Brassey Weddings Masthead

The SWIISH Guide to Canberra

Emma Macdonald

Part 1: Cafes, Culture, Shopping

They are Sydney-based celebrity sisters forging a lifestyle and fashion empire under their SWIISH brand. But did you know that you can find Sally Obermeder and Maha Koraiem hanging out in Canberra most Decembers?

The connection is a result of Channel 7 personality Sally meeting a Canberra boy Marcus Obermeder back in 2001. It was actually a set-up gone-wrong and she was meant to be going on a date with his best friend when he was inadvertently dragged along. But it was love at first sight and the couple were engaged within six months and married within the year.

It has meant that Sally (below right) and her best friend/sister/business partner Maha (below left), and, more recently Sally and Marcus’ two beautiful girls Annabelle, six, and Elyssa, not yet one, are regular visitors to the territory.

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This is particularly the case at Christmas, when it is a chance to prioritise family and unplug from Sydney’s frenetic pace and Sally’s demanding television schedule as co-host of the Daily Edition.

Sally loves the family-friendliness of the city, while Maha is more focussed on the city’s burgeoning edginess—and is always keen to try the latest coffee sensation or underground bar.

The pair have never been busier than since they started SWIISH, which has a social media following of nearly 80,000. Nor have they been happier.

When Sally was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in 2011, Maha realised life was too arbitrary not to take risks. Feeling stifled in banking, she and Sally made the decision to create their dream—a health, wellness, fashion and lifestyle brand, which includes an online store offering luxe clothes and accessories for less, the development of their signature Super Green Superfood Powder, and three health-focussed cookbooks.

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If you were to meet Sally and Maha you would quickly learn that their keenly honed sense of collective style is surpassed only by their love, sorry obsession, with food.

“Food is our everything,” declares Maha with a deadpan delivery.

Hence,  they are regular diners at Canberra’s best restaurants, and always, always up for a coffee.

In the first of a two-part collaboration with HerCanberra, the SWIISH girls spent a weekend visiting their top local favourites. Here are their picks.

PLACES TO EAT

Maple + Clove

Located in the Realm precinct in Barton, this is a bustling wholefood café which prides itself on locally sourced non-refined wholefoods and meals with a healthy bent. That’s pretty much manna from heaven for the health-conscious and smoothie-loving sisters.

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Maple + Clove | 7 Burbury Close, Barton | Monday-Friday 7.30am-3pm, Saturday-Sunday 8am-3pm | mapleandclove.com.au

Double Shot

Sally discovered Double Shot and its beautiful array of salady-type meals after a trip to the snow when she could not tolerate one more bowl of chips. “I was craving something healthy as we arrived in Canberra and I looked up HerCanberra and found a list of great places to try and the first one we went to was Double Shot.”

With offerings like a bowl of broccolini, kale, and asparagus with organic brown rice, mushrooms, roasted sweet potato, black sesame avocado, raw organic beetroot kraut, tamari and activated almond hommus, Double Shot promises to reverse any chip overdoses.

Sally wears: Take Me Away Off The Shoulder Top – Pink and Blue Jean Baby Jeans.

Maha wears: Marseille Moments Top and Blue Jean Baby Jeans.

Shop 7, Deakin Court, Deakin | Monday-Friday 7am-5pm, Saturday-Sunday 7am-4pm | doubleshotdeakin.com.au

Greenhouse Coffee and Co

It’s not often you get gourmet food in a shopping mall, but apart from offering top coffee credentials through a partnership between ONA and Espresso room, here is a place to savour salmon with potato, corn and chive fritters, wilted greens and a horseradish sauce. The burgers are next level.

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Greenhouse Coffee and Co | Level 1, Canberra Centre (opposite the Apple store) | Monday-Thursday 7.30-5.50, Saturday-Sunday 7.30am-5pm. Kitchen closes after 2pm. | Facebook @GreenHouseCoffeeandFood

The Cupping Room

Conceptualised and managed by ONA Coffee, The Cupping Room is one of Canberra’s ultimate coffee experiences, therefore getting a hearty thumbs-up from the caffeine-addicted sisters. Add a seasonal menu with exceptional dishes and this place is one where the French Toast comes with rhubarb, strawberries, caramelised coconut cream, pistachio crumb & strawberry sorbet. What’s not to love?

The Cupping Room | 1/1-13 University Ave, Canberra City | Monday-Friday 7am-4pm, Saturday-Sunday and Public Holidays 8am-3pm | thecuppingroom.com.au

Mocan and Green Grout

The girls are big fans of the way in which New Acton has been transformed into a design precinct and one of their favourite haunts is this little gem. Akin to hanging out in someone’s oversized kitchen, the menu has a focus on local ingredients featuring in bespoke dishes such as carrots, gorgonzola, haricot beans and tarragon, or pork shoulder roll with wombok salad and ginger mayo.

