MEJ Masthead

Her Coffee series: Common Grounds in Gowrie

Barrister Barista

I have a dream, that every blue ‘Shops’ sign in Canberra shall point to a little cafe where the staff are friendly and the coffee is very good. Last week I lived that dream, following a blue sign to Common Grounds in Gowrie, a HerCanberra tip-off that a Facebook fan is ‘100% confident is the best cafe in Canberra’. 

Gowrie, ACT: like all of Canberra’s best suburbs, I’d never heard of it, and was sluggish about remedying that. Google maps taught me it was in the the city’s original ‘Nappy Valley‘, towards the south of ACT civilisation. Houses opposite Common Grounds on Jeffries St looked out across a valley and towards some fairly spectacular blue hills – I had visions of pulling into a driveway in a family car, and eating family dinner overlooking those blue hills.  And this somewhat confronting back-to-the-future was only a 15 minute drive from the city via the Tuggeranong Parkway, which is very good by all standards other than Canberra’s.

common grounds

Pulling into a ready (and hot) asphalt carpark at Gowrie Shops, I wasn’t expecting much from the near neighbour of Discount Pharmacy.  However, my clichéd low expectations were clichéd-ly overcome by the Decor, in this case a Futurama-down-under style mural covering the whole left wall.  Common Grounds appear to have commissioned a US graphic designer ‘to incorporate a lot of the hobbies and sports of the land down under’ and our ‘most symbolic animals’.  (Andres Alfonso blogs that this suited him because he specialises in ‘making animals with human traits that are steezy as hell’ – steezy being a skate/snowboarder combo of ‘style’ and ‘ease’).  Reason one to visit Common Grounds is now to clap eyes on the Mural, lovechild of cafe culture, globalisation, and ‘steez’.

Walking past white enamel chairs and industrial drop lights, like Parisians we chose to sit outside on the Terrace, an almost-finished-feeling courtyard under selective shade.  It wasn’t long before the Greeting came in the form of a polite young man, who brought menus and took our coffee orders.  The Coffee (Campos) came two ways – a tasty cappuccino (soy, for shame), and a long black which was judged bright and fruity.  Following Farmers Daughter of Yarralumla on the Campos Coffee caravan, Common Grounds are doing nothing too fancy, hot coffee, nice soymilk, smoothies, T2 teas, and something called a ‘green tea latte’.

common grounds 2

Having driven all this way (aha! It’s a trap), I decide to take sustenance from the lengthy Common Grounds menu.  It’s  a tough call between brunch, burgers, seafood, sandwiches, salads and pulled meats (query: why do many Canberra venues want to do everything?). The Prices are Canberra-decent, with salads, sandwiches and some breakfast options under $15, and nothing over $20.

Hungry brunchers may have charged straight for ‘The Conquistador’ – chorizo, chilli, basil and goats cheese on sourdough – but with a hankering for veges, I asked for poached eggs on toast with mushrooms and spinach (a custom order, sorry team).  Sadly, my eggs weren’t of the runny variety on the day, and spinach was not in giant supply.  This didn’t matter overly because I received slippery mushrooms and two buttered pieces of The Most Delicious Bread In The World. I had to ask, and the polite waiter returned with the name of the Supplier – it was not nearby Bread Nerds, sourdough from Bob and Pete’s out of Sydney.  My Coeliac friend says that Bob and Pete also make tasty gluten-free bread, so here’s hoping that Common Grounds are slicing that too (on a separate breadboard, of course).

The Verdict: ‘You know, if I lived in Gowrie, I’d probably come here every day,’ quips the long black drinker and long-time Northsider I brought along for the ride.  But we don’t! So the search for Canberra coffee’s suburban gems must continue…

I’d love for my experience of Common Grounds to be joined by your’s via comments or twitter, and that you let me know about other nice places to drink coffee, perhaps in your neighbourhood. 

the essentials

What: Common Grounds
Where: 4/1 Jeffries St, Gowrie
When: Tuesday – Friday: 7:30 am – 4:00 pm; Saturday – Sunday: 8:00 am – 3:00 pm; Closed Mondays.  Takes Bookings.
Phone: 02 6291 7412


Erin Pynor

After moving from Adelaide in 2009, Barrister Barista started tweeting about all things coffee-related in Canberra. You can follow her at In her spare time she works in the APS, loves to cook and eat, read books and food magazines, and enjoy Canberra. More about the Author

  • Kathleen

    This is a fantastic little cafe. We frequent it often. Great coffee & good cakes & my kids tell me the smoothies are awesome. My only complaint is that they seem to be “out” of foods on their menu a little bit too frequently. I’m with you – reduce the selection, and make what you do provide plentiful & top notch.

  • Jane

    I didn’t now about this one, I will have to check it out on the weekend. I have always bemoaned the fact that Canberra has no ‘high street’ and that in order to have a nice coffee, lunch etc you have to schlep all the way into the city/ inner suburbs. It’s really great to see funky places popping up in Tuggeranong, Gungahlin, Weston Creek and the surounding suburbs. It makes me feel like Canberra has really changed into a vibrant city rather then an overgrown country town.

  • Thanks for this … I didn’t know it either … But living in Woden I’m close enough to check it out soon. Anywhere for a nice coffee that doesn’t involve parking stress is a winner for me.

  • Leah

    Praise be! When we were little tackers the only gourmet selection at Gowrie Shoprite were glucose frogs, musk sticks and cobbers. Will definitely give it a burl when we pop home to Canbs. Best wishes for success.

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