Canberra

Courgette, Canberra

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Nestled between an old building and another possibly even older building, up at the beginning of Marcus Clark Street in Acton, you’ll find a little restaurant. It’s not super fancy looking, nor is it awfully active on social media. You won’t find this place doing crazy and creative degustations or the hottest thing off the press in Paris or New York. Yet this is my favourite restaurant in Canberra.

This restaurant is Courgette.

Courgette has always been a favourite for many Canberrans. However, in recent years it hasn’t quite received the same love, at least outwards love that I can see. With all the new fine dining restaurants popping up, international rankings not quite giving Courgette it’s due as well as the activities of its more innovative rivals, Courgette has kind of been forgotten in my opinion; but for me, there isn’t another restaurant in Canberra that quite compares to Courgette. I’ve been to Courgette a couple of times now, and each and every time it has always been consistent, delicious and simply amazing. You won’t find any crazy ingredients, dishes or cooking methods here. Just simple, rustic great food done well.

So, after many years of dining at Courgette, I’m very excited to finally write up my most recent food adventure at Courgette.

Last week, whilst visiting Canberra and as a kind of last toast to this quaint city, I decided to relive one of my first fine dining experiences in Canberra. During all my previous visits to Courgette, I went for dinner. This time I decided to try their lunch menu. For $66 per person, you get one entree, main and dessert. The lunch menu itself is quite similar to the dinner menu, with the option to add some sides like Paris mash or leafy greens for $10. We decided to go for the thee course menu plus a bottle of wine. Not because we now understand wine or anything but rather because we didn’t drive and this was a wonderful opportunity to appear cultured. There doesn’t seem to be wine matching at Courgette. However, I’m sure if you ask they’ll be able to provide some recommendations. We were too scared to, obviously.

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As expected from any good fine dining restaurant, we were greeted with warm bread and butter prior to our lunch coming out. However, this wasn’t quite your standard dinner roll. This is going to sound pretty trivial and I do tend to get really excited about all things related to food. However, this bread roll from Courgette was easily the best bread roll from a fancy place I’ve ever had. This bread roll was fluffy with just that right amount of crisp on the outside. But what stood out was it’s flavour. The bread roll had this distinct tart sourdough like taste to it. However, the texture was anything but sourdough like, instead it was fluffy almost like a croissant, which was really enjoyable to eat. The matching whipped butter also lived up to its fantastic bread counterpart. The butter was whipped like you would expect from most of these places but it was probably the smoothest I’ve ever had. It felt as smooth as whipped cream or mousse, and spreading it was an absolute joy. As someone who is exceptionally lazy, I really appreciated how smooth it was.

Another great thing for any hardcore bread fans out there, this delicious warm bread comes in unlimited supply! Okay, I’m not sure about unlimited but you can definitely get more than one. Promptly after we finished ours, we were offered a second one and we didn’t even need to ask! We loved the gesture but sadly had to turn it down in fear of getting too full. Hey, it happens.

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Our first entree from Courgette was the Chicken liver parfait with brioche, quince onion jam, sultanas and wild flowers. This was a hard decision to make. Of the four entrees available, all of them sounded absolutely amazing, even the vegetarian option caught my eye. It wasn’t just your standard vegetarian pasta, instead for all our tree hugging friends out there, (it’s okay, according to that, I must really like… hugging whales or something) there was a Mediterranean inspired dish with ‘goats cheese cloud’. I don’t know what that is but it sounds pretty awesome to me.

Of course for me, it was a massive battle between the prawn, scallops and pate option. Should I go for the light and summery scallops, the rich and flavoursome pate or the Italian hillside prawn cannelloni?! After much contemplation, I settled for the pate. An unusual choice for myself, normally I tend to opt for prawns but today I wanted something rich and indulgent.

This little dish you see here, is as tasty as it is pretty. My initial regret after ordering the pate vanished with my first taste of it. It was the perfect combination of rich creamy flavours with fruity and sweet elements, which surprisingly actually cut through the richness instead of contributing to it.

There was no sharp and harsh chicken flavour or that horrible grainy texture that leaves you flicking your tongue for the next two courses. Instead the pate was silky smooth, but also surprisingly fluffy and light. There was also this really creamy and slightly sweet layer that coated the rim of the pate. I thought this added quite an interesting and contrasting flavour. Finally, there were the condiments which really just added to the pate instead of taking away or dwarfing it, the richness of the brioche, the sweet almost teriyaki like flavours from the burnt sultana sauce and the caramelised onion jam. It was just the perfect combination of savoury, richness and sweetness.

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Our second winning entree was the Seared scallops, smoked cauliflower puree, fennel crunch and fermented black garlic. This was absolutely delicious, and whilst the scallops are clearly the main event here, I feel like it’s only fair to talk about the supporting cast first. The fermented garlic was a beautiful addition and there was only a tiny amount on each scallop, but each dab just oozed of flavour! It was strong, quite sweet, and really earthy with a flavour that kind of reminded me of vegemite, except I hate vegemite and I loved this. The cauliflower puree which was splotched in amongst the flowers was an amazing smoky and mild sauce that just grounded the whole dish together. A fantastic addition, especially for me, someone who loves savoury sauces.

Now to the scallops themselves. These were amongst some of the best I’ve ever had, though it was for a reason I wasn’t expecting. These scallops were seared really nicely but on touching them, they were oddly quite firm, so much so that my first thought was that they were overcooked. Then with each bite I took, I actually grew to love how the firm texture of the scallop played off the smooth cauliflower puree and fermented garlic. At that point, I realised I just couldn’t imagined this dish with softer scallops. They were easily some of the best scallops I’ve ever had, and whilst it doesn’t make me go back and think all the scallops I’ve had in the past were undercooked, it definitely opened my eyes a bit to the possibilities of the humble scallop!

Oh I almost forgot, the fennel crunch! It might not be visible in the picture, but this whole dish was served on a bed of  fennel crunch ‘crumbs’. As you can imagine, it was extremely crumbly, like biscuit, but once it was in your mouth it just melted away, it was a great feeling. There was also a slight aniseed taste to the crumbs and honestly it reminded me a bit of a ginger snap.

Really loved this dish, and was my favourite of the two entrees!

 

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Promptly after we finished our entrees, in rolled our mains. As with the entrees, we had four choices. Your two meats, lamb and veal. Your vegetarian dish, featuring a ‘cauliflower steak’ , at first I actually thought there was a steak dish on the menu and got really excited. Imagine my disappointment when I finally noticed ‘cauliflower’. Finally there was the fish option which came with two types of fish.

While we struggled to pick between the entrees, the mains were given. My first choice, which required no contemplation at all was the Cobia fillet, smoked salmon with avruga caviar, courgette blossom, charred baby leeks and a pea puree. I love fish but I just find it so boring and completely hit and miss at most places. It’s either really dry, littered with bones or a boring salmon fillet. But the one place where I’m always keen to get fish is at high end restaurants. It’s always perfectly cooked, carefully inspected to ensure I don’t end up attempting to shallow rice for the next 8hrs and done in the most interesting and intriguing ways. Plus, they always go out of their way to use weird cuts and species that I’ve never heard of. I guess as a chef, they probably like the challenge of making something plain, amazing.

This dish was no different. There were so many different elements, all done differently and all with a different purpose but together they made one he’ll of a bite that would make you go hmm. Whenever I get a dish with multiple elements, I always try to try each component separately to see if I can identify the ingredients and flavours separately. Only after I’ve done that will I try all the elements together. With this fish dish at Courgette I followed my usual routine, with a little bit of disappointment. The fish was quite salty and the complimenting elements were quite bland. At that point, I was getting a little nervous. Was this fish dish going to fail me?! Alas it was meant to be.

The rather salty but extremely tender fish worked perfectly with the strange vegetarian caviar, apparently avruga is a fruit, which is weird because it tasted quite fish and salmon like but lacked that saltiness you would normally expect from caviar. Other normally salty elements, like the smoked salmon was also rather mild but instead full of smokey flavour. It truly was a strange mix of elements. Finally there were a number of other components that contrasted the saltiness and balanced out the fish like the extremely sweet, light and flavourful mashed peas and the crispy and airy deep fried courgettes stuffed with minced salmon. There was also a super crispy and light squid ink rice cracker which added a nice amount of texture to the dish which wasn’t already really present. Surprisingly, the squid ink rice crisp actually had this mild intriguing flavour to it as well, which was cool because to me squid ink is historically more visual than flavourful for me.

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Our second main from Courgette was the White rocks veal with parsnip, baby spinach, red cabbage gel, artichokes and a thyme and port jus. While I thought everything at Courgette was extremely pretty, so much so that I just wanted to googly eye them instead of actually eating them, this dish was by far the best looking. It literally looks like spring on a plate. The vibrant colours of the red cabbage gel, the greens from the baby spinach and aspargus and then there was the deep red from the very fine and raw veal.

Funnily enough, it also kind of tasted like spring, with so many strong and contrasting flavours. There was saltiness, sweetness and even a little bit of earthiness and sourness.

Again, a wonderful dish with so many elements that it would take me ages to attempt to go through them all, so forgive me if I forget anything. First, lets start with some of the smaller elements, like the red cabbage puree. This puree was actually really really sweet, so I appreciated that they just gave you a few little drops all around the plate, it honestly tasted like it could’ve been a grape puree, it was that sweet! Still, the contrast in flavour was pleasant and really got me thinking about all the crazy things people can do with food. The parsnip puree on the other hand, formed most of the ‘base’ for this dish, it was really smooth with a slight taste of white wine and I used it heavily to coat each bite of the delicious veal.

The mushrooms were just kind of thrown over the plate in a haphazard way, but come on, I think we all know plates like these are never just ‘chucked’ on. Flavourwise, they were quite mild and not overly salty, this worked really well to   break up the meaty flavours of the veal. The artichokes on the other hand were really flavourful, and served fresh, instead of pickled like we are use to. I honestly wasn’t too sure on the distinction, but Lily swore by it!

