Is 2020 over yet? Please? From the team that brought you the original Quarantini in…
In a city where restaurant turnover is sometimes alarmingly frequent, it is wonderful to see a tried-and-true favourite go on to bigger and better things.
That’s what is happening with Lanterne Rooms.
Formerly nestled in the Campbell Shops, the hugely successful Malaysian-based Canberra favourite (ranked #3 out of 1751 places to eat on TripAdvisor) has taken things up a notch.
It is unveiling a beautiful new location in the Iskia Building on Constitution Avenue in Campbell from this Friday.
And more excitingly, it is not alone. Owner Josiah Li has revealed that the Chairman Group, also behind Chairman and Yip and Lilotang in Barton, has managed to secure the ex-Head Chef of Nobu in Melbourne to head a new sushi bar next door.
It will be run on an omakase-style (where the chef selects what dishes are to be served) and will be a first for sushi in Canberra.
And if that wasn’t enough, lucky new residents at Iskia will be able to hang at a new wholefood café alongside the sushi bar.
It will provide the fitspo crowd attending the state-of-the-art gym next door to Lanterne Rooms and currently under construction, a chance to work out and then grab a healthy ready-to-go meal to take upstairs to their apartments.
Both the café and sushi bar are due to open in March. But we digress.
While finishing touches are still to be made, Lanterne Room takes out a beautiful and sedate street frontage with the promise of a glass greenhouse to seat 40 to break up the concrete courtyard.
With Nyonyan flavours dominating the menu, the restaurant follows the Malaysian Straits eclectic architectural style which is heavy on curves and arches.
What always set the original Lanterne Rooms’ location apart was its series of small dining rooms, making it a favourite of the city’s wheelers and dealers because, A) the fact they were doing a deal was not on show to the entire city and B) they could hear what the other was saying.
Staying true to that heritage, the new restaurant is broken into three rooms with elegant thick arches providing a peek through to the next area.
The walls are white, the floors are repurposed wooden boards and the ceilings are festooned with wooden slats and large cane fans that give it that old-school-stately-Asian-hotel feel.
Terracotta wine bottle holders provide a honeycomb feature at the front of the restaurant and, at the very back, a dark green, jungle-themed private dining room is likely to come top of mind next time a group disgruntled politicians want to plot a leadership coup. There aren’t even windows.
Perhaps some of the workers in the surrounding Defence precinct will also take advantage of the promise of total and utter privacy.
But the beautiful design is just a part of what makes Lanterne Rooms special. The menu is the other.
Under chef Daniel Mark, and led by manager Adrian Law and the same team who have moved a few streets over, Lanterne Room promises the same sort of finesse and flavour that has seen it thrive for a decade.
Having been in to savour its dishes on its very last night in September, I am delighted to report that about half of the menu has come across to the new incarnation.
According to owner Josiah Li, there was no question some of the most popular dishes would stay—lest there be a rebellion from faithful diners. Tom yum infused prawns with rockmelon and apple, we’re looking at you.
Similarly the slow-cooked beef curry ‘Kampung style’ remains.
But if you want to travel further into South East Asia with the team, the Thai-style deep-fried whole barramundi ‘Tiga Rasa’ is a new special which may tempt you.
With giant indoor fiddle leaf figs and elegant artwork breaking up the white walls, Lanterne Room looks beautiful in her new digs.
We absolutely can’t wait to start eating there once again.
What: Lanterne Rooms
Where: Iskia Building, 81 Constitution Avenue, Campbell
When: Tuesday–Friday lunch and dinner, Saturday dinner only.