According to Urban Dictionary a girl's night out is a "planned event, usually held at a cheesy Irish pub or dance club, where groups of females dress provocatively, flirt incessantly, dance badly, and accept free drinks from desperate single men. The event usually ends when one female passes out in her own vomit or when one of their boyfriends shows up".
A girl's night out, or indeed an afternoon, or morning, or weekend, is a chance to catch up with the women in your life who bring you strength and make you laugh.
And more often than not it's centred around good food, good wine and good company.
Here in Canberra there are plenty of gourmet options for the girls, from morning teas to late night sipping cocktails, from picnics at the lake to dress-up dinners in the City.
Where to eat
This pop-up at The Boat House on the edge of the lake has only been open a month or so but is already a popular spot late in the day. There's now a large open-sided marquee, lit and styled by Show Pony Events, to ensure the cocktails can keep flowing whatever the weather. The menu comes straight from The Boat House kitchens, think Apellation oysters, steam bao buns, charcuterie and cheese plates, or one of the interesting dessert options. There's a good drinks list too. Try The Golden Armada, with Tanqueray 10 gin, Joseph Cartron passionfruit liquor and amaretto, fresh lemon juice, house-made honey syrup and aquafaba.
- Open from 3pm, Friday to Sunday. Grevillea Park, Menindee Drive, Barton.
Under the gaze of Liliokalani, queen of the belly dancers, find a corner and relax back into velvet upholstered chairs or reclaimed train carriage seats and enjoy this newish spot. The menu focuses on seasonal and free range produce with a native Australian twist and the drinks list features local wines and craft beers and a good range of cocktails. Try the Helen Reddy, made with 1800 Blanco Tequila, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Autonomy Davidson Plum Aperitivo and lemon. Ask the DJ to put on I Am Woman and party til midnight.
- Open seven days, noon til late. Corner of Kennedy and Giles Streets, Kingston.
I like to escape to Bar Rochford on my own occasionally, enjoy a glass of an interesting wine at the bar, eat a little plate, listen to some tunes. But it's more fun if you've got the team crammed into one of the booths, with a few bottles on standby, some plates to share. Rochford, as familiar as it is in the iconic Melbourne Building, still feels like it could be in Paris or New York and we love that sense of escapism.
- Open Wednesday to Sunday, 5pm til late, from 1pm Sundays. 65 London Circuit, City.
One of the highlights of COVID was the opening of Mame at the Melba shops. It's a cute little cafe serving great coffee but you'll go back for the delicious pastries, cakes and light meals for breakfast and lunch. Amy and Jiwoo met when they were chefs at Courgette and this is their first venture together. Service is spot on and everything is baked in-house except for the croissants which come in from Sonoma. Don't leave without a Nutella cream cheese cookie.
- Open Tuesday to Sunday, from 6.30am weekdays and 7.30am weekends. 4-6 Melba Court, Melba.
Where to drink
There's a lot more to Rizla than riesling and that's why we love it. It's classy and the enclosed garden setting feels a mile away from the hum of Braddon and the menu surprises every time. But if it is riesling you're after there is no better place. We love the focus on Canberra District wines, a few international ones thrown in. Owner Andy Day says wine is to be drunk and enjoyed, don't overcomplicate it. A good motto for life too.
- Open Tuesday to Thursday from 6pm, Friday to Sunday from noon.
Come for the view, stay for the cocktails. The Howling Moon seems a mile away from the hustle and bustle of Northbourne Avenue with its eclectic colour palette and Insta worthy walls of greenery. The menu is built for sharing, sliders and chicken wings, or there are a few bigger meal options as well. Keep an eye out for socially distanced events, such as New Year's Eve celebrations, there is no better place to watch the sun set on another year.
- Open seven days, 4pm til late. 150 Northbourne Ave, Braddon.
Venture down the rabbit hole and indulge in a few hours that Alice herself would enjoy. On the weekends book a space for the Tipsy Tea, a high tea with a boozy twist that includes signature cocktails or French sparkling alongside trays of tasty treats. Other fun things might include cocktail making classes or book out an area for a private function.
