ACT News


Civic eateries cast a wider net for diners

They're throwing open the windows in Bunda Street, Civic.

Alfresco dining pioneer Gus's Cafe has upgraded its landmark outdoor shelter with timber sash windows.

Shorty's next door has replaced a laneway advertising window with a hot dog stall.

Since November venue operators in Bunda Street have cast a wider net for an overflow of customers from Jamie's Italian and new neighbours in the Canberra Centre's north quarter.

When architects Cox Humphries Moss drew eight cafes into plans years ago for the shopping mall's extensions the aim was to activate Bunda Street as Canberra's main street.

Enterprising restaurateurs including Jamie's and Malaysian restaurant PappaRich, which make a virtue of having customer queue outside, are filling in the fine-grain detail.


Diners wait up to an hour for a seat and many drift along Bunda Street.

Shorty's licensed eatery replaced Milk and Honey cafe about a year ago, opening a bar and deck area, extending into next door's florist shop and also opening a hot dog stand in the lane.

Owner Franki Condi says the idea of a hot dog shop was to bring life back into Garema Place, that had lost traders since the mall expanded.

His chef Wayne Alger says serving coffee and sandwiches brings colour to the laneway.

"Competition is so tough and the place is saturated with coffee, we're shaking things up a bit.

"Trying to change people's habits is a difficult gig in Canberra.

"When the sun comes out the decks fill up first, all the outdoor areas fill up, and then people looking for a table come inside."

Mr Conti, 40, whose career began as a 17 year-old picking up glasses and mopping floors at the Private Bin, owns bars and eateries with partners in Ainslie, Civic, Manuka and Kingston

"Choice is the biggest challenge, we have around one of the highest number of coffee places per head in the country," he said. "Our venues are just as good as any in the country."

Gus's general manager Jamie Morris said the cafe's upgrade was unlike anything else in Canberra and took a year to get through the planning process.

This followed a tradition of Gus's innovation overcoming objections.

"The weather is so unpredictable, we needed to adapt to create an outdoor space for all kinds of weather. Some people like a window. Some like to open it, others like to leave it shut."

Mr Morris said Jamie's Italian was a drawcard for the city, when people needed a good reason to leave the suburbs which had their own cafes.

"Everyone is fighting for the takeaway trade, everyone has their regulars. I don't like that word competition, everyone has to want to work together."

Former property manager Christina Knight is enjoying the experience of opening for coffee, sandwiches and macaroons behind Jamie's Italian. "I can't say I wasn't excited," the co-owner of Farmer's Daughter said.

Farmers Daughter opened in mid-December, when the other partner Nicole Damiani, who owns a breakfast and brunch restaurant with the same name in Yarralumla, took up the mall's invitation.

"We love Jamie's. It's so exciting to be close, we love the feel of the place, we love the staff, we love the outlook."

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