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Westside Story

HerCanberra Team

The stories behind the vendors at Westside Acton Park…

We’ve read all the negative comments about Westside Acton Park – from the ‘eyesore that looks like a building site’ to the ‘ridiculous waste of ACT Government money’. But no matter what you think about Westside, there are a group of people down there that are throwing everything they’ve got into this community-driven precinct. They are the owners of the food outlets onsite, and we went down to chat with them to find out about their stories.

Damn Fine Roasters

Owner – Sam

Sam has an Italian heritage but was born in Canberra and has lived here all his life. Even though Sam comes from a building industry background, he also has a lot of experience in the hospitality industry and has been roasting coffee for years.

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Sam’s coffee blend comes from Southern Italy and the recipe that he uses is an old family recipe that stems back many generations. Damn Fine Roasters isn’t your ‘normal’ kind of coffee shop though. You can ‘drive through’ and order your coffee. That’s right, pull up in front of the shop front, beep your horn and the staff come to you! No need to get out of the car! This option is proving to be very popular, especially with parents of young children.

Sam says it’s been a really positive start for him and his team. While customers initially questioned the precinct and struggled with the concept, once they chat, find out more and see the space, they turn into regulars. Sam is excited and passionate about what West Side has to offer and can’t wait to watch it grow.

O’So Smoothie

Owners – Rhys & Alyssa

She spent time in Canberra as a child, but it was her friend Rhys who convinced Alyssa to bring her strong background in retail back to town from the South Coast to open a smoothie outlet with a ‘difference’. Both Rhys and Alyssa saw the huge potential at Westside and wanted to give it a go.

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“It’s a place for everyone, it has atmosphere and it has so much to offer in the way of space, events, sports, views and great independent food and beverage options,” says Alyssa.

O’So Smoothie aim to deliver a high quality product with great health benefits. Vegan and paleo friendly as well as gluten and dairy free, these smoothies are made up with a base of coconut water or almond milk with fruits and superfoods such as goji berries, chia seeds and maca powder.

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Currently working on new menu items, Rhys and Alyssa are also looking at introducing a kids’ menu. As winter sets in, vegan and paleo friendly soups will also be available. While their focus is currently on fine tuning their product and establishing the brand, long term Alyssa and Rhys would love to open a second store in Canberra.

Habibiz

Owner – Waleed

He moved to Canberra to study in 2008, and it didn’t long to consider himself a ‘true Canberran.’ After finishing his International Business degree at University of Canberra, he spent some time as a Chef at Tongue and Groove, where was approached by some of the other Westside vendors to consider opening an outlet at the precinct. Waleed saw this as the perfect, affordable opportunity to get his business started.

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Habibiz dishes out Middle Eastern cuisine, specialising in marinated meats and charcoal chicken. The meat and chicken are both marinated for 24 hours and the meat is slow cooked in the oven. The chicken is cooked, rotating over hot coals of a BBQ. A stand out product on the menu is their ‘garlic dip’; made from garlic, oil, lemon and salt only, it is served on rolls or as a side with the meats.

Waleed believes Westside has opened opportunities for people with different cultural backgrounds to introduce their traditions and cuisines by offering their food to the Canberra community at an exciting and unique precinct. Eventually, Waleed would love to open a bigger shopfront to be able to offer a wider variety of his food.

The One

Owners – Tom & Chris

Tom and Chris both have very different backgrounds – Chris is originally from Melbourne and is a locksmith by trade, while Tom has been in the hospitality industry for 10 years.

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The Westside opportunity came up at the right time for the boys as they were originally looking for a food van, and the concept was appealing because of its community focus.

“Canberra tends to segregate itself to certain areas and people don’t often go outside of those spaces,” says Chris. “Westside is different. It still has that ‘cool edge’ but it appeals to the broader demographic.”

Tom has brought his expertise in the slow cooking meat process called sous vide, a fine dining technique that involves vacuum sealing the meat and then slow cooking it overnight. The meat is juicy and tender and is served in American style pressed buns or as Thai tacos.

The boys say everyone is loving ‘The One’ and they have customers returning over and over. Moving forward the boys would like to establish themselves as a foodie name in Canberra, and they’re thinking of franchising the brand.

Aviary Rooftop Bar & Courtside Bar

Owner – Alex

Hailing from the small country town of Holbrook, Alex moved to Canberra last year for Uni and has extensive bar experience. On his daily runs around the lake, Alex noticed the construction of Westside and stopped to ask what it was. From there, Canberra’s very first roof top bar was born – Aviary Rooftop Bar!

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It’s so much more than just a bar, though. Sitting on the top level of the precinct you will find a space with an incredible view and full of furniture and materials that are all handmade or second hand. The wooden panels that line the bar are reserved for ANU School of Arts students and other independent artists, with plans to run art displays and installations.

With a strong focus on local, all wines served are Canberra-based and Alex is looking at getting local breweries on board too. Seasonal cocktails will be a constant on the menu to encourage the casual bar vibe, and all food from the vendors in the precinct is welcome in the bar.

As for future plans, Alex would love to see the bar space being utilised for all types of events – birthdays, weddings and corporate functions.

Miss Van’s

Owner – Andrew

Andrew was the manager that helped set up Wood & Coal in the city and worked at Tongue and Groove for four years. The potential of the Westside site was the drawcard for Andrew to open up Miss Van’s, a food outlet offering Vietnamese cuisines with some of his own Thai and Laos influences.

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“It’s a site that is designated for multiple uses and is ground breaking for Canberra. The area offers diversity and is a sociable hub for so many,” says Andrew.

The recipes used at Miss Van’s are his grandparent’s recipes that have been passed down through the generations. Andrew’s Grandmother’s first job was selling Banh Mi in Laos when her family was poor; and , at one stage, Andrew’s entire family ran a food stand in a refugee camp in Thailand.

Miss Van’s standard menu is Vietnamese with the weekly specials ranging from Vietnamese, Thai and Laos with some dessert options too. Andrew would love to see Westside develop and grow to its full potential within its two-year life cycle. But for them as a brand, they will also be looking to expand Miss Van’s into a shopfront in the city within a year.

What’s your favourite Westside treat?

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