Before coming to Canberra, my experience with Turkish food was limited to A La Turko…
Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola…
Blink and you may miss it but for the faint sounds of disco and the smell of a New York-style pizza emanating from within Canberra’s newest speakeasy.
You will have to look hard for the tiny neon sign that proclaims the latest space from Canberra’s bar and restaurant guru Frank Condi–Lola’s.
It’s the old Provini’s site, next to Shorty’s (another one of Frank’s establishments), but in the true style of prohibition revelry, Lola’s is keeping a deliberately low profile.
Once you find it, however, you’re likely to want to stay awhile after pulling up a bar stool and rejoicing in something that is dark, arty, neon-lit and as close as any Canberran will get to an underground pub in Brooklyn short of an arduous international flight.
Lola’s promises many things. A friendly, cosy and intimate space that is all dark corners, graffitied walls and tiny booths. Share a long-neck or a local spirit with friends while the pizza oven pumps out two styles—the Napoli-style of Mama Dough, Frank’s hole-in-the-wall establishment at Ainslie, and a thin-and-crispy American-Italian style pizza.
Lola’s offers small plates to share at almost ridiculously low prices. How does fat meatballs, tomato sugo, parmesan and fresh bread sound for $4? Similarly, the smoked wagyu slider with piccalilli pickles seems a steal at just $5. Pizza’s hover around the $20 mark while Lola’s will also serve half a dozen substantial meals ranging from spaghetti with prawns, muscles, squid and tomato, or a 450-gram rib eye with salsa verde, potato, leaf salad and bone marrow—both priced at around $30.
The most exciting part of all of this is that you can order these meals late. Like, really late.
Frank has been thinking about Lola’s for a long while, travelling to the states and considering what makes a great bar truly stand out.
He reckons in Canberra—where kitchens seem to collectively shut at around 9.30 pm—a bar serving authentic Italian food that is open until the wee hours from Tuesday to Saturday is going to find serious fans.
And when it’s serving up fries loaded with salami, basil and mozzarella, who’s to argue with that?
While his previous Italian, Provini’s, was all about feeling like you were in Nonna’s formal living room, Lola’s is more like sneaking into Nonno’s shed for some bootleg and the best of the season’s tomatoes.
“I really want it to be a fun place to escape. There will be disco playing, soul, funk and lots of good, hearty snacks for under $10. We don’t have anything quite like this in Canberra.”
Even with some natural light coming in, it somehow feels like you’ve descended two flights of stairs as you step over the threshold to Lola’s. But when you are meeting friends for a midnight snack under a disco ball, who cares how dark it is?
Where: 50 Bunda Street (next to Shorty’s)
When: Tuesday to Saturday 4 pm til very late (and by late we mean early hours of the morning). Friday lunch from 11 am