Now onto the veal itself! To be honest, the veal was not my favourite part of this dish, which is a bit sad. It was really quite pink, which really excited me, but felt extremely firm and dense, a bit too tough for me sadly. This is somewhat embarrassing to admit, but I actually think that the time that I used to capture this picturesque veal led the veal to cool off a bit too much, leading to this not so great texture. If that was the case, that was silly of me.

Still I really did enjoy this dish, and it was one of the few dishes in my life where the main attraction in the dish let me down, and yet the supporting cast and composition of the dish itself won me over despite it all. Really good, and I’m sure that the toughness of the veal was a once off.

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Last but most importantly, dessert! Besides the cheese option, which included four cheeses, which I found super impressive for a cheese finisher, there were three other choices for dessert. Two were light and fruity, while the third one was rich, chocolatey and decadent. We decided to go for the two light options, mainly because the chocolate option came with bananas and I wasn’t feeling particularly banana-y that day.

This here is the Japanese citrus panna cotta with cinnamon crumb and mandarin gel in a lemon and ginger consumme. I’m not 100% sure which Japanese citrus fruits have been included in this panna cotta but I kind of just assumed it would have yuzu. I mean, how many other unique citrus fruits can Japan have? With this baseless assumption firmly in my mind, I naturally opted for it because I absolutely adore yuzu and I might have a tiny obsession with it. Secretly I really hope yuzu doesn’t become the next matcha, which is slowly also happening to my other favourite Asian flavour, pandan. Matcha, pandan and yuzu are my absolute favourite flavours, more than red velvet, chocolate and vanilla. Prior to the great matcha surge of 2015, these flavours were honestly ‘underground’ and I don’t really want to be all hipster about it, but it really was better for me that way. Only those who loved them sought them out and were able to enjoy their goodness. This had the initial effect of making me feel so cool and cultured, typical hipster behaviour, but also had a side bonus, that these ingredients were way cheaper! But now, there is matcha and now pandan everywhere and every man and his dog is eating at Cafe Cre Asion and Blaq Piq. Now I just feel like every other photographing trend following Asian person with a camera. Which honestly is something I never really wanted to be. Also, my wallet is lighter than it normally is.

I think the point of that whole rant was, I love yuzu and I’m glad it hasn’t quite hit mainstream yet. Now that I’ve gotten that out, I should probably mention something about how this dish tasted. Well, if you can ignore the probable bias, I really enjoyed this. The panna cotta itself was silky smooth with a strong and fragrant orange blossom flavour to it. It was quite dense with a really light after taste. It didn’t really leave a sticky film or anything in your mouth. Instead every spoonful was full of flavour which lingered for a short while and allowed you to savour it.

In addition to this, there were also lovely crunches of orange rind and dehydrated strawberries throughout the panna cotta which added bursts of flavour. Surprisingly, there was very little to no sourness or bitterness to these additions. To further supplement those textures, there was a cinnamon crumble which added this lovely gingerbread flavour to the panna cotta. I’m actually really surprised how well hearty Christmas spices like ginger and cinnamon work with citrus flavours. I must note that for my upcoming Christmas baking needs, and maybe I’ll make citrus gingerbread men this year!

Finally there was the ginger and lemon consomme which was extremely mild and added just that little bit of sweetness and moisture. My favourite part of this dish, of course was the yuzu meringue which had a lot of sourness and kick to it, plenty of airy texture and crispiness and that lovely fruity and citrus flavour to contrast all the other richer flavours and textures.

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At this point, we were suitably full from our foolish bread decisions earlier. But despite that, it was time for our second dessert, the Seasonal berries, shortbread, toasted Italian meringue and mango sorbet with coconut curd and silvered pistachio nuts. This dish was a great showcase of everything that I believe Courgette stands for in a restaurant and was something I really enjoyed. The dish came out and while it had some fantastic flourishes, like the little dollop of lime goo in the corner, it was really a basic idea just done incredibly well. Whilst a lot of other places out there today will try to wow people with cool ways of using standard ingredients, or some sort of gasto combination, Courgette will always ensure that the flavours on the dish are paramount, and they are not afraid to keep things simple if necessary.

This dish had a ton of little elements, but what I need to start with was the amazing, amazing meringue! It was the softest meringue I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating, with a consistency that reminded me of burnt marshmallow more than anything, it was absolutely decadent and a great base for this dish. The coconut curd was just slivered all over the dish as a white cream that added springy freshness to whatever bite it found its way into, and was a really cool addition.

Then there was the mango sorbet, which contrasted everything else with its really strong mango flavour and slight sourness. Though to be honest, most mango sorbets I have are pretty amazing, even store bought ones, so I’m probably a fairly poor judge of mango flavoured foods.

Last but not least, was the fantastic assortment of fresh berries. To be honest, if you’ve never had a berry before, then I doubt you’d be clamouring for this dish, despite what I say here. So lets just say these were just as good any other berries I’ve ever had. And as berries should, they added a light sourness to contrast the overwhelming sweetness from the meringue.

So that’s it then! Our trip to Courgette. I’ve been here a few times now and each time I failed to adequately take pictures, until now! And finally, I’ve gotten the chance to write about my favourite food place in Canberra. I’m so glad that I finally managed to get this off my chest. Everything here at Courgette is imaginative, colourful, but most importantly, delicious.

Courgette

54 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra Civic

Website: courgette.com.au

Facebook: facebook.com/courgette

Opening hours:

Lunch:

Monday to Saturday

12:00pm to 3:00pm

Dinner:

Monday to Saturday

6:30pm to 11:00pm

Courgette Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Saigon Fresh, Gungahlin

I absolutely love pork rolls (Saigon rolls, banh mi tit or whatever you want to call them). They’re definitely on my list of top 10 foods of all time. These little unassuming bread rolls have got everything going for them. They’re super tasty, somewhat healthy(ish), really filling and extremely affordable as well! The combination of fresh vegetables with delicious Vietnamese hams along with creamy, fatty and delicious pate and Vietnamese mayonnaise, all inside a Vietnamese baguette. Who knew just a few ingredients could bring so much joy. Yes, I did realise how often I said Vietnamese just then.

I must say, my love for pork rolls has definitely grown since coming to Canberra. I guess I have never really fully appreciated how good I had it in Sydney. In Sydney, you don’t really have to go too far to get a good and reasonably priced pork roll. Wondering around Cabramatta, Bankstown or the CBD, you’ll find bread stores that sell pork rolls at every turn, particularly in Cabramatta. If you ask ten different people what their favourite pork roll store is, you’ll probably get at least eight different answers, and I can see why. Like yeah, everyone loves the Marrickville Pork Roll store but really, that store down the street that sells it for $3.50 with no lines is probably just as decent. Plus, its pretty easy to know if a pork roll will be tasty. If you’re looking through the window, and the Vietnamese mayonnaise and pate looks correct, then chances are you’ll be in for a good time. After that, it all comes down to how generous they are because that totally makes or breaks your pork roll as well.

Here in Canberra, we don’t quite have the same luxuries, as I’ve sadly come to realise. Good pork rolls are actually rare and finding a decently priced one is almost impossible. I completely understand that it can’t be as cheap as it is in Sydney. As from my understanding no one in Canberra makes the various Vietnamese hams that go into pork rolls, hence everything in imported from Sydney. Plus, there definitely isn’t a great deal of competition in Canberra either. Having said that, $8 for a pork roll is ridiculous and it frustrates me even more when my Canberran mates harp on about how amazing, affordable and what a bargain a $8 pork roll is for lunch. IT IS NOT!

I know that some people think that we talk about price too much, but, well I don’t know about you, but eating out is a massive hit to my wallet, so sadly, value is fairly important to me. With that in mind, I’m used to $3.50 pork rolls!

After all that complaining, I think I’ve found the solution. I think I’ve located a pork roll store in Canberra that does it right and for a reasonable price and I’m super excited to write about it.

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Here it is, the Pork roll ($6) from Saigon Fresh in Gungahlin. There are four things I look at when I compare pork rolls, I do this all mentally and within seconds by the way, I’m sure others probably do the same too! So don’t think I’m crazy or anything. I look at the mayonnaise or butter, pate, the vegetables and the meats. Price also factors in. I know a lot of people also talk about the bread but I have never really cared for the bread too much. If it’s not bad, it’s good. By that, I mean not horribly chewy or stale, but I’ve never seen any place get it that terribly wrong.

Here at Saigon Fresh, all four elements were pretty spot on or close enough for me to consider it a decent if not pretty damn fine pork roll. So the four elements that I really care about are as follows:

1. Vietnamese pate

2. Vietnamese butter/mayo

3. Pickled carrots, radish and other condiments

4. Meats

You might think it’s weird that I have two whole points dedicated to sauces but to me, the mayo and pate are the two most important elements in a pork roll! These make or break pork rolls and if you’re not having both, you’re not experiencing a true pork roll! Of the two, the pate is the most important. It should be really strong and rich, with a slightly smoky underbelly. While the butter needs to be light and creamy, with a soft, smooth texture like mayonnaise but with a rich and slightly sweet flavour to it. The veggies and meats aren’t too important for me, as long as they’re the right type and generous, its all good and I’ve yet to see anyone use the wrong meat yet. There are three meats, the pink one, the white one, and the white one with the red edge (my detailed technical knowledge must be very impressive to you all). I need a whole layer of each meat, that’s all I ask, no half pieces business please!

So now that you know what I’m looking for in a pork roll, it’s probably time to talk about the rolls here at Saigon Fresh. Well, how did it stack up? Pretty darn well. The pork roll at Saigon Fresh was well balanced, everything you’d expect to find in Sydney. A good amount of meat and other bits, carrots were crunchy and pickled nicely. Bread was fresh and crispy as well which I really enjoyed.

