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What’s new on the Canberra food and drink scene…

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The Canberra food and wine scene never sleeps…not when there’s a city of food lovers all ready to spring into the action as soon as word hits that there’s a new place to try.

And there’s certainly no shortage of hotspots… No matter what part of The Can you live, there’s something new to discover. Here are just some of them!


has had the cocktail market cornered at the Kingston Foreshore since the start of the year, but there’s a new kid in town. Walt and Burley has been keenly anticipated for months now, and has now opened its doors!

It’s a huge – 300 seater – gastropub and, from the looks of things, no expense has been spared. There are benches, a more formal seating area with a banquette, a gorgeous area for lounging around a show-stopping copper fireplace, and plenty of outdoor seating.

This place will go off in Summer, but it’s every bit as inviting during the cooler months, with an appealing pub grub menu. From light starters like Crab cakes with fennel slaw and ranch dressing ($15) and soft tacos with pulled pork, cheese, iceberg and mild salsa ($11); or more substantial mains like local duck confit with sweet onion puree, parsnip, truss tomato and quince glaze ($24) to a daily-changing short crust pie ($18), burgers and tricked up fish n chips ($20) with plenty of vegetarian options. And that’s not mentioning the ‘smokehouse’ meals or dessert. Yum.

Oh, and there’s beer and ciders with names like Beez Neez, Fat Yak and Dirty Granny – it’s enough to make me trade in my favourite chardonnay for one of them! Bottom line? It’s gorgeous…and I can’t wait to settle in with a drink or two and just gaze over LBG.

Walt and Burley - tables are out and the lights are on. Nearly open! Image from foodpornjournal.

Walt and Burley – tables are out and the lights are on. Nearly open! Image from foodpornjournal.

But that’s not all that’s happening by the water.

La Rustica has made the big move to the Kingston Foreshore. The location and fitout are all new, but you can still expect the authentic Italian experience that has seen hordes flock to its door for over a decade. As www.bythewater.com.au reports, management has decided to respect tradition, and “while there are new dishes on offer, the menu sticks to the tried and true, offering familiar comfort rather than reinvention.”

Also just opened is Coconine, serving up Thai cuisine. That makes three thai places on the Foreshore – with Morks and Chong Co making up the hat trick…if that’s your thing, then you’re spoilt for choice!

Back in Kingston proper, people who head to La Rustica’s old Kennedy Street digs expecting to find simple Italian fare won’t be too disappointed, with La Osteria filling the spot. Kingston is a pretty crowded marketplace for simple trattoria style cuisine, but word is that La Osteria delivers good, reliable food in a family friendly atmosphere.

Just around the corner, there’s more change afoot, with the popular European changing hands – and name. The new owners are hospitality veterans, Erkin and Ziba Esen and if you’re a fan of Ottoman Cuisine, the names will probably be familiar – Erkin was a chef at the inner south stalwart for 10 years, with Ziba working the floor.

They’ll be renaming the restaurant Pomegranate, with the new menu featuring Modern Australian cuisine with Mediterranean influences, like a brunch of Sucuk, potato and green olive omelette, perhaps a dinner of Chargrilled Ocean Trout served with almond tarator, pine nuts and spinach saute, and White chocolate pannacotta, pomegranate granita and peach ice cream with honey wafers for dessert.

Our resident Fitness Fanatic, Ashleigh Went, recently ate there and reported that it was absolutely delicious, and the service friendly and faultless.

Erkin Esen and wife Ziba, the faces behind Pomegranate (ex-European). Image by This is Canberra.

Erkin Esen and wife Ziba, the faces behind Pomegranate (ex-European). Image by This is Canberra.

Down in the valley, Swinger Hill’s Santa Lucia has been reinvented as Corvina Restaurant. The restaurant’s location is an absolute cracker, with gorgeous views over Woden Valley, and the menu offers a delicious looking array of traditional Italian fare and some great value banquet options.

