Circula: Coming full circle

Elizabeth Harris

It’s a standing joke among Canberrans that we strive to be like Melbourne.

However, Melbourne couple Bryan Milligan and Leanora Romensky in conceptualising their new Kingston Foreshore restaurant – Circula – have sought to bring a deeply Canberran atmosphere to fine dining.

Speaking to us a mere ten minutes prior to Circula’s grand opening, Bryan’s excitement and passion are palpable.

“We’ve been madly finishing off,” he enthuses. Indeed, the conception of Circula has been a rollercoaster ride for these two restaurateurs since the idea was sparked a mere 18 months ago.

“I was working as a general manager for a car manufacturer,” remembers Bryan, “and Leanora said to me ‘You’re not enjoying your job. What’s your passion?’ [I’d] worked in restaurants before and 18 months ago it was suddenly ‘I want to do restaurants. Absolutely.’ So that sparked everything.”

Indeed, it’s this return to Bryan’s passion, a circular process, a coming home, which led to the naming of the restaurant.

“The name was born from the fact that I’ve been in the restaurant business before, and I’ve now come full circle. And it’s about the produce being sustainable, and coming from healthy, responsible suppliers.”

Business plan in hand, Leanora and Bryan have spent the last six months scouring Australia for the location of their new endeavour, finally setting on our very own Kingston Foreshore. When asked what had attracted them to Canberra, Bryan responds, “It was a mix of absolutely everything. I wrote a list of what I needed in a restaurant to make my concept successful: it’s about the people, it’s about the produce, it’s about the staff who I could gather.”

Meet the CIRCULA family! Looking forward to seeing you soon

A post shared by CIRCULA (@circulacanberra) on

Indeed, the entirety of the five-chef kitchen team and the floor staff are locals – a testament to Circula’s commitment to the Canberra community. The couple also state that in sourcing the highest quality produce, they have looked locally.

“We’re using local wines, some local farm-fresh organic eggs, some local butcheries, and seafood suppliers,” Bryan explains. “For me, this is about people, food and wine, and about supporting the locals who support us.”

It’s clear that integration into the Canberra community was key for this restauranteur dream team. But more than that, within the space itself, Circula is all about making the staff present and a part of the dining experience. The space is dotted with garden beds sprouting spring onions, mint, edible flowers and strawberries, with chamomile growing on some of the tables. As the scents of these natural ingredients waft through the dining floor, so too will chefs, as they collect ingredients from among these garden beds.

“It’s the idea of being able to smell the food before you get it.”

So what’s Bryan looking forward to the most?

“Our organic coffee beans are single-sourced and traceable,” he explains, naming Circula’s espresso martini as a speciality (and there can be nothing that unites Canberrans and Melbournians more than coffee), saying “we’ve got it on tap, ready to go!”

While it is clear that Bryan and Leanora have an abiding love of the restaurant business, it’s also a sector which Bryan has a personal tie to. “I grew up with my mother having restaurants. She passed away two years ago, so this would have been a dream of hers to see.”

These family connections and the idea of experiencing your food on all levels are certainly reminiscent of comforting family dining experiences, which is a vibe that the couple is certainly aiming for.

“We’re traditionalists in hospitality,” emphasises Bryan, explaining his and Leanora’s ethos.

“So Circula is where food matches the service, matches the wine and matches the ambience.” Bryan tells us that Circula is a mix of both family service and a more intimate dining affair as it’s formulated as a café by day and dining room by night, but is always “a place for putting your phone down and talking and connecting to people.”

With a stunning array of cocktails with mouth-watering names such as Honey Rum Fizz, Pimm’s Pot and Golden Flower, Circula will also be your new favourite jazz lounge, as Bryan tells us that he hopes to bring in some local jazz musicians to add some extra spice to Circula’s luxurious atmosphere.

And the momentum isn’t going to slow down soon. Leanora and Bryan are already looking at opening a new dining lounge in Gungahlin, saying “What we want to do is make it so that people in Gungahlin can say ‘how wonderful, it’s so nice not to have to drive to Kingston to experience good food and ambience.’”

the essentials

What: Circula
Where: 17/19 Eastlake Parade, Kingston Foreshore
When: Open now. Lunch and dinner seven days a week, breakfast served Friday-Sunday.

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Elizabeth Harris

Elizabeth Harris is currently studying Law and Arts at the ANU. She majors in Art History and has a minor in French. She has a hunger for fashion and food, and is a lover of the fabulous Canberra arts scene and many farmers’ markets. She has a deep interest in the intersection between the arts and law, and hopes to undergo further study in this area. Alternatively, she dreams of writing an art history thesis on the subject of memes. She can commonly be found enjoying a delicious cappuccino at any one of Canberra’s staple cafes, but particularly Tilley’s which she has frequented since she was four years old. When she grows up/old she wants to be just like Iris Apfel. More about the Author