The pate was really good and tasted spot on, unfortunately they weren’t overly generous with it so the flavours were not as strong as I would have liked, but I guess some people would call it ‘subtle’. There was a good amount of soy sauce, enough for flavour but it didn’t soak the bread or leak through either. No shallots here at Saigon Fresh, instead they used purple onions, which was a bit weird, but fit the roll quite well. The coriander was shredded up instead of being long stalks placed on top, allowing it to mix really well throughout the roll and you got bits of flavour everywhere instead of a huge chunk on one end and none elsewhere. The cucumber was cut differently, here they used oval slices instead of long lengthways strips. You might think its weird of me to point that out but surprisingly it gave the pork roll a pretty different texture. It made the pork roll slightly less crunchy due to more of the ‘centre’ of the cucumber being present.

Nevertheless, for $6 is not a bad price for Canberra, if not a bargain! Especially as the pork roll is actually pretty darn tasty and every element was pretty spot on. Regardless of my nitpicking, this is my place to go for a pork roll in Canberra, hands down, every time.

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I know it was just one dish, but I mean, you go to a pork roll joint, what else would you get? This shouldn’t surprise anyone. This was really nice and if I didn’t live so far from Gunghalin, I’d honestly come and grab this roll way more often, it’s that good. This has got to be up there in both price and taste for pork rolls in Canberra, so if you’re at all someone who is interested in these little Vietnamese delights, then you can’t go past Saigon Fresh in Gunghalin!

Saigon Fresh

Gunghalin Village, Hibberson Street, Gunghalin

Website: saigonfresh.blogspot.com.au/

Opening hours: 

Monday to Thursday

9:00am to 5:00pm

Friday

9:00am to 7:00pm

Saturday to Sunday

9:00am to 4:00pm

Saigon Fresh Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ivy and the Fox, Acton

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Over the long weekend (woo right?!) we decided to pop over and try the somewhat newly opened Ivy and the Fox, situated in the extremely beautiful and picturesque Old Canberra House in the ANU. Ivy and the Fox is the newest cafe from the brains behind the absolutely delicious (and my current favourite cafe in Canberra) Fox and Bow down in Farrer. So when I heard that this was opening up I actually got more excited than I normally do when I hear about a new place opening.

The first thing that struck me about Ivy and the Fox was its amazing location. Maybe it’s the emergence of spring but the place surrounding Ivy and the Fox is just so great to look at. Tall leafy trees overlooking the lake in the distance with beautiful grass and shrubs everywhere. It makes you forget for just a moment that you’re literally a 5 minute drive from Canberra’s CBD. It’s one of the perks of this place that’s easy to overlook, the ability to get so close to a really natural setting whilst still being essentially ‘in the city’ is something I’m starting to appreciate more and more as I spend more time in Canberra.

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Ivy and the Fox seems to understand how beautiful its surrounding is, with huge open windows and copious amounts of outdoor seating to let you soak it all in. In addition, I was shown this little crate full of picnic rugs that were available for use as well, so you can sit outside and soak in the sun while dining on delicious goodness from Ivy and the Fox.

The menu here at Ivy and the Fox is quite similar to that at Fox and Bow though with a few key differences to cater for the slight differences in expected clientele. Where Fox and Bow is bombastic and creative, Ivy and the Fox takes a more subtle, nuanced approach, taking much loved classics and giving them a slight twist, which I felt fit perfectly with the surrounds.

As always, enough about things that aren’t food, time for some food talk!

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I was exceptionally hungry that morning, having breakfast at roughly 1pm so I opted for the big boy, the king of the hill, the…well you know. Anyway, this is the Mr. Fox ($19.9), eggs (mine were fried), chorizo, bacon, tomato, avocado, hash brown, toast and morcilla. I’ve mentioned countless times in the past about my love of morcilla and/or black pudding, so it must be no surprise to anyone that as soon as I saw morcilla as part of this dish, everything else just fell away, and I couldn’t have been happier with my choice.

This is essentially the big breakfast here at Ivy and the Fox and it definitely lives up to it! This was a mountain of food and me, in my hungry 1pm state was eager to devour the whole thing. The best part about this dish was simply the fact that it was simple and a classic. I know, weird thing to appreciate but there’s just something comforting about seeing great ingredients being cooked up and just having the quality of the produce do most of the talking. The bacon in particular was incredibly smokey and quite thick cut, so you could tell it wasn’t just the same bacon you get at the supermarket. Another thing I want to draw attention to was the delightful hash brown, which was shredded strands of potato, jammed together and deep fried. The contrast in texture between the crunchy heavily fried edges and the soft inners was just awesome.

All in all, this was essentially a big breakfast, so it’s pretty hard for me not to love something like this, it’s classic and simple, with each piece coming together on the plate bringing its own strong flavour to compliment each other. Did I also mention that morcilla was here? Because morcilla is freaking delicious, especially this one at Ivy and the Fox.

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Here’s our second meal from Ivy and the Fox, the Senorita Fox ($19.9). This is (at least from the name) the sister dish to the above Mr. Fox and shares some similarities, but where Mr. Fox is classic and simple, the Senorita Fox is presented quite artfully and definitely has a lot more creativity around its ingredient choices and plating. When this dish came out, what hit me first was the fantastic presentation. I know how easy it is to get sauce swirls and all that but still!

This comes with two poached eggs, ocean trout, avocado and grilled haloumi, all served on top of a thick piece of toast. This was much lighter and dare I say, more health conscious than the Mr. Fox, with a lot of the flavour coming from a lovely earthy pesto spread around the dish. Something I particularly enjoyed was the addition of the grilled haloumi. I love cheese, pretty much all cheeses, so if you can figure out a way to add cheese to a dish, and keep it classy, then I’m all over it.

Who am I kidding, I don’t really need things to be kept classy, we just need more cheese on everything.

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As always, whenever we order a serve of poached eggs, we play poached or pwned! As you can see in the picture above, (apologies in advance for how destroyed it looks) these came out poached! There was a thin layer of overcookedness to it, but overall a pass with flying colours and one of the better ones I’ve had here in Canberra. Plus, I prefer it like this than outright uncooked. So I’m not complaining.

Overall I enjoyed this dish and it was a great little counter to the heaviness of the Mr. Fox, and it was far better looking too! Which of course is all that matters, right?

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We also needed something tropical to usher in Spring and ended up with the El Macho ($7), which had pineapple, pear among other things (sadly I can’t find the menu online and I’m terrible with these things, so the price might also be wrong). I usually don’t expect much from juices, which is honestly a bit strange since I’ve had so many good ones since I started dining at cafes in Canberra, but this one was, again, a pleasant surprise.

One thing I loved was the presentation, a fantastic juice is one thing, but to give me a cute little umbrella to go with it? That’s impressive! Seriously though, I really liked this. As soon as I ordered it, I already had a few regrets despite the waitress calling this the ‘best juice in the world’ because I thought that perhaps the pineapple was going to be a bit too sour for me. I am happy to report that I was wrong on this, and that this juice was a fantastic way to feel summery even though we’re only in Spring. It was light, refreshing and definitely tropical. I recommend this.

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In what was an extremely pleasant surprise, we were also given complimentary Babycinos to finish off our meals. Earlier in the meal, the owner Alex came by and mentioned that he remembered us from when we had brunch over at his first place, Fox and Bow down in Farrer. At the end of our meal we were told this was to thank us for the continued support which was a fantastic gesture, since who’s going to turn down a free coffee!

First of all, I should mention that I don’t really know coffee, so my take on the quality of this coffee should be taken with a grain of salt, but I thought this was about as good as any coffee I’ve ever had, and I’ve had them from perennial fan favourites like The Cupping Room, Penny University, Lonsdale Street Roasters and many more. One thing that I can comment on is the fantastic little smiley ginger cookie that was included with the babycino! The ginger cookies were fantastic, we ended up chucking ours into the coffee and letting it soak up all that coffee goodness before munching into it. Not sure if that’s the way to do it, but well, we liked it.

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So that’s everything we had here at Ivy and the Fox. I must say, Fox and Bow did something fairly spectacular when it crept up on me and became my favourite cafe in Canberra. With that said, I expected pretty big things when Ivy and the Fox was announced and I’m pleased to say it fully lived up to those expectations. I had a great time here, the food is delicious, the location is beautiful and the service, charming. This is a place that I’d love to go back to, and since I was told they have live music on Sundays, I might have to make that the day for my next journey down here!

Ivy and the Fox

Old Canberra House, Acton

Facebook: facebook.com/Ivyfoxfood

Opening hours: 

Monday to Thursday

8:00am to 4:30pm

Friday

8:00am to 7:00pm

Saturday to Sunday

8:30am to 4:00pm

Ivy and the Fox Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Churros King, Braddon

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I love this place. Ever since I first sampled the goodness from this rather unassuming food truck (well, I guess its more of a cart but whatever) many many months ago, I’ve been keen to share this hidden churro gem with anyone who is willing to listen. Outside of this blog, there aren’t many, so I figure it is time to write up this post and try and spread the love for the Churros King!

The Churros King is located in The Hamlet, right to the side of the entrance as you walk in. It’s a simple set up with nothing more than a frier, two dipping bowls and a dough squeezing machine. On most nights, there’s just the owner, pumping out freshly made churros to order and on busier nights, you’ll find another person helping out. I’m not 100% sure when the Churros King is open, it kind of seems dependant on the weather but over a good weekend, you’ll find the Churros King open from Thursday to Sunday, from about after work hours till pretty late at night, but not any later than anything else at The Hamlet. On rainy and super cold weekends, sometimes the Churros King decides not to turn up at all, which is fair enough. He is kind of just out there in the cold all by himself, with no cover and next to no customers anyway since no one seems to go out when the weather is terrible. But with spring just starting, I’m sure we will see more of the Churros King.

