2014 was another big year for the Canberra food scene, with new eateries opening on…
I don’t get out much. And I don’t really dig crowds. And I was really quite upset when my favourite inner south drinking hole, Julep Lounge, closed several years ago. It was a hushed, intimate little place to catch up for a quiet drink and a chance to gaze on the happenings of Franklin Street, Manuka.
So, I was uber-happy to hear of the impending opening of Polit Bar – “a discreet, warm cocktail lounge where the influential can relax, network, and enjoy themselves in the heart of Canberra’s parliamentary entertainment triangle.”
Well tonight, it opened softly…and my lovely husband and I went along to check it out. All in the name of research, of course.
And it looks set to become HQ for the inner south’s movers and shakers…the first people we spotted were Schmooze’s Phillip Jones and partner, Edwina, and later, The Canberran’s Nic Crowther (who described the space as ‘sumptuous, like a glomesh handbag’). The gold rope fringed wall certainly gave it a certain je ne sais quoi. Not to mention the crystal chandeliers.
The drinks list is comprehensive – from the responsible “Wellbeing Boosts”, which are recommended to kick off your night – to the, er, dangerous. Fernet Branca Hip Flask or Absynthe Fountain, anyone?
Service is friendly and unpretentious, whether it be from owner Mary-Jane, the roguish waiter with the Scottish accent, or the pretty kohl-eyed waitress. It’s clear that this is a new enterprise, but everyone is eager to please and very accommodating.
The menus come encased in vintage Government booklets, like “The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia” and “Assisted Passages to Australia” (which, just quietly, we reckon would have been provided to my husband’s parents when they emigrated in 1970). It’s a cute touch.
We decide to go with drinks first: me, a bubbles, and Mr HerCanberra, a “Bitter and Twisted”; a rather (as the name suggests) bitter appertif, inspired by recent political events. I’m not a cocktail drinker, but it has an amazing citrus aroma that seriously tempts me to convert.
And then we’re tempted by the Opening Night menu – we choose the Zucchini Fritti with Paprika Yoghurt; Gin-Cured Ocean Trout with Smoked Trout Parfait and Pickled Fennel; and Braised Pork Belly grilled with Korean style kim-chi, apple batons and pork crackling. Honestly? Really, really good. The zucchini balls were the best I’ve ever had – light and fluffy, not doughy and heavy like so many you have. And the other dishes were also scrummy.
Bottom line? Polit Bar looks set to be a fantastic place for a quiet drink and a chat, far removed from the busy pub scene of Public just downstairs, and perfect for political geeks. While Origin may not be playing on the tv screens scattered throughout the space, you can be sure that Election Night will be. And with the demise of the Tally Room, aren’t we all looking for a new HQ?
Where: 8 Franklin Street, Manuka.
When: Open 4pm til late, Wednesday to Sunday.