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A year in food: 20+ dishes that defined 2014

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2014 was a HUGE year in Canberra food. At times, it seemed like there was a new restaurant – or three – opening every single week. So deciding the dishes that defined the year was a big task. In the end, it came down to the dishes that we just couldn’t get enough of from the places that created the most buzz during the year. So, we’re not necessarily talking a ‘traditional faves’ kind of list – it’s all about our latest loves. This is our year in food (in no particular order).

Pork Belly Banh Mi from Monster Kitchen & Bar

I never really understood the fuss about Banh Mi until I had this little number from Monster Kitchen & Bar. And this is no ordinary Vietnamese Pork Roll. Expect juicy slabs of pork belly, the crunch of crackling, fresh vegetables and herbs, and a spicy mayonnaise that will drip through your fingers (and you won’t care because it’s so, so good). This $12 piece of happiness is a permanent fixture on the specials menu. You need one.

Read more about Monster here.

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Banoffee Pie from Eightysix

Last year at eightysix it was all about the Blackened Chicken with Slaw and the Caramel Popcorn Sundae. 2014 was the year of the Banoffee Pie. Ok, let’s get this out of the way first. I am not normally a ‘sweets’ person…but this dessert made me change my mind. A crumbly biscuity base houses THE most amazing dulche de leche you are ever likely to taste, and then there’s whipped cream, and chocolate shavings and (rather unexpectedly) pretzels. Somehow it all works, and it’s amazing.

Read the eightysix story here.

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The BrodDog

I’ve always had a bit of a weakness for hotdogs, having fond memories of 3am snacks outside the Private Bin (ask your mother or older sister if you’re under 30). Still, it took me several months to have my first BrodDog…and when I finally did, I wanted to have one every.single.day. Because these are no ordinary hotdogs – the buns are baked fresh, and you have the choice of Vienna Frankfurt, Spicy Kransky or Pork Free. I took owner Joelle Brodbeck’s advice and had the eponymous BrodDog – a dog (Spicy Kransky in my case) with bacon, coleslaw, pickles, ketchup, corn relish, topped with sweet potato ribbons and shaved Gruyere cheese. These babies are worth lining up for.

Discover BrodDogs at The Hamlet in Braddon here.

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Pulled Pork Burger – Shorty’s

Canberra has a bit of a Pulled Pork Burger fetish at the moment…and after doing the responsible thing and trying the offerings at Public, As You Like It, Walt & Burley and others, it was Shorty’s burger that reined supreme. Slow cooked meat with oodles and oodles of flavour, crunchy slaw, just…YUM! Oh, and then there are the accompanying fries which are almost worth a listing of their own. It ain’t good for your waistline, but it’s great for the soul.

Get more ‘dude food’ here.

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Eighty Bowl from Eighty/Twenty

While there were plenty of high calorie options (like the aforementioned), 2014 really was the year that healthy eating became fashionable, as referenced by the opening of a number of eateries focussed on wholefoods. eighty/twenty food was perhaps the most ‘responsible’ of the lot, with a common sense philosophy of ‘eat well 80 per cent of the time and indulge 20 per cent’. It was the 80% that got my attention, with The ’80’ Bowl: kale, watercress, rainbow chard, radish, cauliflower crumb, soft poached egg and grilled king trout, becoming one of my favourite breakfasts of the year. 

Get to know the eighty/twenty philosophy here.

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Green Pea Pancake – Local Press Café

Local Press Cafe’s Green Pea Pancake may well be the most instagrammed dish of 2014…and with good reason. It’s beautiful, it’s ‘on trend’, and it’s bloody tasty. Poached eggs, guacamole, corn, crushed feta, mint and chives dressed with house pomegranate-balsamic reduction, all on a green pea pancake which is probably unlike anything you’ve tasted before. You leave feeling all virtuous (not to mention full).

Discover more healthy places to eat in Canberra here.

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Espresso Creaming Soda from The Cupping Room

Look, I don’t even drink coffee but I love the theatre of The Cupping Room’s Espresso Creaming Soda. Sasa Sestic has elevated the humble bean far beyond a morning heartstarter – The Cupping Room‘s entire menu is grounded in its South American roots – and his passion for coffee is evident in every aspect of ONA’s ventures. How often can you start your morning with liquid nitrogen?

Read more about The Cupping Room here.

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Chocolate Mousse from Chez Frederic

Sometimes, it’s not a single dish, but a whole place that is our obsession. Such is the case with Chez Frederic, which has been Michelle Brotohusodo’s home away from home since it opened in January. She loves its big flavoured homestyle food (all available to take away) and its neighbourhood feel, and had a real problem choosing a favourite from her many, many meals there. When pushed, it was the Chocolate Mousse (pictured below with Creme Caramel) that got the gong. You can see why… But Chez Fred isn’t on this list just because of its menu – it’s a great example of how savvy restauranteurs are responding to Braddon’s rise as a neighbourhood of time-poor young professionals who love good food. Smart.

