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Toto, we’re not in Canberra anymore

Amanda Whitley

With apologies to the Wizard of Oz, sometimes we crave something other than the comforts of home.

But you don’t need to leave the territory to immerse yourself in another culture. Here are four places where destination is a state of mind…

Escape To…AFRICA

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From the moment you step inside the soaring foyer of Jamala Wildlife Lodge, you take a trip to deepest Africa…
but it’s just a taste of what’s to come. The main entertaining area, known as Ushaka, will leave you speechless. High-ceilinged and airy, the room is painstakingly decorated with authentic African items, each carefully selected to take the admirer on a journey.

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It’s a feast for the senses: a Zulu hat, beautifully hand-carved and beaded, adorns one wall; an imposing two- metre tall statue of Maasai Warriors commands attention. But the real show stopper is a massive aquarium where fish, large and small, swim by. It’s a constantly changing art installation in the open plan space.

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The private dining room – usually frequented only by guests, but open to all during special promotions – takes you deeper into the wild, accessed through an internal rainforest. White lions push their massive bodies up against the glass as diners enjoy an African-inspired meal created by Jamala Lodge’s private chef.

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It’s a totally wild experience.

JAMALA WILDLIFE LODGE | 999 Lady Denman Drive, Canberra | 02 6287 8444 | jamalawildlifelodge.com.au

ESCAPE TO…ITALY

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If you’re thinking Nonna’s house, you may need to adjust your expectations. Joe’s Bar in the Bisa-family-owned East Hotel, is all Italian sophistication; an intimate space big on textures and layers with earthen finishes and materials and conversation styling pieces dotted throughout including an incredible floor-to-ceiling concrete curtain at the entrance.

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Authentic fare, cocktails and a carefully curated wine list balancing Italian wines with a selection of local drops give Joe’s a magnetic pull. The menu is the creation of Italian-born chef, Francesco Balestrieri, and brings out the best in local ingredients: ocean trout is cured in grappa and basil, burrata is smoked, mushrooms are pickled and dehydrated. There’s a lot of love here.

Joe's Upper East Side cocktail

The Bisa siblings’ Italian influence will spread further in February 2017, when Agostinis Ristorante Italiano opens in the space left by Ox Eatery & Bar.

An expression of their lifelong passion for the pizza and simple food they grew up with, Agostinis will welcome guests in the Italian tradition of friends, family, laughter and great food — think big tables with pizza, pasta and vino di casa to share with friends.

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Image: Adam McGrath

Agostinis is set to be a true luogo accogliente, a welcoming place, filled with the soul of Italy.

JOE’S BAR | East Hotel, 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston | 02 6178 0050 | joesateast.com

ESCAPE TO…CUBA

Photo: Ashley St George.

Photo: Ashley St George.

Sitting on an aqua bench in a whitewashed booth, plane propeller blade rotating lazily above your head, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d been magically transported to Cuba, not mere metres above the hustle of London Circuit. This is the spell cast by Highball Express.

Photo: Ashley St George.

Photo: Ashley St George.

The best place to spend a breezy afternoon is on the balcony, where
a vintage drinks trolley, packed with all the ingredients for a variety of sultry rum punches, rattles between tables, and Salsa and Reggaeton beats punctuate the laughter of barhops.

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Highball is named after the airline that popped up during the Prohibition Era, flying thirsty Americans to Cuba so that they might indulge in rum — and that spirit is the focus of the drinks offering here. Choose from one of the wooden barrels that take pride of place behind the bar and settle in with a platter of charcuterie.

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Your plane is now ready for boarding.

HIGHBALL EXPRESS | 82 Alinga Street, Canberra City | 02 6257 6971 | highballexpress.com.au

ESCAPE TO…MALAYSIA

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Image: Rebecca Doyle Photography

Even in the depths of a cold Canberra winter, Lanterne Rooms evokes
a feeling of the tropics. Its airy ‘Malaysian farmhouse’ interior is a far cry from its suburban setting: high ceilings, slow-moving overhead fans, plantation shutters, dark timbers, and colourful Asian art.

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Image: Rebecca Doyle Photography

Nyonya Malay flavours are the order of the day here, with traditional fare given a distinctly sophisticated and modern reinvention. Dishes such as Babi Pongteh – soy glazed pork
belly with cavolo nero and chorizo, and Fish Otak Otak with banana blossom salad are complemented by an interesting wine list with some great local inclusions.

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Image: Rebecca Doyle Photography

Lanterne Rooms is an experience best shared — take your friends, settle in for a languid banquet, and leave the city behind.

LANTERNE ROOMS | 3 Blamey Pl, Campbell | 02 6249 6889 | chairmangroup.com.au

This article originally appeared in Magazine: Escape for Summer 2016/17. Find out more about Magazine here

Magazine Edition 7: Escape

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Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author

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