Canberra Centre Masthead

The SWIISH Guide to Canberra: Part II

Emma Macdonald

So, you’ve read the first part of the favourite Canberra cafes and cultural pit-stops of Sally Obermeder and Maha Koraiem.

Now we bring you Part Two, where the sisters reveal their must-stay hotels and fine dining choices, as well as some well-traversed kids’ playgrounds.

The Sydney-based celebrity sisters, who run lifestyle and fashion empire SWIISH, are loyal Canberra regulars thanks to Sally marrying Canberra boy Marcus Obermeder. The whole family, including Sally and Marcus’ two beautiful girls Annabelle (six) and Elyssa (not yet one), are regular visitors to the territory.

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 Channel 7’s Daily Edition.

With a social media following of nearly 80,000, the sisters have considerable sway when it comes to revealing what is hot.


Hotel Hotel

How can you come to Canberra and not venture down the city’s most iconic staircase for a selfie? The sisters love the arty vibe of the entire NewActon precinct, and are not averse to hanging out for a snack and caffeine hit at any of the nearby cafes. But the hotel, with its uber-cool, low-lit organic aesthetic and overpoweringly hipster vibe takes the cake.

Eat at Monster for some of the city’s most acclaimed food. Or just perch on a concrete bench overlaid with a sheepskin and gaze into the suspended fireplace while clutching a Rapscallion (cocktail). How’s that for Canberra cool?



Sally wears: Marseille Moments Top and Blue Jean Baby Jeans

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

Hotel Hotel | 25 Edinburgh Avenue, NewActon |

Little National Hotel

Let’s be frank. Sally could—and often does—stay with her father-in-law when she’s down. But who is passing up an opportunity to sleep in what is arguably one of the most comfortable hotel beds known to man? Then there is the fact that occasionally the thought of a morning without an alarm is her version of nirvana.

Little National Hotel is a Canberra jewel, providing a bed-centred stay in an uber-modern and Scandi-style hotel. Maha concurs wholeheartedly. “My God those beds are the bomb!”.



Sally wears: Silver Linings White Off The Shoulder Dress

Maha wears: Whole Lot Of Lovin’ Yellow Off The Shoulder Maxi Dress 

Little National Hotel | 21 National Circuit Barton |

Fine Dining


The second-best part about booking a stay in Little National is the prospect of a French bistro breakfast the next morning at Buvette. The atmospheric restaurant, just across the road, provides a menu of French classics with a modern twist.

The breakfasts are beautiful affairs, with coffee which passes Maha’s stringent requirements. The girls also recommend chatting to the effervescent Maria if you are ever passing through.

Sally wears Postcards From Paris White Off The Shoulder TopSummer Babe Denim Shorts, and Sunset Dream Limited Edition Mini bagMaha wears Summer In St Tropez Stripe Off The Shoulder Dress.

Buvette | 18 National Circuit Barton |


A newcomer in the burgeoning hotspot suburb of Barton, Vincent is a hop, skip and jump from Little National Hotel. Maha and Sally love the underground feel of this moody and dark venture, which seats diners at a long and serpentine table and carefully matches a curated wine list with a small and perfectly-executed menu. They suggest you try the wagyu rump with miso mushroom, celeriac, baby turnips and horseradish.

Vincent | 48 Macquarie Street Barton |

Ottoman Cuisine

Sally has been dining at Ottoman since she began dating Marcus. The establishment restaurant has been impressing customers for decades with a beautiful Turkish menu that brings the Ottoman Empire into the 21st Century. Think Atlantic salmon-filled dolmades which hit the deep fryer briefly before arriving at the table in all their succulent glory.

Ottoman Cuisine | 9 Broughton Street Barton | Lunch, Tuesday-Friday, 12-2.30pm; Dinner, Tuesday-Saturday 6-10pm |

Pialligo Estate

Tragically, the beautiful hunting-lodge inspired farmhouse dining room that the sisters recently dined in at Pialligo Estate burned down just days after their recent visit. But the Glasshouse function centre and pavilion dining rooms were untouched, and are operating as usual.

Sally and Maha were keen to try the award-winning and hatted restaurant on their most recent visit—having seen it pop up constantly in the media. They adored the landscape and vistas to Parliament House. They also loved the home-made pasta and pared-back platters of share food that filled their table. Here’s hoping for a quick rebuild.

Sally wears: In The Name of Love White Dress 

Maha wears: Lilac Love Affair Dress 

Pialligo Estate, 18 Kallaroo Road, Pialligo |


Who would have thought that a smallish eatery at the suburban Narrabundah shops could evoke such dedicated fans? XO does Asian-inspired food with a modern, slightly-mad twist. Try the Asian Bolognese of stir-fried udon in XO chicken ragout with a 60-degree egg. Order it with charred lettuce and finish with the soft-serve to truly confound your tastebuds.

XO | 16 Iluka Street Narrabundah |

Molto Italian

Sally and Maha are both pasta nuts and Molto Italian does it better than many. Under the stewardship of industry veteran Carlos Tosolini, Molto inhabits a prime piece of Kingston Foreshore real estate and is a beautiful spot for a long lunch or dinner. Make sure to order their famed Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe for some cheesy theatrics at the table (and by that we mean pasta is served straight from the carved out hollow of a gigantic wheel of cheese). The pizzas, meanwhile, will tempt the most fussy palate.

Sally wears: Forever Blush Maxi Dress

Maha wears: Spot Of Love Polka Dot Maxi Dress

Molto Italian | Unit 155, 43 Eastlake Parade, Kingston |


National Arboretum

If you’ve come to Canberra by car and need to unleash your kids to rid them of some excess energy, there is no more perfect spot than the Arboretum. It’s still fairly young in tree years, with most of the 250-hectare of forests yet to fully form, but the kids’ playground is truly fantastic according to intrepid explorer Annabelle. If you want to make a day of it, the Sprout Café and Conservatory Restaurant are both run by acclaimed Canberra Ginger catering.

National Arboretum | Forest Drive, Molonglo Valley |

Cockington Green Gardens

Every Canberran has been transported to this twee-but-fascinating miniature world at some stage of their childhood. See landscapes, buildings and teeny tiny people from around the world, all crammed into a child-friendly space complete with steam train. Honestly, the kids just go wild for it.

Cockington Green Gardens | 11 Gold Creek Road, Nicholls |

Lake Burley Griffin

What is Canberra without its beautiful lake? Fitness addicts Maha and Sally are always keen to stretch their legs and if the little girls are in tow then a stroll around the lake is a perfect way to spend an afternoon. There are bike and walking paths to get around the circumference, or kayaks and waterbikes to hire if you want to explore the lake itself.

Access a coffee stop at Reconciliation Place, or at the National Library or National Gallery. And if you have some time up your sleeve, check out the enormous children’s activity park Boundless (for children of all abilities) on the other side of the water. Just watch for passing joggers and segways.


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

CC Home Stories Leaderboard