Find out why Michelle’s obsessed by reading her review of Chez Fred.

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Barley Griffin from BentSpoke

The opening of BentSpoke Brewing Co in Braddon was one of the year’s most anticipated events, and the brews on offer don’t disappoint – from the Dick Tracy (a fruity brown ale) to Mort’s Gold (a ‘hoppy Pilsner), and Adam’s Cider, a hand-crushed cider made from Batlow apples. But the real stand out has to be the Barley Griffin, a lightly malty drop with a refreshing herbal edge from its not-so-secret ingredient, oregano. Even if you’re not a beer fan, you should give one of BentSpoke’s brews a try.

Get the BentSpoke story here.

bs1 (2)Peanut butter and bacon ice cream from Frugii

Choosing a favourite Frugii ice cream is like trying to name your favourite child…they’re all amazing for different reasons, and I rarely leave the Old Bus Depot Markets on a Sunday without a tub of one of the classics – Salted Butter Caramel, Dark Chocolate or Vanilla Bean. But they don’t call John Marshall ‘the ice cream alchemist’ for nothing. Step (well) outside your comfort zone and try something that SHOULDN’T work – like Peanut butter and bacon and you’ll find a little piece of locally made heaven for your mouth. Frugii’s Braddon Dessert Bar is set to open in the next couple of weeks, so get set for even more exciting flavours!

Read the Frugii success story here.

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Pork Belly Pappardelle from Parlour

Since rising from the ashes of the fire that razed its original incarnation, Parlour Wine Room has attracted a loyal following of foodies (and wine-ies). And with no wonder – the mostly Spanish-inspired fare is unlike anything else you’ll find in town. So, it was hard to pick a favourite from the menu here – would it be the Dusted calamari, squid ink, black garlic romesco, almonds; the Jamon croqueta, mojo de cilantro; the Twice cooked crispy belly, px glaze, fried onion, hazelnut or the Pan seared scallops, morcilla, peas, jamon, mint? In the end, we couldn’t got past Michelle’s favourite Pappardelle pasta, pork belly, sofrito, manchego. So good.

Read Michelle’s review of Parlour Wine Room here.

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Chanchito from Mr. PAPA

It’s been a BIG year for Peruvian Street Food vendor, Mr. PAPA. From quietly popping up at various events around town, to making a BIG splash at the National Multicultural Festival, Chanchito soon became the word on everyone’s lips. A Peruvian Pork Belly Sandwich , served in locally made Peruvian-inspired bread, Criolla salsa , sweet potatoes and ‘Mum’s chilli cream recipe’, the Chanchito has developed a cult following. Just make sure you leave room for a Chocotejas (Peruvian chocolate stuffed with Pecans and Dulce de leche) or two for dessert.

Discover the Mr Papa story here.

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Pigs Head Roll, Fennel Coleslaw, Sriracha Mayo from Temporada

It won rave reviews the moment it opened, and was recently named The Canberra Times’ Restaurant of The Year – so it’s not surprising that it’s hard to pick a favourite dish from Temporada’s everchanging menu. It could have been the Charred Mackerel, Beetroots, Horseradish Yoghurt; or the Raw Hiramasa Kingfish, Avocado, Smoked Olive Oil, Radish; or even the Marinated Lamb Cutlet, Spiced Sausage, Flat Bread, Grilled Vegetable Salad; or one the amazing desserts. But in the end, we chose the Pigs Head Roll, Fennel Coleslaw, Sriracha Mayo. Why? They’re not only delicious, but they say a lot about the food philosophy of Aubergine’s sister restaurant – this is simple food done really, really well. Yum.

Read our review of Temporada here and get the backstory here.

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 BBQ Pork Bun from Morks

When Morks moved from its digs in Florey to the Kingston Foreshore in September 2013 (when it was pretty much just them and C Dine Bar), it left behind a large mob of mourning Belconnenites. But the baton was swiftly taken up by those who live south of the bridge, and it’s a rare day or night when the eatery isn’t packed to the rafters with diners enjoying their contemporary Thai food. For us, the standout is their BBQ Pork Buns – juicy slices of caramelised pork, with crunchy salad, all wrapped in soft, sweet buns. Dare you to eat just one.

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Pulled lamb shoulder, pistachio, yoghurt, vine leaf, pomegranate, brik from Monster kitchen & bar

Look, I’m breaking the rules here by featuring two dishes from one establishment…but given that Monster kitchen & bar has just revealed a brand new formal dining space, surely I’m allowed to reflect this with a casual choice and one more fine dining. In any event, I simply couldn’t fail to mention Sean McConnell’s Pulled lamb shoulder, pistachio, yoghurt, vine leaf pomegranate, brik as one of the dishes of the year. Reflecting the chef’s passion for regional produce and his ability to elevate simple ingredients to something special, the dish is the perfect combination of soft, slow-cooked meat, creamy yoghurt and crisp crunch. Order a bowl of Fried cauliflower, tahini, yoghurt, black garlic to go with it.