Mocan and Green Grout | 19 Marcus Clarke Street, New Acton | Monday-Friday 7am-9pm, Saturday 7am-9pm, Sunday 8am-4pm | mocanandgreengroutcom.wordpress.com

Local Press

Perched on the edge of the thriving Kingston Foreshore, Local Press is usually jam-packed with crowds keen for hearty and healthful brunch bowls or wanting to build their own breakfasts from an adventurous list of toast-toppings and sides including crushed avocado, seeds and sprouting lentils, or broccolini, pine nuts, miso and furikake.

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Sally wears: Take Me Away Off The Shoulder Top – Pink and Blue Jean Baby Jeans.

Maha wears: Marseille Moments Top and Blue Jean Baby Jeans.

Local Press | Kingston Foreshore | Tuesday-Friday 7.30am-4pm, Saturday-Sunday 8am-5pm | localpresscafe.com.au.

Culture 

National Gallery of Australia

Sally and Maha rarely get time out to indulge in the quiet pursuit of art appreciation while they are working day and night on building the SWIISH brand in Sydney. When they get a Canberra break, the National Gallery provides a chance to unwind and soak up some of the most iconic art the country has to offer. Apart from the revolving series of international exhibitions, Maha loves the gift shop, while Sally loves the Let’s Play area which allows parents to unleash their offspring in an inspiring art-focused play space.

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National Gallery of Australia | Parkes Place, Parkes | Open 7 days 10am-5pm | nga.gov.au

National Portrait Gallery

Here is a place to gaze directly into the faces that have shaped the nation. As an interviewee of some of the biggest names in entertainment (think Beyonce, Angelina Jolie, Justin Timberlake and Will Ferrell) Sally loves reading the back stories behind the portraits. Maha loves the diverse displays and gallery experience.

National Portrait Gallery | King Edward Terrace, Parkes | Open 7 days 10am-5pm | portrait.gov.au

Shopping

Canberra Centre

They may be immersed in the world of online commerce, but Sally and Maha love a leisurely wander through the Canberra Centre. It is a place for the girls to check out what’s hot and trending in the mainstream market. And also, Christmas sales! Yes, while many Canberrans consider braving the Sydney scene for the best post-Christmas bargains, Sally and Maha are in Canberra most Christmases, and pop on their comfy shoes for a dedicated day of shopping.

This includes the Beauty Precinct, which has only been open since July but has drawn a dedicated following with lightning speed. Bringing 20 renowned brands including Mecca Maxima, Perfect Potion, Inglot, 3ina and Endota Spa to Canberra for the first time, it is a beautiful space to wander with a coffee or complimentary champagne in hand.

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Canberra Centre | 148 Bunda Street, Civic | Mon-Thurs 9am-5.30pm, Friday 9am-9pm, Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday 10am-4pm | canberracentre.com.au

Ori Building

Funky homewares stores such as HandsomeprettyTimber and Tailor, and award-winning ice-creamery Frugii make for a great wander.

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Sally wears: Weekend Vibes Sporty Luxe Top and Summer Babe Denim Shorts with Let’s Get Started Grey Neoprene Bag.

Maha wears: Postcards From Paris White Off The Shoulder Top with her own shorts, and City Escape White Neoprene Clutch.

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And the girls can’t resist a visit to Moxom and Whitney to stop and smell the roses (and giggle at the inappropriate terrariums). Meanwhile Sally and devoted aunty Maha go mad at Tip You’re It as they plan future outfit combinations for Elyssa and Annabelle from the covetable range of Australian designers.

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Sally wears: Walking On Sunshine Yellow Off The Shoulder Dress.

Maha wears: Take Me Away Off The Shoulder Top – White with Check It Out Shorts and Sunset Dream Limited Edition Round Bag.

Ori Building | 30 Lonsdale Street Braddon  

Lonsdale Street Roasters

Meanwhile, it’s always time for a top-up iced latte at Lonsdale Street Roasters—the place that kicked off Canberra’s obsession with coffee. And then a peek at the newest Braddon developments. These girls don’t have time to stop! 

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Sally wears: Her own dress with Sunset Dream Limited Edition Round Bag

Maha wears: Magic Nights Dress with City Escape White Neoprene Clutch

Lonsdale Street Roasters | 7 + 23 Lonsdale Street, Braddon | lonsdalestreetroasters.com

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Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author

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