the making of this drink. There’s open flames with a potential for the drink to actually catch on fire. With ingredients including whiskey, apricot liqueur, butter, orange cheek and sugar it’s no wonder that this is on hot little drink.

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The setup for Hot Butterscotch…

 

Served in a teacup and saucer, it’s a very 54 Benjamin drink because it feels like something your grandmother would make you when you come in from a cold day and need to warm up. This drink warms right through to your soul.

Cinnamon Scarf

I also have a soft spot for the Cinnamon scarf, and not just because Matt let me behind the bar to make this one. It’s the winter of whiskey at 54 Benjamin and this cocktail includes just that — whiskey plus cinnamon stick, house-made honey ginger syrup and a dash of egg whites to make it fluffy.

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This cocktail also includes a bit of a show with the cinnamon stick smoked into the glass to add the aroma the drink needs. That’s right, these people trusted me with an open flame. Indulge in this cocktail if you feel like you’re coming down with a cold. It’s soothing, fluffy and smells amazing.

So if you’re keen to try something different this week, drop by 54 Benjamin to experience the new winter cocktail menu, meet The Tank and hang out with the team. Pop by to take advantage of the special prices on drinks and complimentary samplers before everything goes live next week.

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Jodi Morrell

Jodi Morrell recently abandoned her long-term public service career to pursue her passion for writing full time. She is passionate about politics, federal and local, and loves to explore and understand opposing political standpoints. Jodi loves travel, good food and wine, fitness and obstacle races (the muddier the better) and books. More about the Author

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