It's been a couple of years since Finance graduate Claire headed downstairs to the cafe for some paleo pear and banana bread.
Her older colleague, who thought it was all "a little bit fancy", might be shocked to know what's on offer in the cafes serving the nation's public servants today - homemade curries, gourmet salads, sushi, Spanish baked eggs, cauliflower rice, to name a few menu items.
It is a bit fancy, Canberra's public servants are eating well.
But if there's a common denominator among the many cafes situated inside our government departments, it seems the federal public service is fuelled on egg and bacon rolls and flat whites.
We visited several workplace cafes, from the parliamentary triangle, all the way out to Brindabella Park. It seems a good burger, and a good coffee, is a major draw card at lunch time.
"I like to think I'm helping with the nation's productivity," jokes Shannon Mathias, who runs City Edge, underneath the Department of Education on Marcus Clarke Street in the City.
As a former public servant himself, he worked at the Department of Defence for more than a decade, Mathias understands the deadlines and pressures, but also the need to escape your desk for a quick coffee, or just to pick up a healthy lunch to take back upstairs.
He made the leap to the other side of the counter three years ago. His staff rib him about still wearing a shirt and tie to work.
"Part of me still thinks I'm a public servant," he says.
Mathias prides himself on knowing people's orders, he impressed a busy deputy secretary once or twice by having their order ready before they even got to the counter. Efficiency is the key.
He's also brought in the "director's table", a large wooden table to one side of the cafe that can be made more private if need be.
"Sometimes discussions are more open around a table with a coffee, away from an office, I like that we can offer that too."
There are about 57,000 federal public servants based in Canberra - and about 25,000 ACT ones (we'd love to know about your cafes) - and given estimates that 75 per cent of Australians drink at least one cup of coffee a day, we're guessing that close to 43,000 coffees are sold to public servants every day.
Yes it's a long (black) bow to draw, but it's 9.30am at Ground House in Brindabella Park, underneath Home Affairs, and the line is long.
It's working like a well-oiled machine, everyone knows the drill, order, move to one side, staff seem familiar with the customers, same as usual? At the tables there are a few meetings taking place, papers spread across large tables.
Daniella Blazevic's family have been running cafes in public service buildings for more than 25 years. When she left school she started working in one of the cafes thinking it would pay her way through university but she soon realised working in an office was not for her.
She managed The Corner, in Barton, serving the Department of Foreign Affairs and Finance, and in March leapt at the chance to manage Ground House when it opened.
She says the key to running a successful cafe is offering quick, efficient, friendly service but most importantly great food and coffee.
"And good staff are so important, they really have to keep up with the pace. Our staff are fantastic from front of house to our chefs."
Blazevic says one thing regular customers like is variety.
"When most of your customers are return customers, many come in three to four times a week, while they want their regular coffee, when it comes to food they don't want to order off the same menu everyday."
Specials are written on a roll of butcher's paper, different salads, breakfast deals, hot meals, there's something different every day.
"Each week our chefs come up with a breakfast special and lunch burger special, these items are always popular, our special burgers can sometimes be quite over the top and we're finding our customers love that."
Like many of the cafes we visited, Ground House keeps customers updated via social media. You can be upstairs at your desk, log into Facebook and see what that day's specials are.
It might be Foghog Leghorn crispy chicken wrap with slaw, lettuce, tomato, cheese, sweet potato fries topped with mayonnaise and barbecue sauce or a falafel and roast pumpkin salad.
"If we don't get the menu up mid-morning we're in trouble," Blazevic says.
"Customers like to be able to get down here and not have to spend time making too many decisions."
She loves getting to know the regulars.
"You meet some interesting people," she says.
"Serving our regulars every day we get to know them and their preferences when it comes to coffee. Our staff make it a habit of getting to know our customers.
"Our regulars get blown away when we have their coffee ready for them before they have ordered it.
"We try to remember our customers order and name, we want them to feel like they aren't just another customer in a coffee line. Having a chat with the customers and getting to know them makes for a happy work environment for everyone."
And the research backs that up. A study conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Health found that drinking coffee before working on a computer-based office task could have a powerful pain-relieving effect.
Drinking coffee can help to focus your mind and improve your reaction time, attention and reasoning. It can also improve memory and concentration.
Another study found that coffee breaks had a positive effect in increasing the strength of groups in the workplace and increased productivity. Having a cup of coffee with colleagues was seen as a great way to exchange opinions, share and create new ideas.