The offer at the Churros King is simple. There is only one thing on the menu, churros. You can either get one for $2 or 6 for $10. For a little bit of variety, you can pick between a dark chocolate or caramel sauce dipping. You won’t find anything else here at the Churros King, no drinks, snacks or anything else, just plenty of glorious golden sticks of fried goodness. Normally, I would want some water and what not but here it’s not too problematic, you can always grab what you need at one of the other awesome food trucks at The Hamlet, like BrodDogs, the Spit Shack, Mr Papa etc.

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So what makes these Churros (6 for $10, half dark chocolate, half caramel sauce) at the Churros King so good? Absolutely everything! I’ve never had a churros this good, either in Canberra or in Sydney. Okay, I haven’t been to Spain but these are the best you’re going to get around here and in my infinite geographical naïveté, I reckon they could give Spain a ran for their money too. Nevertheless, forget San Churro, forget Guzman y Gomez or any other place that offers churros, if you want some of that deep fried goodness coated in cinnamon sugar, this is the place to be.

The churros at the Churros King are super light and extremely airy. They’re fried to the sweet spot, where the churros snaps in half with a crackle as you bend it but aren’t too crunchy where it takes away from the fluffiness. You won’t find a heavy, dense and rubbery churro that leaves you disappointed and chewing like no tomorrow. At the Churros King, instead you’ll just find the perfect combination of fried dough and sweetness from the cinnamon sugar and dipping sauce.

Outside of the perfectly cooked churro, you can choose to dip your churros into a dark chocolate or caramel sauce. Personally, I like the dark chocolate as I find it adds a nice bitter contrast to the sweetness of the cinnamon sugar. If you’re a fan of caramel and a massive sweet tooth, I’m sure the caramel sauce will hit the spot for you. Both sauces are high quality and extremely well made, you’ll find no cheap substitutes here. My only qualm about these churros and its a pretty minor one, is the amount of dipping sauce you get. The crew at the Churros King, dunk the churros into the dipping sauce of your choice. Unfortunately, you only end up with about a quarter of your churros smothered in chocolate or caramel sauce and honestly, I want more!

Finally, my favourite part about these churros and what makes it stand out from all the rest? The flavour. I couldn’t work it out at first but after many many ‘tests’, I think there’s a hint of citrus to the churros. After every bite, you get this uplifting citrus note at the end. To me, this is what defines the churros at the Churros King. It takes it from a heavy and dense dessert to something light and almost snack like that you can eat hundreds of. Well, I can.

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Here is an action shot of a churros in the making. Pretty cool right?! Everything made right in front of you and served to you super warm. I’m normally not a fan of places that call themselves ‘the best x ever’ or ‘winners of x award’, they never quite meet expectations but these churros, they deserve the title of king for me.

Its a simple set up, with a simple product and with just a few ingredients and tools, the crew at the Churros Kings gives you something absolutely amazing. The perfect snack on the way home after a filling dinner in the city or Braddon. The perfect snack to end the night.

If you haven’t had the churros at Churros King and you’re a fan of churros or just desserts, these are a must. I know these pictures aren’t amazing but these definitely taste better than they look. There are a couple of things in the world of food that will never really photograph well, one being anything in a roll, like a kebab, another one is these churros wrapped in some baking paper. That and my horrible photography and composition skills. Don’t let my descriptions, writing or pictures put you off. You’ve got to try these.

Churros King

16 Lonsdale Street, Braddon

Opening hours:

Thursday to Sunday

6:00pm to 11:00pm

Churros King Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Grazing, Gundaroo

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After living in Canberra for almost three years, I have finally decided to do some exploring. Ever since I got here, I’d been hearing some pretty amazing things about the small towns around Canberra like Yass, Murrumbateman, Braidwood and the like. Outside of the quaint houses, stores and cafes, many of these small towns also house nice restaurants as well as some fantastic wineries.

As a part of this push to explore the areas around Canberra, a couple of weekends back I headed to Gundaroo to check out Grazing. I’ve seen some pretty drool worthy pictures of Grazing on Instagram over the years and figured it was time for me to check it out for myself.

Heading thirty minutes north out of Canberra along the Federal Highway coupled with some country driving, you eventually come to a little town with a number of small and rustic looking cafes, pubs and even a gallery. Right in the centre of all this you’ll find a fairly large historical house where inside you’ll find Grazing. Grazing has kept the interior almost identical to what I imagine the original house would have looked like, with cosy fireplaces and multiple dining areas in the different rooms throughout the house. It was weird having to navigate through multiple areas and rooms to get round to our table in the far end of the house, but it really pushed the intimate, relaxed and homely feeling that I feel Grazing were going for. In addition, I can see this set up being awesome for groups, where you can have your own private dining areas in each of the respective rooms.

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Out back you’ll also find Capital Wine and a small cafe which offers cheese plates, baked goodies and even wine matchings. Which I guess is good if you ever decide to come to Grazing without a reservation and they’re full, you can always head back to Capital Wines and fill your belly with delicious local goods and wines.

We were a little more organised this time round and landed ourselves a table in the back which overlooked the garden and reception area.

Oh before I jump into the different dishes that we got here, I should quickly talk about this picture of bread that I decided to include. Nothing too special, just come crusty fresh house made bread which comes with local olive oil and balsamic vinegar. One serving gives you one round bread the size of your palm (assuming you have a average size hand) and cost $2.50. No complimentary bread here but it was tasty enough to make me to consider getting it again when I return to Grazing.

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We decided to go for a bit of a weird mix of entrees, mains and desserts but the crew at Grazing were more than accommodating. We ended up with three entrees, one main and two desserts. The second entree was served entree size. Grazing did offer to make it into a main portion for us but we opted for the small entree size because I constantly get full before dessert at places like this. Not this time though!

Our first entree from Grazing was the Olive oil poached Yellowfin tuna ($17) with crisp octopus, chorizo and cauliflower. This was one of those dishes from Grazing that I saw on Instagram all the time, when I saw it on the menu I knew it was time for me to sample what made everyone’s bellies so happy.

A lot of times, photogenic dishes don’t always quite live up to taste expectations and I’ve had my fair share of amazing looking dishes that tasted pretty average. Luckily here at Grazing this dish lived up to what my belly was hoping for. It was a simple dish but a scrumptious one.

The tuna was fresh, quite soft but had just the right amount of firmness to it. I don’t really recall tasting any olive oil but the texture of the tuna was quite similar to sashimi style tuna so I guess that’s where the poached olive oil must have come from. The mild and softish tuna was complimented with the crispness and strong savoury flavours of the fried octopus and chorizo. Finally there was some raw grated and pureed cauliflower which rounded everything off and brought everything together. There was nothing crazy going on here, it was just a tasty and light dish to start our meal off at Grazing.

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Our second entree for the day was the Quail with black pudding ($17), roasted pear and parsley root puree. While the tuna was light and almost summer like, this quail with black pudding was a lot more hearty and perfect for the wintery weather.

I’m surprised I didn’t see this dish on Instagram, look at that amazing swirl in the pool of black pudding puree! Amazing. We of course opted for this as there was black pudding present and we have yet to let a dish with black pudding in it pass us by. The black pudding here at Grazing was not as strong as I am used to, but this made sense when eating the whole dish. I also really enjoyed it as a puree, it’s something I haven’t had before and since there was no texture to it, it acted more as a sauce which added to the flavour of the quail as opposed to being another separate meat element that could have competed with the quail meat for dish superiority.

The quail was of course cooked perfectly ensuring that the meat was super moist and full of juicy flavours. All this savouries from the quail and black pudding was balanced out with a little bit of sweetness and crunch from the roasted pear. There was also a parsnip puree on the plate but after the juicy quail and amazing black pudding puree that was just white noise. I’m sure it helped ensure the dish didn’t get too overwhelming but I’m just going to continue reminiscing about the black pudding puree!

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Instead of going for a main here, we opted for a third entrée, the Smoked rainbow trout croquette ($17) with artichoke, burnt leek and parsley picada. I think I went for this as none of the seafood or vegetarian mains really screamed out at me. Looking back at the menu now, I think a couple of the options have changed since Grazing’s menu changes seasonally as ingredients are available.

This rainbow trout croquette was quite interesting. I’ve never really seen a fish or seafood croquette before so when I saw it on Grazing’s menu, I really did want to try it. But faced up against tuna, I was always going to opt for tuna. Luckily, I managed to get both. The rainbow trout croquette was nice with a light and crumbly coating coupled with a mince like fish filling. I found the croquette itself on the blander side with not a lot of fish flavour to it. This was fine however, as it was coupled with the burnt leek and parsley picada and I thought this added all the difference. These two elements brought both flavour as well as moisture to the croquette, which was a little on the drier side.

Although the croquette was fine, I really did prefer the olive oil poached tuna and deboned quail and black pudding over the croquette. The other two dishes were just extremely well made and super tasty. Something about this croquette didn’t give it the same amount of sophistication as anything else we had at Grazing. Maybe it’s just a personal thing about deep fried food at fancy places.

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We did get one main from Grazing’s menu, the Ox cheek ($33) in Pedro Ximenez with heritage carrots, horseradish and parsnip. Easily the least photogenic dish from our meal at Grazing but really I don’t think anyone plates up cheek particularly well so this is still pretty awesome in its own right.

One really cool thing about this dish was the multicoloured carrots! Yes, trust me to get all giddy about something that I imagine is extremely easy to do, but multicoloured carrots really impressed me. In case anyone was curious, they were extremely carroty. They were firm, crunchy and added a nice baseline flavour to counter the rich parsnip mash and ox cheek itself.

The meat was so tender that I could just push my fork at it and it would kind of peel apart as if it was thick chunks of ox mashed together and then cooked, like some meat hash brown. Even with this tenderness however, the meat was surprisingly crunchy as well, with a firm charred crust that must’ve come from a quick fry up after a low and slow cook to get the insides as tender as it was. The result of this was a piece of meat that had a really interesting soft and crunchy texture to it.

