My not-so-secret dirty secret is that I was born in Canberra. An unlikely place for a caffeine fiend to develop a love of coffee, maybe, but as a result I’m a frequest visitor, and often asked for a list of coffee recommendations. A friend recently asked me for said list, which I’ve been meaning to write for some time now, and I decided it would better to leave you in the learned hands of my mate and resident Canberra coffee espert, Barrister Barista, a regular contributor to The Canberran. You can also catch her bite-sized reviews on twitter. Here are her 5 picks for Canberra caffeine hits.
1. Lonsdale Street Roasters (and LSR 23)
Lonsdale Street Roasters is arguably where Canberra’s “hipster coffee scene” all started – own-roasted beans, central location, wood-oven toasted paninis, milk crates for chairs, a small and loyal following growing exponentially, and coffee like nothing you’ve ever tasted before in Canberra. Now, you’ll queue patiently in peak times, have your order spelled phonetically by fresh-from-Sydney ANU students, elbow your way into bench seats, and take for granted the sheer flavour of the cup in front of you. And only on Lonsdale Street can you visit two venues of the same name – if the weather’s fine and queues are prohibitively sized, you’ll find a more outdoor-focussed LSR doing the same thing up the street across from the shiny new apartment complex.
Lonsdale Street Roasters
3/7 Lonsdale Street, Braddon ACT 2612
Lonsdale Street Roasters 23
23 Lonsdale Street, Braddon ACT 2612
2. ONA Coffee
These guys are the pros, the ones who will sell you serious equipment for making coffee at home, the peeps who run, enter and win all of the local coffee awards for roasting and barista tech. You can try ONA Coffee in two locations, both southside. The most accessible ONA Coffee is at ‘The Lawns’ in Manuka, the snooty southside suburb you may visit if you’re on government business or meeting relatives. It’s busy in there, and only order food if you’re on a leisurely time schedule. The original ONA Coffeehouse is in Fyshwick, where you may visit if your business relates to furniture, DIY or porn. Less busy, equally excellent.
ONA Coffee House
68 Wollongong Street, Fyshwick ACT 2603
ONA Coffee Manuka
Shop 4, The Lawns, Manuka ACT 2609
3. Lava Espresso
Perhaps the prettiest flat whites in Canberra, in the far from prettiest suburbs (no offence, Phillip). If your business in Canberra relates to cars or requires Westfield, take a small easy-park detour into industrial chic. Lava is a must for black coffee drinkers – the filter coffee is excellent and you’ll often be given a choice of two exotic growing locations. (FYI I normally reply Idunnowhicheverisbetter?). It’s also nice to be a in place where it’s acknowledged on the menu that ‘coffee with milk’ requires different treatment to just ‘coffee’. Bagel-based foods are also well-priced and tasty!
1/38 Townshend St, Phillip, ACT 2606 and
54 Brierly St, Weston Creek ACT 2611
4. Two Before Ten
OK, so your business in Canberra requires you to stay overnight in the soulful (ahem) ‘Civic’, and you’re looking for somewhere to grab a cheeky 8am breakfast? Two Before Ten, requiring some navigational nouse, will deliver friendly service and tasty eats at breakfast and lunchtime. Get yourself to the ‘plaza’ type space between Marcus Clarke St and Moore St, not as far East as the Melbourne Building (northwest corner of London Circuit and Northbourne Ave), take a deep breath, and look for bikes. Worth a visit, especially as the Qantas mag will soon be telling you about a groundbreaking venue called ‘A Baker’, a New Acton work in progress by the same owners.
Two Before Ten
40 Marcus Clarke St, Canberra, ACT 2601
5. Močan and Green Grout
Speaking of the Qantas mag, this esoterically named project is a must-visit for foodie and/or interior architecture geeks. It’s the Canberra cafe with a fit-out so unique you’ll take photos and tell your Sydney friends that you discovered a really interesting little cafe in Canberra: a total hole in the wall, built entirely of woodchip and origami cranes. You’ll have small breakfast dishes that are actually about the right amount of calories for breakfast, and then, because you were expecting to gorge yourself, you’ll probably order a muffin to share afterwards. Your coffee won’t be memorable but it’ll be good.
