Another week, another post about a new cafe opening up in the perennial cafe launching pad that is Braddon! It has kind of gotten to a point where I’m looking for reasons to check out and write about places other than Braddon where possible, but I guess it is unavoidable at times. So after over two months, I finally headed over to Lonsdale Street to try out Barrio.
Normally, I’m not overly upset about waiting around to try new places. Places tend to need a bit of time bedding in their processes and to be honest, I just hate living up to the stereotype of a food blogger, where I’m that person just rushing out to try the new place BECAUSE ITS NEW MAN. But every now and then, there will be a place that makes me want to kick myself for not checking it out earlier. Barrio sadly, is one of those places.
Tucked away at the top of Lonsdale Street in a small little store, not measuring more than three by five is Barrio. Barrio is a quaint little place that offers a small menu of breakfast and light lunch options that don’t require a massive cook up. The kitchen is nothing more than a toastie machine and couple of other simple kitchen gadgets from what I can see unless they have a Harry Potter style invisiwall going on somewhere. There is also a long list of different coffee beans, teas and drinks. Barrio Collective Coffee as the name suggests, specialises in coffee but as a coffee newbie, I was primarily interested in the food.
When we started browsing the menu at Barrio, this dish jumped out at us. Once I saw marrow butter, it was locked in. Sourdough with marrow butter, shallots and a fried egg ($16). As you may know, I love all things meaty, whether its bone broth, blood sausage or bone marrow. If I see one of these things on a menu, everything else becomes white noise.
Of late, these things seem to be so in. Look at any new and hip restaurant or eatery menu and you’ll see either blood sausage, bone marrow or bone broth. As a big fan of all these things, I’m very excited to see this turn of events in the food game. However, after eating many many dishes with these meaty goodies in them, I’ve been left greatly disappointed, especially when it comes to bone marrow. Most places seem to be jumping onto the bandwagon without truly making the most out of the amazing, rich and deep flavour of bone marrow. Instead, it just seems to be chucked on top as some sort of alternate gravy.
Here at Barrio, its a completely different story. The bone marrow is simply amazing and just so strong. It is one of the most meaty, tasty and rich marrows I’ve ever had, and this is in spread form! I’m not sure my words and hopeless descriptions are really doing this bone marrow justice, but this is about as close as you can get to literally sucking the marrow out of the bone. When compared to some of the ‘bone marrow jus’ that a lot of places are doing, this marrow butter at Barrio completely puts them to shame. If you like meat, you’ve got to give this dish a try. The fried shallots, dried onions and fried eggs were a nice addition, adding lovely eggy flavour, crispiness and extra earthiness but to be honest, they’re all just add ons. The star of this dish is the marrow butter and the delicious bread.
Our second dish from Barrio was the Snowy Mountains trout with pickles and creme fraiche ($14). Although this didn’t have a stand out element like the sourdough and marrow butter dish did, it was still a fantastic allrounder. For some weird reason, while I was eating this, I felt like a fisherman from a small port side town, eating some of my home smoked ocean trout with my homemade pickles on a slab of stone that I picked up outside my cottage.
Everything about this dish felt so rustic. From the presentation to the actual food. There I was sitting in one of the most hipster cafes in Canberra, where the shop owners were wearing flannel with overgrown woodchopper beards but there was no kale, superfood or any of those other hipster buzz items to be seen. This was real. When a bunch of young people with a passion open up a store, this is what you get. Not some preppy rich kids whose parents give them money and they jump onto whatever bandwagon is available. Just a bunch of guys with a love for food and coffee. I might be a tad overzealous about the potential beginning of Barrio, but you know what I mean right?
As for the dish itself? Fantastic! Melt in your mouth ocean trout with a really rich smokey flavoured, couple with a variety of pickled vegetables includes onions, carrots and capers which perfectly cut through the richness and the fattiness of the trout and creme fraiche. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything else this good in Canberra. Simple but delicious.
Of course, we couldn’t come to a place called Barrio ‘Coffee’ Collective and not get a drink so heres the Gypsy tea ($5) smoked black tea with burnt quince jam and milk. I know its not coffee but hey it’s the next best thing! I also decided to add a stroopwafel ($3) after seeing all these amazing comments by Tales of a Confectionist about stroopwafel, I had to see what this little biscuit had to offer.
But firstly, the tea! I’ve been impressed by everything that I’ve had so far at Barrio and this was no different. Originally I was going to get the chai which came with nut milk, which is Barrio’s homemade version of soy milk but sadly when we were there, they had ran out of nut milk so we opted for this interesting concoction instead. Something about smoked black tea jumped out at me and who can say no to burnt quince jam?
I had no idea what I was in for when I ordered this but on first sip, I was impressed. This tea was different to anything else I have ever had. It had this deep smokiness to it coupled with this berry like sweetness from the burnt quince jam. While I was drinking it, I swear it reminded me or something but I couldn’t put my finger on it. But that night it hit me, it was maple bacon! This smoked tea tasted like a mild maple bacon shake, just warm and delicious.
As for the stroopwafel, it was a pretty cool add. It was like a really thin and crispy waffle with this gooey layer of sweet and delicious caramel sauce in the middle. I don’t know if I was meant to but I ended up dipping the stroopwafel into my smoked tea, this made the caramel all gooey and awesome, but it didn’t end up like a Tim Tam slam or anything. I’d say that dipping is entirely optional.
Finally, House made blood orange soda ($4) or atleast I think it was, theres also a fresh pressed blood orange on Barrio’s menu for $4 and this was blood orange but I swear the crew at Barrio said this was the house made soda, plus this was fizzy. I guess we will never know.
After having the sweet maple bacon like smoked tea with quince jam we decided to go for something refreshing and this house made blood orange soda hit the spot perfectly. It was the perfect combination of sweet and citrus goodness, coupled with just the right amount of fizz. There wasn’t much and when I finished it I was definitely left wanting more but hey for $4 its not bad at all.
On a side note and completely unrelated to food, so I have no idea what its doing on this post but the cups were really weird so I can’t help but mention it. Barrio uses ergonomic cups! Thats right, you can get an ergonomic cup that fits into your hand perfectly. Each cup comes with a little dint where your thumb can sit perfectly!
So that was my trip to Barrio. I only had two dishes and two drinks but from that tiny sample of Barrio’s menu, I was totally blown away. I’ve yet to be more impressed by another cafe in all of Canberra. This meal even competes with some of the fantastic fine dinning and degustations that I’ve had in Canberra. It was that good. I can’t vouch for the coffee here but I can say hands down best cafe in Canberra for food. This meal took me to another place, I felt like a fisherman in a sleepy town and it was nostalgic, not that I’ve ever been a fisherman living in a small sleepy port town but it just made me feel that way.
If you haven’t been to Barrio and you love good food, this is an absolute must! When I first saw Barrio opening up, I didn’t care to check it out, I thought it would be another hipster dive but one meal in and I’ve absolutely fallen in love. You can too! Ask me how! (Monkey Island fans…no? ok.)
Barrio Coffee Collective
Ori Building, 28 Lonsdale Street, Braddon
Monday to Friday
7:00am to 3:00pm
Saturday to Sunday
8:00am to 3:00pm