This dish in one word would be ‘rich’. It was extremely rich. The beef jus, parsnip mash and even the cheek itself was just an extremely rich beef flavour, with a slight tang of sweetness at the end, kind of like a red wine beef stock.

I’m not a huge fan of horseradish so I ended up not using too much of it. I am pretty sure that the strong flavour of the horseradish would’ve cut through the richness of the dish just fine, but to be fair I actually liked how rich it was.

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Onwards to dessert, the Mascarpone panna cotta ($16) with white chocolate ice cream, strawberries, goat’s cheese and rhubarb and white balsamic jellies. I noticed that this panna cotta dessert is no longer on Grazing’s menu and is one of the few dishes that have been completely removed from the winter menu. It’s a bit of a shame because I really liked it.

I absolutely love panna cotta. For me, a panna cotta is the perfect way to end a meal. They’re sweet but never too rich or sickening and really after a big meal, you don’t want something that will make you regret the last few tasty and gluttonous hours of your night.  This panna cotta at Grazing was no different. It had the perfect amount of sweetness, lots of creaminess from the mascarpone, white chocolate ice cream and goats cheese. In addition, there was just the right amount of citrus and sourness from the strawberry and rhubarb to balance everything out.

Not only did this dessert have a variety of different flavours, there were also a number of different textures which played off each other. From the smooth and silky panna cotta to the jellies which gave you just the right amount of bite and resistance. Then there’s the soft and milky ice cream as well as the goat’s cheese which was slightly firm but melted in your mouth. All these combined, made this panna cotta one super tasty and interesting dessert.

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Finally, our last dish from Grazing, the Flourless orange cake ($16) with fennel and coffee dukkah, orange butter and marmalade ice cream. While the panna cotta is no longer on the menu at Grazing, if you like how this flourless orange cake looks and sounds, you can still definitely get it. Though be warned, we’ve just hit Spring, I wouldn’t be surprise if Grazing is currently in the process of changing their menu to something lighter, more uplifting and vibrant. As opposed to more hearty and homely winter dishes like this cake.

I love panna cottas and the mascarpone panna cotta at Grazing really did hit the spot but this flourless orange cake definitely gave the panna cotta a run for its money. That’s pretty impressive because I don’t even enjoy orange that much. This flourless orange cake was really rich and full of strong citrus flavours to the point where you could smell it as the crew at Grazing placed this dish in front of you. But at the same time, it wasn’t overly sweet, I guess all the sweetness from the flourless cake, marmalade ice cream and and orange butter were completely dwarfed by the strong citrus flavours. In addition, I also really enjoyed the coffee and fennel dukkah, which added a completely different flavour and texture to the samesame citrus and orange flavours that were present in all the other elements.

There you have it, our meal at Grazing. No drinks this time and to be honest, if I had to write about a set of matching wines, this post probably would have taken another couple of weeks. On a side note, even though Capital Wines is Grazing’s winery, you can actually find an extensive list of local, national and international wines on Grazing’s wine menu. Plus, Grazing also recommends a range of different wines to match with their dishes, not just their own wines. That’s pretty awesome to see a lack of favouritism.

It’s probably obvious by now, but I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t visit Grazing until my third year in Canberra. The food at Grazing was delicious and the atmosphere was really rustic and intimate. I love a good fine dining meal in the city, but when you’re out in the country air, it really does feel different and Canberra is one of the few places where you can drive only about 30mins and experience this. I look forwards to Grazing’s spring menu and will definitely be back.

Grazing

Cork Street, Gundaroo

Website: grazing.com.au/

Opening hours:

Thursday

6:00pm to 10:00pm

Friday to Saturday

11:30am to 3:00pm and 6:00pm to 10:00pm

Sunday

11:30am to 3:00pm
Grazing Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Barrio Collective Coffee, Braddon

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Website: barriocc.com/

Facebook: facebook.com/barriocc

Opening hours:

Monday to Friday

7:00am to 3:00pm

Saturday to Sunday

8:00am to 3:00pm

Barrio Collective Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lonsdale Street Roasters 23, Braddon

I’ve always found this a little confusing, probably because I’m not a coffee person and don’t really pay attention but there are two Lonsdale Street Roasters. I never knew which was which and for a while, I thought they were actually owned by different people! I thought the one opposite Civic Pub was Lonsdale Street Roasters and this one, the one near Autolyse and Elk & Pea was Lonsdale Street Eatery. Well it wasn’t until this meal that I worked it all out.

So, they’re actually owned by the same people. The one opposite Civic Pub is known as Lonsdale Street Roasters 7, it mainly serves coffee, pastries, sandwiches, rolls and some small meals. However, LSR 7 revamped its little coffee store, it now has an upstairs area and it looks like they’ve expanded their menu too. But this post is about their other store, Lonsdale Street Roaster 23. This one is much larger, serves their generally always great coffee and has a full menu and kitchen, plenty of indoor and outdoor seating space too.

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I’ve lived in Braddon for a while now, yet I’ve never eaten at Lonsdale Street Roasters, I’ve actually never had breakfast or brunch at Elk & Pea or Autolyse and I love them both a lot, I just can’t seem to wake up before breakfast ends, and if its lunch time, I might as well get a lunch dish! Well, the same happened this time and we didn’t get to LSR 23 until about 1PM but lucky for us, they do all day breakfast! We actually bumped into one of our friends at LSR 23 and she told us that we came on a good day or maybe time, since there was ample available seating on the inside and outside.

Anyways, onwards to the food at LSR 23, we managed to mix it up with some brekkie and lunch dishes this time so um, get ready for slightly more variety than we normally do.

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First up, the Royale with cheese ($13.50 + $4.50 side of fries), hand ground beef patty, American cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato and special sauce. This was actually a surprisingly nice burger! It was pretty basic, nothing overly different or fancy but together the ingredients worked well and it tasted delicious. Inside two toasted brioche buns there was a generous amount of super fresh tomatoes and lettuce, coupled with a nice big beef patty. The patties felt like they were cooked using the smash method, which gave it a really nice smokey and charred crust. I probably should explain the smash method of patty cooking, since it’s really obnoxious when we say something like ‘smash method’ and expect you to understand what that is, seeing as I don’t think its actually official terminology or anything, just random language we pick up from here and there. Anyway, you pretty much get a patty, put it into a ball and cook one side down, then flip it, cook it a bit more, then smash it down flat with a spatula! This is how I cook all my burgers, and it ends up being perfectly charred with the best chance of a pink centre, though I’m no burger savant, so there might be a way better method out there, but that’s mine!

Finally, to top it all off, there is some melted cheese and a some pickles. I really wish LSR 23 put more than two pickles in their burgers, but I’m just a terrible pickle fiend so don’t take that too badly. I just feel that they give a lovely contrasting sourness to balance off the richness of the patty and cheese.

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Here is a close up of the burger, since I figured it’s actually a pretty good looking burger and what not. Look at that super vibrant and fresh lettuce and tomato, and lack of pickles. If you look closely enough, you might be able to see that the patty edge is quite rough and jagged, and that’s what made us assume that LSR 23 uses the smash method to cook their patties.

Oh and if you add an extra $4.50, you get a pretty decent serve of french fries along with some tomato and mayo sauce. LSR 23 cook up their chips just right too. Lovely and crispy but not overly oily or heavy. Really nice all round.

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From the all day breakfast menu, the Eggs florentine ($15.50) with rye bread, creamed spinach, brown butter hollandaise and kale chips. This was an interesting dish. Nice but probably not the best eggs florentine I’ve ever had, though that’s probably mainly my fault. The eggs were great, two nice and large eggs, poached perfectly. The bread was good too, two generous pieces of rye bread which had that hint of sourness that offset the creaminess of the yolk. The hollandaise sauce was fine too, creamy, buttery and delicious. Finally, the kale chips were a nice addition, bringing great texture and crunch into a dish that was rather mushy all round.

My only issue with this otherwise really nice dish was the creamed spinach. Taste wise, it was quite nice, it was like a mix between pureed spinach and fresh bits of spinach. It brought extra creaminess to the plate and lush greenness as well but there was just so much of it. There was a thick layer of creamed spinach under each egg and it just completely overwhelmed everything else. I just felt like I was eating bread and spinach, I could see the egg but I couldn’t taste them. I personally don’t mind spinach but here it was just a little too much. So a word of warning, unless you love spinach, this probably isn’t the dish for you or maybe consider going halves with someone else.

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Outside of the crazy amount of spinach, the rest of the dish was quite nice, especially the two poached eggs. Both were perfectly poached, with plenty of oozy and creamy yolk goodness. To fix the spinach issue and to truly enjoy these perfectly poached eggs and brown butter hollandaise sauce, I just ended up scrapping all of the creamed spinach off from one of the eggs and setting it aside. I then shared the remaining creamed spinach from the other egg between the two. With this much creamed spinach, the dish was actually quite nice. Just enough spinach to bring the healthy, green and clean taste while still maintaining creaminess and flavours of the eggs, hollandaise and bread.

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Of course, here is the other perfectly poached egg. I don’t know if anyone else feels the same way as me, but nothing ruins a breakfast quicker than poached eggs that come out semi boiled. I know most places get it right so I shouldn’t place such a heavy emphasis on it when poached eggs are perfect but I’ve been to a couple of very nice breakfast joints in and around Canberra and ended up with overcooked eggs instead of poached eggs, very much poached egg pwned. Yes, I know I can just asked for the kitchen to recook it but I find that really awkward, so I just suck it up and sadly and slowly eat my hard eggs.