Močan and Green Grout
19 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra, ACT 2601
Every year I make a pilgrimage to our nation’s capital for The National Multicultural Festival, and every year I am oh so glad I did. This year it ran from the 8th to the 10th of February, and with 50 new stalls added to the lineup, I was curious to see where they’d fit them all…
Our first stop was LSR 23, Lonsdale Street Roasters’ second café. 23 Lonsdale Street houses their roastery, has a reduced menu and an order and pay at the counter policy. They also do something I will never for the life of me understand- make you collect your own have-in coffees. In the time it takes them to yell ‘Fabio’ eleventeen times, they really coulda just brought you the damn coffee. But hey, whatever gets you caffeinated, right?
My assembled companions for our initial Multicultural feast included, from left to right, my bro+chum, fake Sis-in-Law+chum, and partner+chum, as per usual, all stylishly attired and with grimaces (and forks) in hand.
At the Multicultural Festival, it’s always a tough call as to where to start, because you know there’s only so much room in your belly to eat your way around the globe. As it was noonish, we were more than peckish, and hit up the Peruvian stall post haste. Thank god we did. A new addition to the festival, they were serving up mashed potato, stuffed with chicken, boiled eggs and spices (similar to a tamale) deep fried and slathered in salsa. Just incredible- crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, with a mild vinegar-and-chilli zing from the salsa. This was my favourite dish of the festival.
We were severly tempted by the yeeros (pictured), considered joining the miles-long queue at the Gloria’s stall for grilled sardinhas (sardines), an, as always, lingered longingly at the Ethiopian stall watching people mop up their stew with pillowy injera. But we passed them all by, meeting up with Canberra coffeehead Barrista Barrister to try something new.
I’d never had Samoan food until this plate. I have to say that although it looks ugly as sin, it is also delicious as sin. Roast pork with plenty of crackling, gravy, samoan chop suey (stir-fried noodles), taro cooked in coconut milk and mashed purple kumara make for a veritable starch-fest. I think we were all glad we shared this between three.
We were intrigued by the pickles on sticks on offer at the German stall, but as we were going easy on the alcohol and the pickles came with beer, sadly, it wasn’t to be.
OK so I have to admit we hit up the famed loukoumades stall twice, but in my defense, it was because the first lot weren’t dark and crispy enough. The second lot, we shared with my mum, so I guess we had parental permission. Yeasty puffs of deep-fried dough squirted with honey and dusted with cinnamon and crushed walnuts, that second plate really hit the spot.
Another favourite of ours is the Bhutanese stall. We grabbed some momo, cheese-laden veggies, meat curry, rice and chilli sauce and scoffed away like there was no tomorrow. Their combo plate is one of the best value dishes on offer, and the people manning the store are lovely to boot.
If you’ve never been to The National Multicultural Festival (or even if you have), I highly recommend it, if only for the food. My year of eating just wouldn’t be complete without it.
I fear that Canberra, much like Sydney, is in serious danger of burning through its allocation of milk crates. Not because of the popularity of milk, but rather because they serve as seating for the crop of on-trend cafés popping up in old (but not in a retro way) shopfronts all over town. I love/hate this trend for numerous reasons. Milk crates are fine to sit on (with cushioning); they serve as a signal to customers, ‘take this coffee joint seriously’. But while they look incidental, in an ‘oh we were just SO BUSY making GROUNDBREAKING espresso we forgot to buy chairs!’ kind of a way, they are entirely deliberate. This is why there’s a countrywide shortage. I assume.
Red Brick espresso is no exception. Milk crates are scattered plentifully out the front of this Curtin café, and they’ve taken it to another level with the accompanying tables, made of bread crates. I hope there’s not a delivery guy out Fyshwick way somewhere going broke for lack of crates.
