When we think of Chinese food, it’s probably fair to say that many of us…
A carpark is an unlikely place for an eatery…but this is no ordinary carpark, and this is no ordinary eatery.
The building in question is the 940-space Woden behemoth, Skypark, and the cafe is SPACE Kitchen, the new venture from Canberra’s culinary wunderkind, Rick De Marco.
Rick may be better known as Ricardo – the face behind the eponymous Jamison café and pâtisserie that puts serious pressure on Adriano Zumbo. But if you’re expecting a veritable explosion of Willy Wonka sweet treats at SPACE, you may need to adjust your expectations.
While a very tempting cabinet full of Rick’s fantastical creations greets you as you descend the escalator from Skypark—Big Boy Ferrero Rochers – double nutella mousse rolled in hazelnuts dipped in chocolate sprayed in gold, resembling miniature gold-sprayed moonrocks; quivering Peanut Butter Domes – peanut butter mousse coated in caramel on a raspberry curd chocolate tart; and Milo like you’ve never seen it before – Milo mousse, salted caramel centre and an oreo biscuit base—Rick is firm that SPACE is about more than dessert.
“It’s why we didn’t call this place ‘Ricardo’s’. We wanted to lift our game and do something different.”
SPACE now serves as Kitchen HQ for Ricardo’s pâtisserie, but that operation is very much behind closed doors. The outward focus is on creating a warm and welcoming place for nearby workers and residents to eat, drink and connect.
It’s a striking, cosmopolitan space; light filled and dramatic. In a nod to the carpark location, ‘pedestrian crossing’ yellow is the signature colour, anchoring a moody charcoal interior with dark timber furniture and industrial light fittings. A painted crosswalk leads the way from the outside to the serving area, while seating at the open kitchen bench is designated a ‘no parking’ area, thanks to diagonal yellow lines.
The menu reveals a pleasing mix of all-day breakfast dishes, salads, gourmet sandwiches, and reliable lunch staples (burgers, fish ‘n’ chips, sliders) but with a Rick twist. We’re a bit spoilt for choice, so we ask him what we should order.
“We’ve put a lot of thought and effort into our breakfast dishes, in particular, and some of these dishes use dry ice and nitrogen. The Space Benedict is presented in a way that you won’t expect.”
We can’t pass up that intriguing invitation (and Javier, our Creative Director, really likes anything that comes from a pig), so that’s her dish sorted. I vacillate between the Polenta Waffles ($17.90) lemon thyme sautéed mixed mushrooms, goats cheese, poached eggs, salsa verde and truffle oil; Chicken Burger ($16.90) crispy Moroccan spiced chicken breast, smoked bacon, purple slaw with lime sriracha aoili; and the Pulled Pork Salad ($18.90) pulled pork, pearl cous cous, almonds, peas, mint, feta and pomegranate with harissa yoghurt; and eventually decide on the latter.
While we wait, we try a couple of fresh juices (both $6.90): the orange, pear, pineapple & passionfruit and the pineapple, cucumber, mint & elderflower. They’re both deliciously refreshing and generously sized.
Our meals arrive and the Space Benedict ($17.90)—pulled pork croquette with poached eggs, beetroot hollandaise, pork crackling brioche crumble and pea purée—has the promised ‘wow’ factor in spades. It’s a pork croquette dressed up as a Golden Gaytime, the hollandaise transformed into a melted ‘ice cream’ slick by the addition of beetroot. We are immediately surrounded by diners from other tables, iPhones at the ready.
This dish has it all – texture, flavour, presentation. I’m predicting now that this will become the next big thing in Canberra Instagram feeds.
Somewhat surprisingly, I don’t have food envy, because my salad looks every bit as appealing. Bursting with colour, there’s something different in every mouthful: the Middle Eastern flavours of the pork, the salty feta, the crunch of the almonds, the sweet pop of pomegranate seeds. I eat every last morsel and sit back contentedly, resisting the urge to rub my stomach.
But it’s not over yet. Shakes also feature large on the menu, with both ‘PG’ and ‘R18+’ versions available. Rick explains that they plan to open from 7:30am to around 5:30pm six days per week (and are planning to open later on Fridays down the track), to give officeworkers in the precinct a much needed post-work watering hole, and the alcoholic milkshakes are a cheeky alternative to the small but considered list of wine and beers.
Rick returns, bearing two glasses and…a blowtorch. He sets the Oreo, Peppermint and Baileys and Nutella, Frangelico & Burnt Marshmellows R18+ Milkshakes on the table, promptly toasts the marshmallows and leaves us to them, with a cheeky, “the best thing is that no one knows you’re drinking!”
Javier snaffles the Nutella shake, and from the satisfied noises, I’m guessing she likes it. I’m left with the Oreo shake and—much to my dismay (I have a thing against mint and dairy together)—find it delicious and immediately curse the fact that I need to work this afternoon.
SPACE is a sophisticated and assured entry to the Canberra market, and it will go gangbusters in the Woden area, where residents have been begging for a ‘local’. It’s smart business, setting up in an area where a real need exists, rather than deciding to battle the hordes on Lonsdale Street.
We’re just glad we got in on day one. Chances are, it’ll be pretty busy from now on if today’s debut was anything to go by.
What: SPACE Kitche
Where: Ground Floor, Skypark, corner of Worgan and Furzer Streets, Woden
When: 7:30am to 5:30pm Monday to Saturday, later on Fridays.
Bookings: Call 6281 6668 for bookings or six people and over. Bookings are limited.
The author and her friend dined courtesy of SPACE Kitchen. Opinions are her own.