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Finally to top it all off, a Chai latte ($4.5 large). We couldn’t leave Lonsdale Street Roasters without a drink, especially since they are famous and completely loved by most Canberrans for their coffee. So, of course, I got a chai — the most uncoffeeiest drink out there but its the closest thing I’ll drink to a coffee and legitimately enjoy. I’m just not quite there yet, coffee is really weird for me, it actually makes me sleepy whereas black tea keeps me up at night, I learnt that the hard way with a late night Chatime once.

Anyway, the chai here was pretty nice, on the milder side but there were hints of spices throughout it and it was quite sweet without adding any extra sugar and to be honest, if you’re ordering a chai over a coffee or tea, chances are you like your sweet stuff.

Overall, I liked Lonsdale Street Roasters, my dish wasn’t great but that was probably a choice thing more than the dish being bad or anything and we really did enjoy the burgers. Next time I drop by, I’m definitely getting the mushroom burger or maybe a sweet brekkie dish.

Lonsdale Street 23

23 Lonsdale Street, Braddon

Website: lonsdalestreetroasters.com

Facebook: facebook.com/LonsdaleStreetRoasters23

Opening hours:

Monday to Wednesday

6:00am to 4:00pm

Thursday to Saturday

6:00am to 4:00pm

Sunday

7:00am to 4:00pm

Lonsdale Street Roasters 23 on Urbanspoon

The Drawing Room, Crace

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Its always nice to see new restaurants opening up in non hipster hotspots. It seems to be one of my favourite past times of late; seeking our suburban foodie gems and writing up about them. I guess you’ve probably heard it to death now from me, so I won’t blabber on about it too much. But needless to say, its probably one of my favourite things about Canberra. Being able to live out in the burbs and still get good food. Its not something you can get easily in Sydney, you either brave the traffic or train system or stick to ethnic food which is readily available outside of the city (awesome but sometimes you just want some flowers on your porridge and kale in your juice).

The Drawing Room in Crace is another one of these awesome cafes outside of your typical hipster hot spots, i.e. Braddon, New Acton and Kingston. Its a new cafe located just before Gunghalin and in the brand spanking new suburb of Crace. When I first saw that we were heading to Crace, I assume we were going to the south side. Oh how bad my Canberra geography is. Like everything else in Crace, The Drawing Room is modern, clean and sleek with elements of hipster here and there but surprisingly very child and family friendly. That was probably the first thing I noticed, lots of big families with young children. I guess The Drawing Room kind of caters to it as well, they’ve got the basics like high chairs and what not but they’ve also got a ‘games room’ where kids can hang out and run a muck, all away from the actual cafe. The game room apparently has two PlayStations as well!

Not only do they look modern and sleek, The Drawing Room is also super tech savvy as well. I know that sounds kind of stupid, who cares right? Well, nothing is more awesome than typing in a new restaurant into your Google navigator and hey presto, you’re on your way. No need to fiddle around on their Facebook page or website to work out the actual address and then typing it in. Not only that, you can also find the full menu online, as well as a Facebook page and an Instagram for all your pre eats research.

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For our trip to The Drawing Room, we decided to munch on a couple of things from their breakfast menu. First up, the Blini ($16) potato and shallot fritter with wilted spinach, tomato chutney, bacon, a poached egg and some lemon infused olive oil. This was a pleasant surprise, and it was entirely due to how uncultured/unknowledgeable I am, so all you blini aficionados out there, please excuse the next couple of sentences. When I saw that it was a fritter on the menu I was expecting something big, chunky and greasy. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have liked that, I love all things greasy anyway but this was much cleaner and actually felt almost healthy which is really hard to do with a big slab of bacon sitting atop it.

I actually thought that this was just The Drawing Room’s take on a fritter since it wouldn’t be out of the question for a nice cafe to try and make things healthier where it can. I didn’t realise until later that a blini is actually a thin type of pancake, and upon learning that it all made sense for me. As for the blini itself, it was flatter than a normal fritter, but still just as fluffy, and much less greasy than a normal fritter, so you can put this away and still feel decent afterwards.

The bacon wasn’t cooked fully crispy but had a nice char to it and to be honest, it was better this way. I generally love my bacon super crispy but it wouldn’t have worked as well for this dish just due to how heavily the textures would’ve contrasted the spinach and the blini itself.

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If there are poached eggs, then there has got to be poached or pwned and here it is for the blini. The poached egg on this blini was perfect! The perfect amount of gooey liquid, not a sign of any hard egg yolk at all and at the same time, not undercooked either. I would definitely pick a slightly undercooked poached egg over a pwned egg any day but lucky here at The Drawing Room, its not something you even have to consider. This isn’t the last of poached or pwned either, more coming in a short second.

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Another poached egg dish from The Drawing Room, the Eggs benedict ($13) two poached eggs with hollandaise sauce on an English muffin, add either double smoked ham, smoked salmon, bacon ($4) or sauteed spinach ($3). Here I went with the smoked salmons for an extra $4. I kind of liked this concept. Pricing for just the plain poached eggs then you can add which ever topping you want. I know heaps of places give you the option between ham, bacon, smoked salmon and spinach but this way, you can get poached eggs with just hollandaise sauce. I don’t know how important it is for anyone but I’m not a massive fan of spinach so if I ever feel like going vegetarian this place is perfect for me.

As for the dish itself? Its pretty awesome. Nothing too special but everything is done well and comes together like a good eggs benedict should. Originally when I saw that this came with an English muffin I hesitated slightly. I like a good English muffin but they can get a little dry. Needless to say, the crew at The Drawing Room know what they are doing. The dryness of the English muffin was perfectly counteracted by the hollandaise sauce and the poached eggs. Well, I guess thats a bit of a spoiler alert for the next section.

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Like with the blini, both these poached eggs were indeed poached! No pwned eggs here at The Drawing Room. Out of the two eggs, both were really good. One was completely poached, with a good amount of gooey egg yolk with no under cooking to be seen. The other egg was ever so slightly overcooked, giving it a 70/30 split between gooey goodness and slightly hard cooked egg yolk. But considering the crew at The Drawing Room got two out of three, thats pretty darn good and better than what I’m used to sadly. Plus, that one out of three that was considered slightly over cooked wasn’t even that bad! I mean, I’ve gotten pwned a few times already in Canberra, even once where I had a completely solid yolk where I struggled to believe that the chefs didn’t notice they were overcooked when it was going out, like the yolk broke and there were hard boils bits spilling out of it!

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Our final dish from The Drawing Room, the Big breakfast ($19) eggs, sausage, bacon, potato, mushroom, roasted tomato and soy and linseed toast. Again, like with the other dishes we’ve had at The Drawing Room, another classic done well. You won’t find any crazy dishes here with popping candy or fairy floss, instead you’ll find lots of traditional and hearty dishes, all of which are done well. This big breakfast is no exception to that rule. Every part of the dish was cooked and seasoned perfectly, from the roasted tomatoes to the bacon. Of course, the best and most important part of this dish? The scrambled eggs of course! These were perfectly cooked with just the right amount of creaminess and fluffiness throughout. Plus, those sausages, man were they good! Nothing like a good old tasting English style sausage, really meaty and tasty – not a hint of herbs or spices here, instead these sausages let the meat do the talking and boy are they good.

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We got a few drinks as well during our time at The Drawing Room and one of our first drinks was a Peppermint tea ($4). This was pretty standard as far as teas go so I’m not sure how much I can say about this one really. It’s served in a mason jar which is pretty par the course for any cafe these days, and is a lovely Madame Flavour teabag. To be honest, I’m not one for fancy tea brands and I’ve always been pretty shocked at how much good tea goes for, but this was actually really nice and would make me actually consider getting nicer tea in the future.

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Our next couple of drinks were the two smoothies, the Tropical mango and passionfruit ($6) and the Berry with banana and oatmeal ($6). These were pretty vastly different so I’ll start with the one I preferred a little less, the berry and banana.

The Berry and banana smoothie was really cool and refreshing, as you’d expect. The little bits of ground up oats in there gave it some fantastic texture as you drank it while giving it some creaminess as well. However, I did find it a bit bland for my taste and whilst the flavour of the fruits in there came out strong, the banana especially, it wasn’t very sweet at all, at least to my taste which is sweeter than most. I actually made a mistake on this one, and it’s a mistake I make fairly often which is a bit embarrassing. When I realised this wasn’t sweet enough for me, I tried to get the sugar that was on the table for the coffee, and tried to sugar up this drink myself. If you’ve never tried this before, I recommend you steer clear, because trying to mix sugar into a cold drink just leaves you with sugar chunks all through it.

The Tropical mango and passionfruit smoothie on the other hand was really sweet and delicious. It was equally cold and refreshing but didn’t have the cool chunky texture from the oats. This smoothie was extremely icy, almost like a slurpee but with a much smoother texture. The mango was easily the most prominent flavour on show here, with the passionfruit a cool sour aftertaste that helped to cut through the sweetness from the mango. Overall, I definitely preferred this one, though I’m sure the previous drink was much more healthy for you, so maybe keep that in mind when choosing what to drink.

The Drawing Room is a great little cafe in a quiet suburb that was surprisingly beautiful when we pulled in. Beautiful enough that we felt the need to actually start exploring Crace on foot after we finished our meal. The Drawing Room was a pleasant surprise and took some basic breakfast staples and just did a great job with them. If you’re someone that’s tired of some of the crazy breakfast options out there today, and just want some bacon and eggs done extremely well, then this is your place! I’ve never seen poached eggs come out as good as the ones I’ve had here at The Drawing Room!