Read more about Monster kitchen & bar here.

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Dim Sum from AKIBA

It’s a late starter, opening less than a month ago, but AKIBA has made quite an impression with their ‘eclectic electric’ Asian eatery. This is Dim Sum like Canberra has never seen before, served with a lot of enthusiasm in a casual space that’s about as different to stablemate Sage Dining Rooms as you can get. We love the Steamed prawn & chicken dumplings, chilli oil, black vinegar dressing, kimchi & angasi pancake, kewpie mayo, sirracha, ittogaki (pictured), and beef short rib, tamarind caramel, thai basil. Vegetarians will love the shiitake & water chestnut dumplings, red vinegar, black pepper and roast broccoli, miso blue cheese, sesame seeds.

Read our review of AKIBA here and find out more about the philosophy here.

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Sard in Saor from Da Rosario

Da Rosario is a prime example of the casualisation of dining that swept through Canberra in 2014 – restaurants moved away from foams and gels and plush formal fitouts, to focus on the food at the centre of it all. Literally a hole in the wall, Mezzalira’s baby brother offers up fresher than fresh food daily to diners willing to perch on stools on the sidewalk, or grab a takeaway pastry on their way past. Our pick? Sard in Saor – fresh South Coast sardine fillets marinated in chardonnay vinegar, pine nuts and currants – a simple, flavourful dish that lets the quality of the ingredients shine through.

Get another taste of Da Rosario here.

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‘Peach Melba’ from Capit0l Bar & Grill

Rydges Lakeside shrugged off its daggy skin in April this year, transforming itself into the hipper-than-hip QT Canbera…and it wasn’t just the itneriors that were given a makeover. Under the guidance of  QT Hotels Creative Food Director, Robert Marchetti (of Bondi Icebergs fame), Capitol Bar and Grill trotted out a menu of bistro classics and future favourites with an Italian twist. While its offerings can be a little uneven (our first couple of experiences were great, the last couple not so much), we still can’t go past their “Peach Melba”: Vanilla Creamed Arborio Rice, Raspberry Swirl Gelato, Last Season’s Sweet n Sour Pickled Spiced Peaches, Raspberry Everything as one of the desserts we loved the most in 2014.

Find out more about Capit0l Bar & Grill here.

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Chia, banana, yoghurt and maple syrup Muesli Bowl from Superfine

Nestled in at the bus interchange on the corner of Mort and Bunda Street (near the well-established Tonic), it’s easy to miss this humble pocket of cosiness but Superfine is yet another example a cafe encouraging healthy eating and making it totes trendy. Next time you’re in need of a healthy, breakfast on the go (that isn’t ladened with grease and calories), Superfine is where you can find the Muesli Bowl with chia, banana, yoghurt and if you’re craving a little sweetening—maple syrup. It’s pretty bloody good, and you’ll definitely struggle to wait until your office to eat it.

Find out more about Superfine here.

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Stuffed charred leek with cream cheese, ricotta salata, hazelnut from Wood & Coal

Two words. Savoury dessert. New to the 2014 culinary scene, Wood & Coal is bringing vegetables back with its stuffed charred leek, cream cheese, ricotta salata and hazelnut. Usually, an unlikely pick from the menu, which is why it pays to either a) have a chef willing to serve you dishes of their choice or b) simply ask your waiter for a recommendation. Perfect for vegetarians and those with gluten intolerance (yes, it is gluten-free), and even those who don’t like their vegetables, we guarantee you will fall in love with this dish. The crumbed hazelnut is more a praline with a sticky, toffee-like texture that when combined with the softness of the leek and nutty body of the shaved ricotta salata makes an incredible mouthful of flavours you’ve probably not experienced together before. Unusual but oh so yummy, vegetables have made a come back. For something a little sweeter, leave room for the Olive Oil Sponge Cake with blood orange custard, red velvet cheesecake ice-cream and olive soil.

Read our review of Wood & Coal here and find out more here.

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The Fix Cold Pressed Juices

Cold Pressed Juices became the ‘next big thing’ in 2014, but the first time I heard of them was from Canberra’s Jovan Pejic and Lucianne Attard, two young entrepreneurs starting their own business, ‘The Fix’. It’s become a raging success in less than a year due to their passion for wellness and great business instincts, but the reason their juices get a gong in this list is because they taste so good. The new Summer range has just launched, and my firm favourite is Grow: filtered water, almonds, cashews, agave, mixed berries – so yummy at breakfast time.

Read more about The Fix here.

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Did we miss anything? What was your favourite dish of 2014? 

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