We stand at the counter for a while waiting to order, staff seem a little harried so we wait as they hand out the takeaways. We order coffee and seat ourselves in the unmistakeably Canberran, light-filled and cleverly renovated space, which, as we’re in the southside of Canberra, could’ve been anything in a past life- a house, a pharmacy, or a sex shop – all roads lead to rectangular brick structures. The guys behind the espresso machine look like they know what’s what – they roast their own coffee here, and are well and truly the third wave.
The coffee arrives. One of our piccolos is spilled a bit and the young waitress runs and grabs us a serviette. How about a fresh saucer? The spillage is hardly her fault though, the piccolos are almost flat white flat. My macch is cool, as are all the coffees, and nothing about the flavour grabs me. It’s fine, I can’t fault the method on my macch (other than the temperature, and I’m not a hot coffee drinker), so maybe this blend just isn’t for me.
The Red Brick Espresso Hombres were recently quoted in Cafe Culture as saying “We looked at what’s happening elsewhere and said, ‘why can’t we do it here?’ Red Brick ticks all the boxes and, if I lived in this neck of the woods, I’d be here daily. But no matter how many milk crates you give someone to sit on or whether you roast your own beans, it all goes to crap when a teenage girl spills your latte. And for the record, I’ve been back since, the coffee was still lukewarm, and I’ve heard the same from others. But I guess if I was from New York and came to visit my mates in Surry Hills, I’d feel like the café culture here is just a watered down version of what’s going on back home. For all I know the Williamsberg peeps are sitting on upturned shopping trolleys these days. I pray that trend doesn’t make it here.
Red Brick Espresso
4/35 Curtin Place, Curtin ACT 2605
02 6285 1668
Monday-Friday 7:30am – 4:30pm
Saturday 7:30am – 4:00pm
Sundays 7:00am – 2:00pm
When I was 12, I picked out our new house. Well, that’s how it felt to me anyway. Yes, I know it was really my mum who made the decision and handed over the cash. But the second I entered the place, with its rambling, north facing garden, wooden floors and loads of light, I felt at home. Looking back, I think it was that discovery of home that made my adolescence a time of relative sanity. It was also that feeling of having a home that made it so easy, 7 years later, to strike out with no real plan and very little money, enrol myself in art school, and force myself into a place where I would do something productive and wind my way to my own true home. I’m still looking for that home, both metaphorically and literally.
15 Years later and the house is to be sold, at a time when the so-south-other-Canberrans-barely-know-them-suburbs nearby are just starting to furnish themselves with the hip cafés I so cherish so in my new home, inner-city Sydney. It would be trite to say I’m sad to see my home soon go to strangers because now there’s finally somewhere to get a decent macch, but it does add insult to injury. Tuggeranong (or thereabouts), you finally have something to recommend you to those who don’t call you home. Great timing.
Bread Nerds is so new it’s on a street that doesn’t exist on google maps yet. Run by Shane and Sharon Peart of ‘That Bagel Place’ fame, the retail/cafe space is compact, with an industrial-chic aesthetic. They serve sandwiches, pastries, bagels, pizza slices, pies, sausage rolls and coffee and of course, they sell bread. Unfortunately for anyone who doesn’t live in the area, they’re only open Monday to Friday, but they also sell their bread and bagels at farmer’s markets and supply restaurants and cafes.
I can’t go past the Italian dougnut. It’s a delicious, solid morsel and I split it with my mum. Dougnuts never have enough cinnamon in my opinion but this one does. I dunk it in my (weirdly enormous) macchiatto- the smallest cup size they seem to do here is about 250ml. I should’ve taken note of the barista’s slightly puzzled expression when I ordered a macch, a picollo and a cap. Senhor R fares even worse with his picollo, which is basically a slightly strong flat white. He has better luck with his poppyseed bagel with smoked salmon though. I reeeeaaaallly want a sausage roll, but I contain myself. The pies look great too.