The Drawing Room

Corner of Abena Ave and Galore Street, Crace

Website: thedrawingroomcrace.com.au

Facebook: facebook.com/pages/The-Drawing-Room-at-Crace

Opening hours: 

Monday to Tuesday

7:00am to 5:00pm

Wednesday to Sunday

7:00am to 11:00pm

The Drawing Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Joe’s Bar, Kingston

I think we’ve come full circle now, there was a time long ago when most restaurants you’d see around were named after someone in the attempt to make them seem more friendly, more relatable. Places like Lulu’s Cafe, China Joe’s, Uncle Jeff’s Vietnamese, any Thai restaurant (unless they went with the ‘thai’ pun option which was also super popular). Then after that came the modern era of places using words no one really understands, but if you go back in time or speak another language, it is actually a word that they use often for clean living or something. Places like Autolyse, Temporada, Mocan & Green Grout. Now I don’t have a particular preference when it comes to the names of restaurants, but I will admit I do have a slight nostalgic twinge at the thought of those old favourites and it is with great pleasure that I get to talk about a place named Joe’s Bar, presumably named after a man named Joe. Or woman named Joanne. You know, sometimes they shorten it like that.

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Joe’s Bar is the newly opened Italian inspired eatery and bar located on the ground level at the East Hotel in Kingston and complements Ox Eatery as another reason to venture out to the East Hotel whenever you can. I’m not usually one to jump out of my seat to try and attend newly opened places since I hate waiting in lines, but whilst I was browsing Instagram, I kept seeing pictures of cool little cheese plates and drinks coming out of Joe’s but they weren’t just traditional Italian goodies and drinks, each and every one of them had a cool and modern twist. And flowers, heaps of flowers, when I saw that, my hipster instincts kicked in and I knew I had to check it out.

Stepping into Joe’s Bar, the first thing that hit me was how quirky and cool the decor was, but second to that was the fact that it actually wasn’t super busy at all! I was kind of expecting a huge rush simply because of how Canberra seems to get whenever a new place opens up, which, I should add, is really nice to see as someone who is invested in the growth of Canberra’s food scene.

The decor is probably best described as a Frankenstein of hipster and rustic and it’s something that I really enjoyed. I know I say hipster a lot but it’s 2015, there’s just a lot of hipster things around these days. There’s a lovely wooden, vintage feel to the place, as well as a ton of ornaments and lights that seem thrown together in a way that doesn’t really work, but at the same time totally does. Sometimes I feel like my true calling is not in the realm of ‘describing things I don’t understand’. This is one of those times.

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Here you can see a few of the cool little things that make up Joe’s Bar’s character. Personalised coasters, cool little rocky candle holders and lemon slices in your tap water! Fancy! In addition, you get these cool little number cubes when you order that signifies what table you are. It’s these sorts of things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things but at the same time, I find really cool and is what sets a place apart from others. Also, stacking these little number boxes would be hell and I appreciate that kind of effort.

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First up, we got some Complimentary popcorn with rosemary, pecorino and olive oil. This was a welcome surprise; soon after we ordered we were presented with a complimentary serve of Joe’s special popcorn, and the smell itself was enough to get us drooling. Strong wafts of cheese oozed out of this dish and we were pretty hungry anyway so we started diving in straight away.

I am not a huge popcorn fan, lets get that out of the way first. When I go to the cinema, I generally will opt for chips, though I am acutely aware of how awkward it is to eat crunchy chips in a cinema, so might turn to gummy bears if I’m watching something particularly dramatic, but the point is, I’m not a huge popcorn guy. With that said, this popcorn was freaking delicious. Really cheesy, oily and just rich and decadent. There were just loose chunks of cheese everywhere, and depending on what ended up in your hands, you’d end up with a really rich cheesy mouthful, or a more relaxed one. Later the waitress came over and noticed we demolished our first bowl and offered us another one, which we gladly accepted. We kind of turned into popcorn people for one night.

A couple of days later, I actually tried making this at home myself, since it was absolutely amazing and I thought the ingredients were fairly basic, it should be quite easy right? Well I was wrong, my one turned out about a quarter as nice. The pecorino wasn’t as rich, the rosemary wasn’t nearly as edible, and overall it just wasn’t tasty at all. I’ll figure it out one day I’m sure. (Please help me I have no idea what I did wrong with it).

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Our first ‘main’ of sorts was the Polpettine di carne ($22) pasture-fed Cape Grim beef meat balls in vine ripened tomato sauce with crusty bread. So funny story with this dish, (it’s not that funny) I ended up picking it purely because of something I saw on TV recently. So on the show ‘No Reservations’ with Anthony Bourdain, there’s an episode where he goes to Italy and does, well food stuff. Anyway, at one point he goes to his camera man’s mother’s house and she cooks up this massive pot of Ragu and for 10 minutes it’s them just going on and on about the virtues of using bread to soak up sauce and how amazing it is, and the camera is just zooming in on them contorting bread into these shapes, soaking up sauce and shovelling it into their mouth.

Needless to say, I had to do it, and that is why when I saw this on the menu, I jumped at it.

The dish itself was pretty much what I was expecting. The meatballs themselves were really nice, good quality meat and slightly pink in the middle. I’m not sure if this is how Italians do it, but it wasn’t really heavily flavoured at all, and I found myself cutting open the meatballs, and then dipping the meat back into the sauce to coat it again. Luckily, I loved the sauce, which was a really rich, sweet and had chunks of tomato throughout it. This was quite nice, I prefer to have meatballs with a little bit more going on (my sister makes these amazing meatballs with rice in them which I absolutely love, in hindsight I should probably just ask her for the recipe instead of reminiscing about them) but I knew heading into this version at Joe’s that authentic Italian meatballs’ let the quality of the ingredients shine, and that’s exactly what happened here at Joe’s Bar.

This dish definitely satisfied my desire for dipping bread into sauce, and the lovely staff at Joe’s seemed to know it, and provided me with an extra serve of bread on the side. Really good, and would recommend if you’re at all interested in authenticity.

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Next up was the Lasagne al sugo di maiale brasato ($22) slow braised chianti pork ribs deboned and sandwich between handmade pasta sheets topped with grated pecorino and fresh nutmeg. This was probably my favourite dish of the whole night, and that was surprising because I wasn’t expecting much from it at all. The slow braised pork rib was the highlight here, it was shredded up and just gave the whole dish this amazing texture and ensured that what you were eating hadn’t been processed in the slightest.

The flavour of the pork permeated throughout the whole dish and was easily the star attraction here. It was smokey, mild, and extremely tender. The actual sheets of pasta were fantastic as well, really well made and with a slight char on them that gave a wonderful crunchy texture to the rest of the dish. Most lasagne’s that I have, (of the Sara-Lee variety) are heavy on the sauce, and that’s what you taste the most of, but that definitely wasn’t the way Joe’s Bar had opted to do their lasagne. The sauce was muted and took quite a back seat to the strong flavours of the pork. I appreciated this move, although that could’ve been because I was also eating the rich sauce of the meatballs at the time. In any case, I really loved this lasagne and would recommend it to anyone. Except a vegetarian I suppose.

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Next up, we ordered the cheese plate, or Di formaggi ($18) imported testun al barolo (grape infused pecorino), whipped goats cheese, taleggio lombardo, gorgonzola dolce, truffle honey, dried baby figs, candied pistachio and crostini. I’m not sure how much detail I’m expected to go into with a cheese plate, but let me start by saying this was just a beautifully presented plate. Not sure how much anyone cares about this sort of thing, but look at it!

The cheeses were all amazing but the highlights for me was the grape infused pecorino, the gorgonzola and the truffle honey. The grape pecorino was just a really cool cheese, and something I’ve never had the pleasure of trying before. It was a standard strong flavoured pecorino, but it also had this sweetness throughout it. The gorgonzola was a really mild blue cheese, and whilst I generally love blue cheeses, I do tend to get tired of how rich they are over time. This didn’t happen with the gorgonzola cheese at Joe’s, it was mild and delicious, and I managed to get all the way through it and even wanted more! The truffle honey on the other hand was exceptionally flavourful and rich. The flavour of truffle was incredibly strong in the honey, it almost felt like truffle oil in goo form. There’s a danger that it’s actually too rich for some, but as a huge truffle nerd, I loved it.

My favourite part of this cheese plate was the fact that you didn’t just get the typical cheddar, brie and blue combination. Most of the cheeses on this plate were really different, and I appreciated that change of pace.

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Our second cocktail of the night was Joe’s mandarin Negroni ($14) mandarin infused Campari, Cinzano rosso vermouth and fresh mandarin juice. This was actually quite the shock for us! When we read the description with all its mandarins, we were kind of expecting something light and sweet (of course we had no idea what a Negroni was) so when this popped out, it was shocking to say the least. If you’re a fan of hard Negroni’s or hard liquor at all for that matter, then this is actually really quite nice. You could taste the mandarin elements through it, and unfortunately we did end up stealing some of the lime’s from the dark & stormy to kind of weaken this drink somewhat. We did enjoy it, it just needed a little bit of a tweaking. If you’re someone that can handle their alcohol, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this. Probably.

I kind of wish I got a recommendation from the staff at Joe’s Bar, the drinks menu was absolutely massive with plenty of local and imported wines as well as classic cocktails and a decent list of ‘Joe’s cocktails’, which included many classic cocktail but all with a modern twist to them and some flowers, plenty of flowers. I’m sure they could have recommended me something sweet and fruity!

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For drinks, we ordered a Joe’s dark & stormy ($16) Hayman’s Sloe gin, Cinzano extra dry vermouth, orange bitters and fresh lemon. Dark and stormy is actually my go-to cocktail whenever I see it on a menu because I love ginger beer. The dark and stormy here at Joe’s was really nice, full of lemons and limes and not too harsh on the alcohol. I’m not really a hardcore alcohol drinker so I’m not going to pretend I know what I’m talking about, but I did enjoy this.

Our time at Joe’s Bar was honestly fantastic. The service was really attentive, the food delicious, and the drinks tasty! The decor of the place is quirky and inviting, and it’s a place that adds wonderfully to the already delicious Italian shoe print in Canberra.