Further south in Kambah, On The Grind Canberra is bringing some attitude to the suburb, with some pretty fine-looking coffee and tempting other beverages (I’m considering making the drive just for the hot chocolate with coconut milk!) It offers pretty simple fare, with sandwiches, pies, and sweet treats, but Jenke Cct is already more hip because of it.

On The Grind Canberra has just opened up in Kambah. Image from their Facebook page.

On The Grind Canberra has just opened up in Kambah. Image from their Facebook page.


Where to start? New places are springing up all over the city… But let’s kick off in New Acton Precinct where the playfully named Monster is now serving breakfast, lunch and dinner from 6:30am to 1am in Hotel Hotel’s uber chic lounge every day from 6:30am to 1am. Chef Sean McConnell’s food is all about respecting local produce and clean flavours, and the menu is beyond exciting.

For breakfast, try to choose between the House made crumpets with Hotel Hotel honey (hive #9) $11 and the Snowy River hash brown, fried free range egg, soft herbs ($16)...or maybe you feel more in the mood for Poached eggs, avocado, whipped curd, dukkah, toast ($16).


Monster’s poached eggs, avocado, whipped curd, dukkah, toast ($16)

Lunch is equally adventurous, with Yabby jaffle, creme fraiche, horseradish ($16) commanding attention, but the Fried Pork Belly Banh Mi ($12) is a taste explosion. And then dinner and dessert…for my money, it’s hard to go past the Pressed lamb shoulder, pistachio, yoghurt, vine leaf, pomegranate ($28) and the Mandarin souffle, chocolate sorbet ($18). 

If the food isn’t enough to keep you coming back, the inviting interiors – and the always lovely F&B Manager, Michael Gray – will be. I’m making this place my second office.

If you’re up for a sweet treat, then you’ll soon be able to head downstairs to the Max Brenner which is set tp sate the chocolate cravings of city dwellers and workers. It’s an interesting inclusion to the Precinct which, up until now, has been a collection of independent, edgy operators… It’s set to open on 1 July.

At University Lodge, on the corner of Childers and Hutton Streets, is a mecca for those with sweet teeth – you can read Michelle Brotohusodo’s review here. Dessert Castle, a local initiative between friends, promises a ‘flight of fantasy’ for the tastebuds with chocolates, cakes, cookies, waffles, macarons, brownies and more. My thighs expanded just writing that sentence.

Heading into the city centre proper, two new players are bringing the ‘cool’. Nookie Espresso Bar has taken over the spot vacated by Sup and is already getting rave reviews for its coffee – not surprising when you learn that it’s the experienced husband-and-wife team of Liv and Nam Phengrasmy behind the venture. I’m not a caffeind, so on my visit I tried a Prana Chai experience, which was so incredibly delicious. Pull up a bench under a heater, grab a crocheted blanket and enjoy a hot beverage with a pastry from Bread Nerds. Yum.

Nookie Espresso Bar in Garema Place.

Nookie Espresso Bar in Garema Place.


Just around the corner in Bailey’s Corner is Tree Eighty Three – these guys are doing some cool stuff. Fresh soups and sweet treats made daily, and meals that are big on flavour and fresh produce (herbs are picked from the cafés onsite garden and vegetables come from their organic farm garden in Gundaroo.) Not only that, they’ve engaged Canberra designer and craftsmen Ted Chatain of Edwoods to make handcrafted bow ties from recycled wood and natural fabrics for the staff’s uniform and are planning to host a market day featuring local designers. Great to see such a commitment to supporting other local businesses.

But wait, there’s more. I know.


In Braddon, there’s not one but three new places on the scene. First off the rank is BentSpoke Brewing Co. –  Canberra’s newest microbrewery and taphouse. It’s not only shaping up as a fantastic inner city destination for beer and cider aficionados – and lovers of pub grub – but owners Richard Watkins and Tracy Margrain hope BentSpoke will become a local beer brand.