Yet another study found that 80 per cent of employees had higher morale and were more motivated to do their best work when provided with simple perks such as a staff canteen.
Morale must be high in Barton where The Double Drummer, officially in the Australian Government Solicitors building but in a prime location for that end of National Circuit looks more like a neighbourhood pub than a cafe.
There are beers on tap, a great selection of wines and spirits (at competitive prices), a courtyard that fills up on a Friday afternoon when there's live music and special snacks on offer, and a daily menu full of salads, hot food, sandwiches, and burgers.
Manager Kylie Jolly, whose background is in casino hospitality, says people come from far and wide to try the double egg and bacon burger.
"Lunch is our busiest time, some days we can do 900 covers for lunch, but we're noticing breakfast is picking up," she says.
"A lot of people are time poor, maybe it's easier for them to grab something here, even just to take up to their desk."
She says the key is consistent coffee, fast service, taking the time to get to know the customer.
That's happening at Barbers Inc, just over the road at Prime Minister and Cabinet. There's a line out the door, but the friendly staff take that extra minute to greet people by name, as they line up with keep cups (it's good to see these in use at most places we visit).
Manager Priscilla Ong is busy clearing tables, and yes, there is someone in the adjacent barber getting a trim.
"The customer is always our priority, being in a government building, 80 to 90 per cent are returning customers, you've got to make sure you're giving them that level of service to ensure they keep coming back."
Ong says they try to ensure customers wait no longer than 15 minutes for the most complicated food order.
"It's about getting them back to their desk as quickly as we can."
One item that does well at Barbers Inc is the cinnamon doughnut. What started as an add-on, is now "insane".
"If there's something we're known for it's that, I hate to think how many meetings upstairs are fuelled by sugar and cinnamon."
At Wild Honey in the John Gorton Building in Parkes, the employees can enjoy lunch in the courtyard of Wild Honey, with a view across to the sculptures of the National Gallery of Australia.
Dimitri Damianakis and his staff make everything in house. He has a sushi chef come in daily, there are premium salads and sandwiches, a rotating menu of hot food, everything is available to eat in or takeaway.
There's an area with tables, some high benches, a jigsaw puzzle on a high table in the area where you wait for your coffee.
It's mid-morning and there's still a steady stream of customers ordering coffee, a muffin here or there, using the chance in the queue to chat to colleagues.
Keith Ashurst and Skye Palmer have been running Cafe Brindabella in the RG Casey Building in Barton for 17 years.
"I think it was the first cafe to open in the new age of departmental cafes, almost 20 years ago," says Palmer.
"The rule for us has always been make it fresh in-house every day, change the menu daily, give great and fast service. It's still the same today as it was day one."
She says their menu database for lunch runs to about 350 dishes.
"Each day we provide six hot dishes, plus five salads, plus sandwiches and rolls - both pre-made or made to order, soup, sausage rolls, pies and flans.
"Our most popular dishes are deconstructed warm salad dishes like yoghurt-marinated chicken pieces with cauliflower rice, almonds and pistachios or buttermilk-roasted chicken with tomato lentil tabbouleh and roast potatoes.
"On Thursday we do chicken parmigiana with honey carrots and potato mash, that's always popular."
Bronwyn Webb is the operations manager for Calypso Cafe, which has venues in ABS House and the Chan Street office of Home Affairs in Belconnen, and DHS in the Caroline Chisholm building and on Reed Street in Tuggeranong.
She says the trick is keeping your captive audience interested so they don't want to leave the building and go somewhere else.
"I think the biggest thing they are after is variety and quick service, a lot of the time they are on a tight schedule and don't have time to line up for long periods of time so the grab and go options are a big hit," Webb says.
"Coffee is another story. There are so many personal choices these days so you have to be prepared to cater to all of them in this cut-throat market, with all the different dietary requirements, especially when it comes to milk, you need to offer all types."
Twice a week they put on a big buffet breakfast that is popular.
"A lot of the time whole branches will come in and all have breakfast together while having their meetings, it is a good way to get people together in the workplace in a more relaxed environment."
And that's a big part of it, being able to relax for even a moment.
"Customer service is key to a successful business, you have highly stressed people coming to the counter and when they see a smiling face they tend to calm down and relax a little, they love to have a chat with the staff and find out what's been happening in their lives."
- Tell us more about your department's cafe. Who did we miss that's worth a mention? Email: email@example.com