Joe’s Bar 

East Hotel, 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston

Website: joesateast.com/

Facebook: facebook.com/joesateast
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McDonald’s, Dickson

This is a place that I never thought I would have the pleasure of writing up, a food blog post about everybody’s favourite past time, McDonald’s! A lot of people (especially ‘foodies’) hate McDonald’s, but to be honest I’ve never bought into all that. McDonald’s has always been good to me, giving me one of my first jobs in my teen years and always being consistent when other places weren’t. That’s one thing I think people underestimate here, consistency. I love KFC as much as the next guy, but think about it, how often are you out with your friends and they’re like ‘Hey man lets go to KFC, we’re near Town Hall’ and someone inevitably says ‘Nah, that’s the worst KFC in Sydney’. It’s true right? I’ve definitely said that before! For some reason, the delicious chicken skin’s from that KFC always seem to fall off and the chicken is extra greasy, it is actually the worst KFC. It didn’t hit me until recently that I’ve never said that about McDonald’s, they’re all pretty good, and sometimes in this crazy world of ours, pretty good all the time is something to aspire to.

In recent times, you may have noticed that I’m not entirely in love with the whole hipster fad that’s around us at the moment (and the last 10 years it feels like). I like hipster joints, I do, it’s just, so much. So recently when I was back in Sydney, I decided to go visit an eatery that I regularly frequented in my university day, a place on Sussex Street in Chinatown called Yee King Hand-Made Noodles. Least hipster place you would have ever seen, had decor that wouldn’t be out of place in an old John Woo film and it made the most exceptional pork in foil dish that you could have ever tried. I went there to find that it was closed for good, replaced by just another hipster cafe. Another real restaurant in a long line of cool places dying out, a multicultural paradise slowly dying to a homogeneous hipster culture.

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Anyway, McDonald’s, the last great bastion of scummy food, has now tried its hand at being a hipster burger joint, offering a ‘create your own burger’ experience using a giant touch screen. The touch screen is honestly one of my flavour things and reminds me a lot of  travelling to Japan. There is nothing I loved more about Japan, than the fact that it was quite easy to go to a place, sit down, have a meal, pay and never in that whole process, speak to another human being. McDonald’s has a similar process here, the entire ordering process happens on the touch screen and you can even pay there and just go grab a table or wait until your number is called out, if you’re ordering takeaway. The touch screen ordering system also works for their normal menu items. It’s almost like Skynet, so if you’re one of those people that believes in those things, I’d start getting a bit worried now.

With the McDonald’s Create Your Taste experience, there are quite a few options, including traditional McDonald’s ingredients and new hipster options as well. To build your own burger, you get a choose everything from your bun, your fillings to your drinks. For each option, you get a few options, including:

  • for the bun, you get the choice of a bakery bun or a brioche
  • for the cheese, you get the choice of classic McDonald’s cheese, swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, colby jack and shaved parmesan. We managed to order two two different cheeses without being charged extra, so who knows maybe it’s unlimited (though I think it might be a max of three)!
  • for the fillings or ‘taste’ section you get to add a whole lot of different ingredients to your burger, including Angus patty, streaky bacon and rasher bacon, an egg, mushrooms, guacamole, crispy tortilla chips and pineapple. For the taste section, you can choose to add as many as you like and for each one, you can also add up to three servings, except for the Angus patty, maximum of two there
  • for the salad or ‘freshness’ section, you can choose to include lettuce, tomato, grilled or fresh onion, pickles, beetroot and jalapeno. As with the taste section, you can add as my options as you want, and up to three servings to each
  • for the sauces, there are quite a few different options, including BBQ, chipotle mayo, dijonnaise, herb aioli, ketchup, tomato chilli jam, aioli and Big Mac sauce! Thats right, you can get Big Mac sauce, one of the best sauces known to man. With the sauces, you can choose as many sauces as you want but only one of each, sadly no lathering of Big Mac sauce.

Alrightie, so I guess you’re over reading about how it works, time to see what it actually looks like when they put it all together. Here are the different McFrankenstein burgers that we built.

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So first up we had the, well I guess there isn’t an official name for it, so here we have the McOuk Burger ($17) including medium fries and a drink. Yeah, it was pretty pricey, but you can kind of see that we went for the whole hog. We ended up with:

  • bakery bun
  • colby jack and cheddar cheese
  • two Angus patties, crispy bacon and tortilla chips
  • lettuce, tomato, pickles and grilled onions
  • Big mac sauce

This was one big burger and of course a little messy to eat, with the multiple elements and what not. When I bit into it, the Angus patty juices poured out the bottom, and toppings were just flying everywhere. I’m going to put this down to how tall and massive the burger was and take responsibility for any poor eating techniques but in any case, it was our fault for stacking it so high, but really, when you’re in the headlights and making those choices on the screen, it’s impossible not to get carried away!

I guess you’re all wondering how the burger tasted, and the answer is, it was surprisingly nice. Not the best burger I’ve ever had or anything but still pretty darn good and definitely not what you would expect from McDonald’s. It is a little pricey and all but hey, thats what we get for loving the hipster move so much. Would I get it again, yeah probably.

There was something unmistakably comforting about this burger. I guess its because most of these ingredients are already available on McDonald’s menu and if you ever thought to yourself ‘Man I really want to try tortilla chips in my burger, but I don’t really want to go get that Mexican chilli chicken burger’ then this is absolutely perfect for you. But, if you’re someone that’s thinking ‘Wow! McDonald’s is serving chips in a little fry basket on a chopping board, it must be haute cuisine!’ Then you’re probably going to walk away a tad disappointed. As much as I enjoyed it, I know I love my grubby food more than most. This is a McDonald’s burger through and through, though in my case, it was an exceptionally big one.

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Of course, we came back a couple times and got a few extra burgers, so here’s the sequel to the previous burger, the McOuk Burger 2: Oukment Day ($15), including fries and a drink. Like with the first burger, we went all out again, adding everything and anything to the burger. With this burger, we got the following:

  • brioche bun
  • colby jack and shredded parmesan
  • one Angus patty, rasher bacon, egg and grilled mushrooms
  • lettuce, tomato and pickles
  • chipotle mayo

We decided to go with something completely different for this burger, mainly to test and see which options we like more. Here, we tried the brioche bun, the grilled mushrooms and egg. I like the brioche, it was completely different to the bakery bun, giving you a little bit of sweetness and plenty of richness. I also enjoyed the addition of mushroom, grilled with plenty of char. The only thing I didn’t really enjoy was the egg. Its just that egg you get with the McDonald’s bacon (or sausage) and egg muffins in the morning. The ones where the egg yolk is completely overcooked. Its not bad if you enjoy hard boiled eggs but for me, I wanted to creamy and delicious egg yolk as I bite into my burger. Outside of that, pretty cool burger.

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And, we did this a third time, so you can see I must not have hated it, I present to you the McOuk Burger 3: Ouk Hard with a Vengeance ($15.50), including fries and drinks. For this burger, I went back for some of my favourites, plus sampling the avocado. Here, we grabbed the:

  • bakery bun
  • colby jack and swiss cheese
  • one angus patty, crispy bacon
  • lettuce, tomato, pickle, grilled onions, avocado, tortilla chips
  • Big mac sauce

I probably won’t go on about the burgers again, but I do want to mention the guacamole. I didn’t get any of the others times, we had already stacked our burgers too high. Hence, I decided to save it for later. I was pretty happy that it was only 60c to add guacamole to your burger, instead of $3 which I was totally expecting an preparing for.

I must say, although all three burgers had a similar combination of ingredients and what not, each one had a distinct flavour and I enjoyed each in their own little way. After trying all these different combinations, if and when I go back, I think my ideal combination is the bakery bun with two Angus patties, crispy bacon, pineapple, lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions and Big mac sauce. To me, that would be the perfect combination of saucy meat combined with crunchiness from the bacon, sweetness from the pineapple and of course the other salads balancing it all out. Finally, Big mac sauce to bring it all together. Because Big mac sauce > every other sauce.

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One really cool thing to note is that McDonald’s seem to have added a bunch of really cool specialty drinks to the menu as well! This was extremely surprising to me because it’s not often that McDonald’s does something that isn’t advertised so heavily that you kind of feel that you’re ‘lovin it’ before you even try it, yet these drinks, whilst being actually quite cool and tasty went completely under the radar for me!

There’s a couple of them, but the ones we ended up with were the Sparkling apple and elderflower, and the Sparkling ginger beer. We honestly didn’t expect much from these drinks, but upon first tasting them, the gasps of delight were impossible to hide. It’s hard to really explain it, but they both tasted exactly as they should’ve. I’ve been to cool hipster joints with ‘homemade sodas’ for $9 and these tasted just as good. Maybe I’m a bit of a soda plebeian, but I just really enjoyed these drinks, and think they’re amazing value.

I really enjoyed this whole ‘Create Your Taste’ experience, the concept, table service and food were all pretty interesting and tasty. The service staff were actually really pleasant and again, something you’d expect from a normal cafe. Finally, my favourite part was how visually pleasing each of these burgers looked. They actually looked like something you would expect to find from your hipster cafe but instead here at McDonald’s. Gone are the days of lopsided burgers, sauce sprayed all over the wrapping instead of on the patty or bun and just plain horrible messes. Instead now you get burgers that you look at and go, ‘yup, I want to eat that’.

As much as I enjoyed these Create Your Test burgers, I feel like it’s my duty to explain that at the end of the day you’re still getting a McDonald’s burger and if you’re a fan of that sort of food, you probably won’t mind this at all. But if you’re into the finer things in life, you may need to prepare yourself for this mentally. I’d hate to see you walk away disappointed after all.

Oh, I almost forgot to add, these Create Your Taste burgers are now available from pretty much all stores, I’ve seen them in quite a few McDonald’s across Canberra now.

McDonald’s

Corner of Badham Street and Dickson Place, Dickson

Website: mcdonalds.com.au/

Facebook: facebook.com/McDonaldsAU

Opening hours:

Monday to Sunday

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