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Barrio_Bec Doyle Photography_feature

What’s Old Is New Again

Belinda Neame

Food, like fashion, has its trends.

From the molecular gastronomy wave that swept the world last decade, to the current fads (paleo and wholefoods at one end of the spectrum, to burgers and freakshakes at the other). But some Canberra eateries are returning to old-fashioned principles, growing their own produce, championing local, and building their own communities.

It’s a small neighbourhood coffee 
bar tucked away in Braddon’s Ori building, and as the name suggests, Barrio Collective‘s concept and service takes inspiration from European neighbourhood coffee bars where customers stand at the bar and chat with baristas.

“We wanted interaction between staff and customers, we didn’t want there to be any barriers — we hope we’ve created a welcoming environment where people feel comfortable to chat with staff and enjoy the space,” says owner, Sam Burns.

Photography by Tim Bean Photography

Produce at A. Baker. Photography by Tim Bean Photography

It’s not only the typical barista/customer dynamic that’s been turned on its head at Barrio. There are 
no skim lattes here — full cream unhomogenised milk or dairy-free house made nut milk are your only two milk options and there are no refined sugar sweeteners in store.

While some may find this lack of choice inflexible, it’s important to the Barrio team that the coffee has a chance to truly shine.

“We believe coffee has an incredible journey from grower to customer, so we’ve tried to celebrate that journey.”

Barrio. Photography by Rebecca Doyle Photography

Barrio. Photography by Rebecca Doyle Photography

Provenance is key at Barrio — they not only roast their own coffee, they invest time in knowing the stories behind 
the produce. From coffee origin trips to visiting dairy, fruit and vegetable growers, they believe developing relationships with their producers helps to ensure sustainability and quality into the future.

It’s a philosophy that’s shared by New Acton’s A. Baker. An industrial-chic eatery filled with an inner city buzz, 
at its heart is a regional and seasonal food philosophy with a long list of local growers and producers.

“If you were to spend a day at A.Baker you would see at least a couple
 of farmers bringing in their own vegetables or fruits they picked earlier that day,” says restaurant manager, Matthieu Vaysse.

A. Baker’s artisanal bread became so popular they’ve moved offsite to Three Mills Bakery in Majura Park to keep up with demand.

Photography by Rebecca Doyle Photography

Two Before Ten Aranda. Photography by Rebecca Doyle Photography

“Back then, bakers or communal ovens were built in the centre of a community and the townsfolk would wander down with their dough to be baked off.”

The use of an open kitchen in the main dining space further encourages a connection between raw product, chef and consumer; emphasising ideas of traceability, product origin and the artisan approach entwined in the design and operation.

“The establishment narrates a story of origin and the journey a product takes as it moves through each generative process.”

Two Before Ten, a boutique 
coffee roasting company based
 at the Aranda Shops and now Hobart Place in the city, takes the concept one step further. As well
 as focussing on sourcing ethically, using local seasonal produce and
being sustainable, Two Before Ten is providing a refuge for people – a happy place, regardless of where they sit on the ‘hipster continuum’.

Photography by Rebecca Doyle Photography

Canberra Urban Honey. Photography by Rebecca Doyle Photography

“In our mind, there is a lot of good coffee around nowadays, and a lot
 of good food, so we try to focus on looking after our customers, giving them what they want, rather than what we think they need,” says owner Chris Dennis.

An ongoing ‘coffee for produce’ campaign encourages locals to bring in produce from their garden,
 and Two Before Ten exchanges 
it for coffee, coffee beans or food.

Their next big move is to incorporate more native foods on the menu.

“In a sustainability sense, we question sourcing locally when those foods
 are not native to our environment. Ideally, we should be sourcing local, native foods that are adapted to our environment, and place less stress on it. The same goes for meat, so keep an eye out for our kangaroo toastie!”

Urban farming has experienced a renaissance in recent years and has expanded beyond the home veggie patch. Born through a successful crowd-funding program (an Australian agriculture first), Canberra Urban Honey comes from an extensive beekeeping heritage, four generations of beekeepers over a century.

“We manage around 50 hives in backyards and rooftops throughout Canberra, and our main goal is to keep the bees as healthy as possible in order to increase pollination across Canberra. When honey is available, we share and sell what excess our bees have produced,” says director, Mitchell Pearce.

The bees’ health is what often sets Canberra Urban Honey apart, leading to the production of exceptional honey to the hives becoming pollinator powerhouses for Canberra.

“Did you know it takes 12 bees their entire lifetime to produce just one teaspoon of honey? All of our honey is treated with a great deal of respect and that means we extract it by hand, with low temperatures and there are no additives of any kind.”

Photography by Rebecca Doyle Photography

Canberra Urban Honey. Photography by Rebecca Doyle Photography

The honey comes in three varieties — Belconnen, Tuggeranong and Ainslie Honey — together creating a true ‘taste of Canberra’.

Honey is also at the centre of Wins Creek Meadery, a small family-owned and operated beekeeping business in Murrumbateman. After spending years running the meadery from home, the business recently moved to the Old Traveller’s Rest Inn (circa 1879) on the Barton Highway.

Mead by Wins Creek. Photo by Tim Bean Photography

Mead by Wins Creek. Photo by Tim Bean Photography

“Mead is quite popular in most European countries and becoming increasing popular in the United States, but it’s only just catching on here in Australia,” says owner, Mike Devey.

“This is cool-climate wine country and we’re surrounded by wineries. They produce grapes and wine from the grapes, we produce honey and mead from the honey.”

Photography by Tim Bean Photography

Photography by Tim Bean Photography

Working from the ground up, not only is Wins Creek Meadery producing honey, they are also 
the growers of all the fruit used in 
the mead, including plums, apples, boysenberries, mulberries, pears and quince. Everything is handcrafted in small batches, based on traditional, ancient recipes. Handmade soft drinks, made from all natural, raw ingredients, are also on tap at the Meadery including root beer, ginger beer,
and a moreish apple cider.

“As well as being producers ourselves, we try to source the products from our menu from other local producers. We still attend the Capital Region Farmers Market every Saturday morning, and this provides us with lots of contacts with other producers. In this way, we can tread lightly on the earth, and support other small businesses like ourselves.”

Wins Creek. Photography by Tim Bean Photography

Wins Creek. Photography by Tim Bean Photography

This article originally appeared in our Magazine: Break The Mould for Autumn 2016. Find out more about Magazine here

Feature image by Rebecca Doyle Photography. Slider image by Tim Bean Photography

Magazine Break The Mould Cover

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Belinda Neame

Belinda is HerCanberra's Production Manager. A foodie and lover of handmade, Belinda enjoys nothing more than a good coffee and seeing Canberra businesses thrive. In her 'spare time', Belinda organises the quarterly Canberra street food event, The Forage with her husband Tim. More about the Author

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