Petit Feast Masthead

Age won’t weary them: Canberra’s longest-standing restaurants

Laura Peppas

With so many new restaurants popping up in Canberra at the moment, you could be forgiven for struggling to keep up. But what about the other side of our dining scene: those Canberra institutions that have been around for almost as long as our city? We set out to find out some of Canberra’s oldest restaurants and their secret to longevity in a changing dining culture.

Caph’s Café, {Manuka} – 89 years

Before hipsters, kale and quinoa, there was Caph’s. I have fond memories of my parents taking me here for sandwiches and milkshakes when I was barely tall enough to reach the booths, and it’s good to see this family-run business is still going strong. Owner Manuel Notaras says the café opened in 1926, when Manuka was not much more than a dirt road. His secret is consistency.

“It’s always been personal service, the owners have always worked here and we make people feel special, so it’s why they keep coming back,” he says. “It’s probably pretty rare that you see generations of sons and fathers working in the one spot.”

Photo: Caph's

Photo: Caph’s

Kingston Hotel Pub {Kingston} – 88 years

Affectionately known as “the kingo” this southside pub has a rich history etched in its rustic interior, which is refreshing given Canberra has so few historic pubs. With live sport, two bistros and a homely feel throughout, this is our answer to the old corner pubs of Melbourne or Adelaide. The owners say keeping meals reasonably priced and a family-friendly environment are paramount to the business’ success.

Charcoal Grill Restaurant {Civic} – 53 years

Step inside this historic Melbourne building steakhouse and you feel as though you’ve been transported to a 1920s brasserie with its mirrored walls, deep red chairs and low-lit lamps. Opened in 1962, Charcoal Grill was one of the first restaurants in the Melbourne building. Owner David Ramege says he’s survived the competition because there will always be a place in the industry for good old fashioned service, fine wine and a cracking steak. “Consistency and quality is key, the way we do things is very traditional,” he says.

Gus’ Cafe {Civic} – 47 years

As Canberra’s first al fresco café, Gus’ broke new ground and has aged well on the bustling Bunda Street dining strip. Augustin ‘Gus’ Petersilka, a Vienna native, brought the concept of the continental-style, relaxed late-night café with him to our city in 1968 and Canberrans have been thanking him ever since. The secret to the café’s success? Location, unpretentious service and consistency – you always know what you’re in for. Like the old saying goes, it just seems to get better with age.

Gus' old photo

Photo: Gus’

Timmy’s {Manuka} – 30 years

Established in 1985, the owners of this Chinese/Malaysian restaurant say despite the changing dining scene, locals still have a hankering for a decent stir fry. They list their central location, convenience and chefs trained in Chinese and Malaysian cuisine as reasons why they’ve stood the test of time.

Rama’s {Pearce} – 24 years

Yes, the Fijian/Indian dishes in this southside establishment are delicious, but if you’ve ever visited Rama’s you’ll know the real highlight is owner/hostess Mini Gaundar, who can remember almost every customer that comes through her doors and never fails to lift a mood with her cheerful service. Mini agrees they’ve lasted because of their “good food and service.”

“Often when you go to restaurants you’ll get really good food but not good service, and we have both,” she says. “We also have a really niche market, Fijian-Indian food is very comforting. As time has progressed, people have become a lot more multicultural so like to eat something a bit different.”


Photo: Timmy’s

Sammy’s Kitchen {Civic} – 20 years

Three things are guaranteed when booking a table at Sammy’s: the service will be no-nonsense, you’ll have steaming hot food under your nose within 15 minutes, and it will always, always be packed. With just one visit, it’s easy to see why this Chinese and Malaysian restaurant has long been a fixture on our dining scene. Its owners say their secret is providing customers with an inviting place to dine.

So we ask, what’s your favourite long-running restaurant in Canberra?


Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

  • Ben

    Australian Pizza kitchen APK in civic must be well over 20 years. Yummy pizza and pasta.

  • Deborah Wheeler

    Le Rendezvous in Manuka. I’m 46 now and I remember many a wonderful family meal when I was very young . So 30 years at the very least. Great Italian food and amazing pizza’s.

  • Jane Quick

    Caphs, Kingston Pub and the Charcol Grill are all terrible – gross food, out dated décor and rude staff. Also the owner of the Kingston Pub is a complete jerk. He ruined my 30th birthday. I booked their party room and paid my deposit 2 months in advance and then a week out from the event (after I’d paid for the DJ, sent invites, order decorations etc) they told me they’d decided to give the space away to someone else because that person had more guests and would spend more money. I had to scramble to find another venue that could fit me in at the last minute. And because of the all the confusion of where the party was being held half the guests either turned up late or not at all.