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  • Writer's pictureTina Brand

Canberra.... searching out the delicious, Part 1

Lorrie and I headed down the road to Canberra recently for a few days of food exploration (on my part) and so many other observations for the talented photographer (see Lorrie's blog for more on Canberra).

We made short work of the drive from Sydney, sporadically singing along to favourite songs, observing the beautiful countryside and planning our upcoming days.

For the purpose of ease and order, I've divided up our Canberra finds into Daytime and Night-time, and will follow with a next post on miscellaneous tips and finds.

DAYTIME (Breakfasts, brunch and lunch):

Kyo on Lonsdale Street is located by the Nibu building, tucked round the back in a courtyard; it is not obvious from the street for an out-of-towner. FIND this little spot though. With just two little electric hot plates to cook on and a coffee machine, Kyo Coffee Project hustles like the best of them, turning out excellent Single O coffees, chai and a terrific selection of not-your-usual egg and bacon breakfasts.

Think congee with ginger, chilli, shallots and soft egg, curried egg sandwiches and a delish mushroom tartine. Stay on for lunch and feast on the likes of Soba noodle salad with wakame, nori and smoked trout, or an Indo beef pie made by smiley chef John in his jaunty cap.

Sandoochie at No Name Lane, 40 Marcus Clarke Street.

If you can hold off till 11 am for a late breakfast, I'd highly recommend a sandwich here. Built with memorably delicious chewy bread, these sandwiches scoff at the ordinary and go for fillings which are imaginative and layered, offering a small variety which will make your tastebuds sing and your hearts burst.

Young Lucy Holmes, owner/chef of Snadoochie is a genius with a sanger.

Sweet Bones Bakery is the go to place for vegan sandwiches, salads and also glorious looking cakes. For breakfast, order a mac and cheese wrap, or how about a scroll, a croissant or some pancakes?

Calling themselves a coffeeshop, the casual reference belies the nice space in Barton, and the menu on offer. Open from 7.30 am and trading over lunch hours, it is the place for breakfast, brunch or a long lunch. The menu is varied and service is brisk and friendly. Freshly squeezed juices and smoothies as well as beer and wine are available to accompany any sort of meal.

For breakfast, I shared a blue swimmer crab omelette which came with coconut ginger rice, miso sauce and crunchy puffed rice. It is definitely for sharing, but oh so good if you want to have it all to yourself!

Starting as a food truck, but in a cute VW kombi-van, this Sri Lankan Phillip eatery is a hidden gem. Set behind the building of its street address, it can (again) take a befuddled out-of-towner a bit of finding, but you must persist. DD and Michael are the two charming business partners, Michael being the cook, with able sous chef Udeshikar.

For a late morning snack, the pan rolls hit the spot, and a vattelappam (classic Sri Lankan baked custard made with jaggery) was on point. The lunchtime options of various curries and hoppers are delicious and flavourful.

There is so much good eating during the day in Canberra, many which are on the usual lists online: Broadsheet, TripAdvisor, etc. Here are some I can really vouch for, and have visited for many years, always coming away satisfied:

Mocan and Green Grout in New Acton is a cosy and lovely spot with a small breakfast to lunch menu and excellent coffee.

The Cupping Room, home of award winning ONA coffee is a lovely space and also open over breakfast and lunch.

Highroad is an offshoot of the ONA coffee group and is equally pleasant with great food on offer.

White Chaco is located in the Nibu building courtyard, and serves a seriously mouthwatering menu of contemporary Japanese/Taiwanese dishes.

Get out there and enjoy!


Terra in No Name Lane is a warm and inviting space where you'll find a modern BBQ menu to please and tantalize. A good accompanying wine list and friendly service all make for a great night out.

XO Turning SouthEast Asian cuisine on its head while keeping it authentic is a tall order but the folk at one hatted XO manage to do it with elegant flair. All the familiar much loved flavours remain intact, but taste them deconstructed, layered or served in delightfully unusual pairings. The standard gai lan with garlic for instance, is served here with a garlic confit; charred cabbage comes with miso and a light, crunchy buckwheat topping. Asian bolognese comprises udon, xo chicken ragout and a sixty minute egg.

For desert, pandan pana cotta served with gula melaka is silky and fragrant, while a chrysanthemum soft serve tantalizes.

With billowing floor length drapes dividing each table and a glittering fully stocked bar, the atmosphere is cool and sexy.

Award winning Onzieme is hitting all the high points with a perfect corner position at the Kingston shops. Simply outfitted, but smart savvy in that younger-crowd kind of way, the tables are close in together and it feels cosy on a chilly spring night. A girls night out is raging close by and we struggle to hear each other over the shrieks and squeals.

Still, the food compensates. Louis Couttoupes, who calls himself a self made cook with three months training at a French bistro in the 11th arrondissement (hence the name), is the glamour story we home cooks dream of. I suspect it takes a little more than a few moths of training though, because Louis's menu is inspired and cooked with a deft hand. Taking classic French ingredients and infusing them with a gutsy bit of Australian, they turn cleverly onto the plate: duck liver pate, but with pear; smoked crab, but served on toast with lovage and pork floss. Asparagus? Yes, but with salted yolk and pangrattoto! The octopus came with skordalia and sun dried tomatoes. Everything just delicious.

And how do you twist a classic French dessert? You take a (perfect) posset, and infuse it with yuzu, and serve with rhubarb and hibiscus. More deliciousness!

Located in the heart of downtown Canberra, offering airy spaces above for meetings, functions and conferences, while downstairs at street level, find yourself amongst the bustle of food stalls, live jazz nights and a substantial bar to quench any thirst. Vendors include a pasta place: Pasta Artigiana, Tuck Shop: food from South Africa, Indonesian Rasa Rasa, and Super Bao. Out the back lane is a generous deck with large potted plants and umbrellas where you can spend a happy evening gazing out at a fine, solitary Box Elder tree. While Verity Lane opens for lunch, it absolutely heaves at night.

Of course heaps more to satisfy any sort of food craving all round greater Canberra. Check your food guides and be adventurous!

SO kindly, Chef Louis Couttoupes of Onzieme sat down with us after dinner service at Onzieme, and shared his favourite places to eat around town:

1919 Lanzhou Beef Noodle in the Canberra Centre (Phone: 0497666018)

Gary's Kitchen at 26 Denigan Street, Waniassa, (Phone: 0414143675)

Flavours of Jiangnan (ph: 02 61933421)

Champi Restaurant (ph: 02 51048988

Happy eating in Canberra folks! Stay tuned for tomorrow's post (part 2) for further little suggestions of drinking holes and such!

Our eating adventures would not have been possible without the kind suggestions of my Canberra 'agents' (life long pals). Thank you to Durga, Po and Talitha for great suggestions, for meeting us at various stops and helping Lorrie and me get through a lot of food!


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