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There is a trend in Canberra at the moment where desolate suburban shopping centres are transformed into little hipster havens.
Having good food and coffee a short walk away is a luxury some lucky Canberrans are getting to enjoy and I think we can all agree, this is a very good thing. Little Oink continues this renewal, located at the local Cook shops in Belconnen. It is popular with the locals and was absolutely buzzing the day we visited.
The fit out is adorably kitsch, from the converted pallet tables, to the prodigious teapots on display, as well as a giant pig statue that lives out the front. The pig is notably beloved, having been ‘borrowed’ and replaced a number of times. He is also the perfect size for the kids to ride and all part of the family fun that Little Oink are trying to foster.
It has a lovely homey feeling, with lots of bright colours, as well as a large play area available for the littlies. The staff are patient, understanding of the mess that children will inevitably leave in their wake and went out of their way to make the kids feel welcome. You may have trouble cramming prams inside the small space but there is a change table available in the toilets. They also don’t charge for babychinos purchased with coffee, or you can pay a nominal fee of 50 cents. The beautiful teapots on display are also placed quite high, out of the reach of little fingers.
During the day, and until 5pm, the focus of the cafe is breakfast and the pig theme follows to a very porcinecentric menu. In addition to the common practice of simply adding bacon to all things (welcome though that practice is), Little Oink have taken things a step further and provided some innovative options. The bacon schnitzel is an entirely new and fabulous concept that I want to get to know better over pina coladas and long walks on the beach. If you are so inclined you can get it as a burger or have it as a delicious side to your eggs.
The wild boar brekky is as crazy as you would expect, with the aforementioned bacon schnitzel paired with sweet potato rosti, eggs, chorizo, mushrooms, tomato, spinach, tomato relish and, just in case, more bacon. It is everything I never even knew I wanted in a breakfast. Of course, there is fancy version of the old bacon and egg roll, comprising smoky bacon with two eggs, cheese and a tomato relish on a brioche bun. Other pork-focused dishes include a slow-cooked pork belly on a sweet potato rosti or the equally decadent pork pie with chorizo, gherkins, tomato relish and brie on toast. In the unlikely event you don’t feel like a pig option (which begs the question of why you’re even here, and by here I mean alive on this planet) there is a beef burger with sweet potato fries available.
Despite the obvious pig theme the cafe also caters to vegetarians. Zucchini fritters at their worst can be bland, undercooked and soggy however Little Oink’s zucchini, spinach and feta fritters are crispy, salty and packed full of flavour. They come with a side of beetroot puree, adding a gorgeous pink splash to the dish.
The blueberry pancakes look like a piece of art, served with a berry compote, pistachios and burnt fig ice cream. This is all framed by nasturtium flowers and *almost* too pretty to eat! For the health conscious there is a breakfast smoothie bowl available, made up of muesli with fruit, nuts, chia and almond milk.
After dark on Fridays, Little Oink has a range of tapas available and mostly under $15. A vegetarian option includes baked brie with garlic wine and pomegranate. Cheese is often the meat replacement in vegetarian dishes but I imagine this would be something special. Brie is also a welcome change from the goat’s cheese offering vegetarians typically receive. The zucchini fritters are also available and I imagine equally triumphant as their breakfast counterpart.
Back on the pig theme there are bacon schnitzel strips with a sticky bourbon glaze and pork crackle with apple sauce; both of which sound amazing and possibly like a heart attack waiting to happen. There is also the ubiquitous pork belly, flavoured with orange and fennel. Normally I am opposed fennel but I will make an exception as the combination results in beautiful, classic flavours. It is hard to go wrong with pork belly.
A trio of sliders contains yet more pork but is also paired with lamb and beef for variation. For the lamb enthusiast there is a Moroccan slow roasted lamb stew – how a stew works with a tapas menu intrigues me. Lastly, and a bit out of left field, there is a salt and pepper squid.
Moving onto dessert, Little Oink has a lovely selection of cakes sourced either from Patisserie 6 or baked fresh on the premises. This also includes a selection of muffins and banana bread. They all looked delicious.
Little Oink is a little slice of piggy heaven. The cafe is adorable, the service is friendly and efficient and I almost to forgot to mention; the coffee is amazing. The menu is really on theme and inventive, with enough interesting things to keep any foodie happy. If it is your local, I am jealous and willing to move in with you.
What: Little Oink Café,
Where: 22 Cook Place, Cook
Open: 7am5pm, Monday Friday, 8am 4pm SaturdaySunday, Open for tapas Friday evening 5pm10pm Wine and beer available, corkage $7 per bottle
Contact: Call 02 6251 2688, email email@example.com, visit their website or facebook page.
The author dined at her own expense. All opinions stated are her own.