There’s a lot of blue-collar business for a Monday morning in an industrial wasteland, and the quality is obviously right up there. I’d love to come back and grab a loaf of bread or a sausage roll to take away, and the cafe is industrial but small enough to be considered cute and cosy – I feel right at home. The price seems right, the staff are friendly, my only criticism is the size of the coffee cups.
What kind of things make you feel at home?
4/92 Sawmill Circuit
Hume ACT 2620
02 6260 2062
7:00am – 3:00pm
The National Multicultural Festival is held each year in Canberra, and as far as I’m concerned it’s the best food fest in Australia. This year it ran from the 10th to the 12th of February.
Nepalese Momo (dumplings). Some were filled with lamb, some with veggies. The accompanying sauce was extremely hot.
Ethiopian. We had this as our morning tea. There’s a potato and cabbage dish, a lentil stew and I want to say key wat? And of course, blissfully crumpety injera.
OMG, the Sicilian stall! They only sold sweets and I coudn’t resist. We tried this custard filled fried morsel, yum!
All that eating makes you pretty darn thirsy. Luckily there were free water bottles and free water.
Sausages on the grill…
…and a sausage dog in a bag!
As you can see, it’s a pretty popular place to be.
The line for the Loukamades (greek doughnuts) is always massive. They weren’t as deliciously crispy as last year though…
A papusa from one of the Mexican stall. A cornmeal based thick tortilla, in this case filled with cheese.
And a delicious chicken tamale.
Which is your favourite food festival?
You can read last year’s post here.
We are told time and time again that one of the easiest ways to introduce people to new cultures if by feeding them, because wherever we go, whatever we do, we all need to eat. So it’s no surprise that the main focus of the 2011 National Multicultural Festival was food. I have to admit that although I was born in Canberra and lived there for the first 19 years of my life I’ve never been to the festival before. So I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from it, probably something like the food festivals we have here in Sydney. I was pretty sure there’d be gozlëme, that’s for sure.
Last weekend my man and I were visiting Canberra for a friend’s birthday and she had concocted marvellous challenge- food golf. The idea was that we all had to dress in golfing outfits and prowl the festival, marking off various foods and drinks as we consumed them. Each item was worth various points and at the end we would tally up the scores and proclaim the winner.
I stuffed things up by being the only one who didn’t get a costume sorted, and as we entered the multicultural festival at 3pm on Saturday, the atmosphere was not dissimilar to that of a moshpit and I began to wonder how likely it was that we would complete our challenge. One of the things I always forget about Canberra, a city where comparatively little happens, is what it’s like to be in the thick of it when something DOES happen. With an event like this, there’s a huge turnout and it feels like everyone in Canberra is there. Apparently, this year the three day festival attracted 100 000 people on the Saturday alone! That’s as many as it usually attracts for the whole three days.
I was impressed with food line-up, which went well beyond the usual suspects. Of course there was gozlëme, as well as German, Greek, Lebanese, Indonesian, Spanish, Mexican and Indian food, but there was also an endless list of national cuisines you rarely see, from Ethiopian to Chilean, Fijian, Samoan, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, Serbian, Argentinean and Mauritian to name a few. It was nice not to come across the same stalls that rock up to every Sydney and Melbourne festival I have ever been to. A tapas or poffertjes stall has no place at the Hyde Park Noodle markets, for example, and I wish organisers would take a leaf out of the National Multicultural Festival’s book when they plan such events.
Even though we had a painstakingly prepared list of foods to ‘golf’ we made a beeline for the first Ethiopian stall we saw to grab a castle lager and some delicious injera topped with ‘sauces’, which I think is a good way to describe the way food in Ethiopia is eaten. The injera, a kind of crumpet-like sourdough pancake made of teff flour, is really the star of the show. We had it with a mild red lentil stew and a rich beef stew, with a pleasant heat from the berberé spices but not spicy per se. The injera was pleasantly sour and spongy- delicious!