Doors opened just a couple of weeks ago, revealing a smart industrial space with oodles of character – handmade pendant lights made from old bicycle parts, a staircase handrail that doubles as a pipe through which to transport beer from above to below, and a mural by local artist George Rose which deftly illustrates ‘How We Make Beer’ (the Skywhale may or may not make an appearance).

Initially, BentSpoke will offer five beers: Barley Griffin, Crankshaft, Mort’s Gold, Dick Tracy and Braddon Bitter; and Adam’s Cider. I sampled the Barley Griffin which was a pleasure to drink; a sprinkle of oregano spicing up the palate…but the cider was my favourite. Hand-crushed, it’s the brewery’s in-house blend of Batlow-grown Granny Smith and Red Delicious apples. so good. There’s also plenty to fill the stomach – from a traditional Ploughman’s to burgers, baguettes and grilled protein. This place is going to kill it.

BentSpoke Owners Richard Watkins and Tracy Margrain celebrate the opening of BentSpoke Brewing Co. Image supplied.

BentSpoke Owners Richard Watkins and Tracy Margrain celebrate the opening of BentSpoke Brewing Co. Image supplied.


On Lonsdale Street, things are also afoot. Vitis Eatery recently opened and promises “local and ethically sourced produce, with a unique ‘garden’ style decor.” We weren’t invited to the launch (sad face) but reports suggest some pretty interesting Mod Oz cuisine paired with a careful selection of craft beers and wines. You can drool over The Food Avenue’s pics here.

Then there’s Hopscotch which, as the name suggests, will offer hops and scotch…and ‘wood-fire wizardry’. Doors on the huge space (we’re talking about 350 seats inside and out) are set to open next month and will offer ‘BBQs of the world’ from an Argentinian parilla grill. Industry veterans, Nick Parkinson and Brian Smith are behind the venture and say they’re looking to create a friendly community vibe at a price point that means Braddonites could eat there every night if they so chose. With a substantial al fresco area fronting Lonsdale Street, plans for a range of boutique beer, wine and spirit offerings, and some quirky design touches, this will be one to look out for.

Plus, in the months to come, the ice cream ‘alchemist’ John Marshall is creating a place of worship for all those who track down his magical Frugii iced treats around town, and rumour has it a burger joint will open just near Autolyse Juice. Stay tuned.


Tara from In The Taratory is all over happenings in the Belconnen area, and she’s unearthed a quirky little addition to the scene in Up To You. It’s a ‘hot pot’ restaurant where you pretty much choose your ingredients and cook your own meal using your own personal cooking station. What fun!

Gungahlinites rejoice! The District opened in Crace in late May and looks to be the new ‘local’ – a popular spot for a tasty pub-style meal and tap beer (James Squire The Chancer and White Rabbit Dark Ale to name just two) or a quiet wine. There’s all the usual suspects – pizza, steak, pasta, fish and chips and the space is inviting, with industrial lighting, exposed bricks and rough timber offset by a colourful panelled wall and banquette.

The District looks likely to become the new 'local' for Crace residents. Image from their Facebook page.

The District looks likely to become the new ‘local’ for Crace residents. Image from their Facebook page.


So are you hungry yet? What have we missed? Any other new places we should know about?

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5 Responses to What’s new on the Canberra food and drink scene…

Michelle B says: 21 June, 2014 at 11:45 am

Argh, every time I think there might be a chance I can catch up and try all the new places in Canberra, a billion more open, and my chances get slimmer! Oh well, I’ll just have to be diligent and persistent, lol!

Michelle says: 14 July, 2014 at 11:43 pm

For a good cup of coffee, i have to recommend Espresso Room in the mall at Woden! Soon opening a shop in Belconnen mall, although not always the best going into a mall… The shop always has great music, such friendly, educated barista’s and honestly the best coffee in Canberra! Lovely sweet treats too, to escape the sometimes crazily busy mall.

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