Our nation’s capital has been a discerning foodie destination for years now. The region produces some excellent ingredients, used by inventive chefs who have propped the scene up as one of the finest on Australia’s East Coast. It’s worth a road trip just to hop around the many restaurants that spread across Canberra for a few days, and if you time that with visits to the city’s several art institutions, maybe a festival or two (like the beautiful Floriade), and skiing at Perisher, then you’d notice a very different Canberra to the boring political excursion you took in primary school.
These are just five of our current favourites down in Canberra, guaranteed to whet any appetite and showcase just how strong Canberra is as a dining destination.
With a custom rotisserie and smoker, Canberra’s new Terra has been making all the right moves and picking up plenty of local buzz. Situated in No Name Lane, the canteen-style and produce-forward venue offers up a share-style dinner menu built with fine quality seasonal produce from the best local growers and providores in the region. Since June Terra has been winning locals over with their breakfast and lunch menus, with options like straight-off-the-spit smoked and charcoal meats, gourmet lunch rolls, seasonal roasted veggies, fresh salads and Duke’s speciality coffee.
Now they’re open for dinner too, with Head Chef Sung Son working up a menu that includes snacks like smoked ox tongue and toast with chimichurri and fresh Tasmanian wasabi, Terra flatbread with fois gras parfait and dill pickles; small plates like smoked eggplant with avocado, pepperonata and charred lime, confit salmon in a jar with schmaltz, crème fraiche, gerkin and seed crisps, and octopus that has been confit and fried to make it really crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, served with potato skin, pickled green tomatoes and aioli; and substantial proteins like 100-day grain fed Black Angus beef short rib smoked for six hours, Terra charcoal chicken with house made hot sauce, spit roasted ‘Hilltops’ pork belly with house-made sauerkraut and miso gravy, and smoked Cowra lamb ribs with sweet BBQ sauce. For those who want to experience it all, they also do a “Feed Me” tasting menu option for $58pp, just make sure you’re also pairing all that food up with drinks like the signature cocktail “Smoked in the Chimney”, made using smoked brisket fat from the meats cooked during lunch.
Address: Shop G2, No Name Lane; 40 Marcus Clarke Street, City West, Canberra
Canberra’s spiffy East Hotel is one of the region’s most celebrated boutiques, with a major reason being their signature restaurant. Italian dining spot Agostinis has always gotten over well with locals thanks to their honest, simple Italian food inspired by the childhoods of sibling owners Dan and Dion Bisa and overseen by Chef Francesco Balestrieri. Widely regarded as one of the best spots for freshly made pasta and artisan pizza in Kingston, it’s become somewhat of a must-eat for anyone passing through Canberra, craving good rustic Italian food with strong commitment to seasonality.
They’ve just changed the menu to prepare for the summer months as well, tipping things towards northern Italy with menu offerings like the Carpaccio di Manzo made with sliced Tasmanian fillet rolled with pink pepper and served with jalapeno, radish and roquette; Pappardelle al Ragu d’Agnello with lamb shoulder cooked in a white wine sauce with house-made pappardelle; and Pancia di Maiale with locally sourced pork belly slow cooked for 10 hours and accompanied by crispy skin, pumpkin puree, and roasted fennel. Though if you’re feeling extra hungry, get the one-meter long Mama Mia pizza but save some room for their beautiful Pistachio Semifreddo. Follow that up with drinks at Hotel East’s Joe’s Bar to make a night of it.
Address: 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston ACT 2604
Beloved Aubergine has quite the reputation for inventive dishes that are generous, delicious and well priced. Currently holding two Chef Hats (maintained for the last seven years), it’s one of the most sought after dinners in the city, still attracting people from all over the country thanks to the talented kitchen team led by owner and chef Ben Willis. Things change regularly here, but a constant favourite is the eye-widening dessert of Brown Butter Ice Cream with hazelnut praline and frozen lemon verbena milk. End any meal with that and you’re guaranteed to walk out with a smile on your face.
Address: 18 Barker St, Griffith ACT 2603
This local favourite wine and cocktail bar is an absolute must for any civilised drinking session, but you’d be a fool not to walk through those doors without an appetite either. The food is fine and very satisfying, with from bar snacks like Beef Bourguignon with smoked mash toast, and Tempura Cauliflower with squid ink and lemon aioli, to bigger share-style dishes like Kingfish with roast pepper and preserved lemon, and Flat Iron with Roquefort and parsnip. No self-respecting foodie will walk away without trying the dessert either; the likes of Miso Cheesecake with jujube date and cornflake, or the Olive Oil Cake with yoghurt sorbet and mandari, speak very highly for the kitchen. Dip into that beautiful wine list and you’ll be set for the night.
Address: 65 London Circuit, Canberra ACT 2601
Monster Kitchen & Bar
Five-star Ovolo Nishi has an excellent resident restaurant with Monster Kitchen & Bar, an approachable and dynamic casual dining experience that makes fresh local produce an obsession, and opts for life-giving breakfasts and share-style dinners. Something so simple as House Made Crumpets with Hive honey will have you an instant fan of the place, as will the very filling big breakfast of house made bacon, pickled green tomato, monster HP and fried egg on ciabatta, and the beautiful Ribbolita with slow cooked eg, Reggiano, and charred sourdough.
Move on the lunch and dinner with refined bar snacks like the Boxgum Grazing beef tartare with miso cured egg yolk, avocado, horseradish and crisp black rice, or the fried chicken with soy glaze and roasted sesame. If you’ve got a bigger group, go all in with the share plates like Pulled Lamb Shoulder with pistachio, yoghurt, vine leaf, pomegranate and brik, and Grilled Flat Iron with garlic and chimmichuri.
Address: Ground/25 Edinburgh Ave, Canberra ACT 2601
Feature image: Terra