Then I spied another cuisine not on our list- Philippino. I couldn’t go past a pillipit, a plaited Philippino donut dusted in sugar so my boyfriend ordered us one. He had to ask the stallholder 4 or 5 times because apparently pillipits are also known as shakoys so she had no idea what he was talking about! Unfortunately, the pillipit was not freshly made and was doughy and chewy – kind of like a day-old chain store pizza crust, so I photographed it and we threw it away, not willing to waste precious tummy space on sub-par food.
I was pretty stuffed at this point and needed a break but my boyfriend spied something intriguing at the Greek food stall. Again, Greece was not on our list but the Kokinisto, a meat and onion stew served with chips looked too good to pass up. I nabbed a couple of chips and a mouthful of stew and I’ve got to say it was pretty tasty but still not a patch on the Ethiopian beef stew.
What I really wanted was some Sri Lankan pan rolls or some kind of coconut based curry and that’s when we came across one of the two Sri Lankan stalls. I snapped a few shots of the fried treats on offer, as well as the Korean stall where they were cooking up some bulgogi beef and spicy chicken on large bbqs.
We decided it was time to offset the heat with some more beer and spotted a Spanish food tent selling tapas, beer and sangria towards the Canberra Theatre end of things. The offerings there looked delicious- tortilla de patatas, gambas al ajillo, chorizo and so forth and at pretty reasonable prices. We grabbed a couple of Cruzcampo beers, an easy drinking beer but it wasn’t as good as I remembered. I guess it’s because I wasn’t in Spain and it wasn’t fresh out of an ice-cold tap. Oh well.
We came back to the Greek stall where I had previously seen about 50 people lining up for Loukoumades, Greek doughnuts slathered in honey. I really wanted to get a picture of them being made but as I snapped away, I realised what I really wanted was a plate of these delicious puffs. Having never tried them and still disappointed by my stale pillipit, I joined the long queue which moved surprisingly quickly. The loukoumades were fried, slathered in honey, plated up and topped with cinnamon and walnuts, all for the grand total of $5! They were delicious- crisp on the outside and pillowy-soft in the centre, sweet and sticky with the crunch from the bitter nuts offsetting the warming cinnamon. I have to admit I had more than my fair share.
I noticed that there was a distinct lack of those fenced off little pig pens that have become the norm at NSW events serving alcohol. In NSW, public events require allocated, fenced off alcohol vending/consumption sectors, or else the whole event needs to be fenced off. The ACT has slightly different liquor laws to NSW and as such, although there was no glass allowed (all beers had to be poured into plastic cups), there was definitely a less restricted vibe, although still a police presence. The atmosphere was insanely busy and although it was quite hot and people were drinking, everyone was very laid-back and patient, even with all the lines and crowds.
Finally, we saw a guy weaving his way through the crowd with a shopping trolley full of our least favourite kind of beer- Quilmes. We figured he’s be heading to the Argentinean stall, which we were yet to discover so we followed (stalked?) along after him. The poor guy had a hell of a time getting through the crowd and finally stopped at a Chilean stall selling completos and beer. A completo is a hot dog with the lot (complete) and I had to get one. It had mashed avocado, fried onions, mayo and American mustard and I added pebre, a Chilean salad/salsa. Disgustingly delicious. They also had a selection of Chilean, Argentinean and Mexican beers but none were cold yet as they’d only just been unloaded so we headed back to the Ethiopian stall and grabbed another beer and some Indonesian satay sticks from the Indo Café stall. Tender and charred, they were a perfect finish to a 5 hour meal. All in all it was a grand day, although we had no chance of winning food golf.
So, dear reader, what’s you fave festival food?
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Disclaimer:All opinions in this blog are mine, an everyday, real-life person. I do not accept payment for reviews and nor do I write sponsored posts. I do not endorse the content of the comments herein.