- Open Tuesday to Saturday, 5pm until late. 65 Northbourne Ave, City.
Grab a table near the negroni fountain and you're set for the night. Order a plate of charcuterie and cheese, or some pizzas for the table and all is good to go. Or for something more special book in for a wine and wedge class and learn how to match cheese and wine. And keep an eye out on the schedule for Tipsy Sundaze with live music from 2pm Sunday arvo.
- Open Monday to Wednesday from 11am-10pm, Thursday to Saturday from 11am until midnight and Sundays from 11am. 59 Northbourne Ave, City.
What to do
Two of our favourites, run by two of our favourite wine women, are Lake George Winery and Four Winds Vineyard. At Lake George, enjoy a meal at Westering restaurant, stay in the on-site accommodation or let Sarah McDougall talk you through her wines at the cellar door. At Murrumbateman, settle in for one of their acclaimed wood-fired pizzas, order a couple of bottles of their delicious rose and say thanks to Sarah Collingwood on your way out.
While Amelia Bidgood's public tours of some of the city's best-kept foodie secrets have been put on hold, she's more than willing to organise COVID compliant private tours for you and your girl gang. Tours on her list include a walking tour of Braddon and the City, taking in food and drinks at five hot spots and hidden gems; or the Sweet Tooth Tour for the dessert lovers amongst us. If you'd rather curate one to suit your own needs let her now.
Picnics and Pallets Co
Another great idea to come out of COVID, Ally Kemp's bespoke picnic service has us interested now the weather is more conducive to alfresco dining. We love the pastels, the flowers, the cushions and attention to detail. She'll even supply grazing boards and work with you on food options. So pretty.
Jeanene Kennedy-Evans is another woman to support. Her business Winederlust is all about showcasing local wines by doing something out of the ordinary. She's teamed up with the Canberra Cruise and Party boat for regular Bubbles and Brunch Tours and keep an eye out for the Christmas Sip and Shop event.
What to buy
Something for everyone at The Plot out Pialligo. From homewares, fashion and decor from Bison, Flamingo and Sass and Wren and Rabbit Interiors, to foodie options at the Pialligo Market Grocer and the Farm Shop Cafe. Make an afternoon of it.
- Open Wednesday to Sunday, 8.30am until 6pm. 12 Beltana St, Pialligo.
Oh how we've missed our trips out to EPIC, oh how we've loved shopping virtually. So much easier to carry all the stuff home. The next virtual markets are the mammoth Christmas ones, held on November 21 and again on November 28. Foodies should keep an eye out for great gifts such as hand-forged knives or printed linen tea towels or a vast range of food and drink.
This treasure trove of amazing stuff opened in Fyshwick in March and you'll be able to wile away the time searching for vintage homewares and the like. And grab lunch at Billy T's Larder while you're there.
- Open seven days, 10am to 5pm. 80 Collie St, Fyshwick.
Meet Gather Collect
A suburban gem, this store in Aranda brings together designers and creatives to showcase some of Australia's best offerings. We love their tableware and serving utensils. We love too that you can head out for workshops where you'll learn to make all sorts of things. Book the girls in for a spoon carving workshop now. Head up to Two Before Ten when you've finished.
No real need to travel too far. You don't even have to leave town. Book a suite at QT Canberra or Ovolo Nishi and wine and dine at Capitol Bar and Grill or Monster Kitchen and Bar. Or head out to Tallangandra Hill Winery and book out their on-site bespoke cabins. Or use Abode at Murrumbateman as your base for some wine tasting and use some of their vintage bikes to get about.
If you're looking for some luxury head to Bangalay Luxury Villas and enjoy a meal at Bangalay Dining or perhaps indulge in their oyster experience. Or visit Cupitt's Estate in Ulladulla for a variety of foodie options. Milkhaus at Woodstock is a favourite, if you can get into Dairy Fields, the restored heritage-listed home, it would make for a perfect weekend.
Head north-west for about an hour and you'll hit the Hilltops region of NSW. Taking in Young, Boorawa, Harden and Jugiong, there's heaps to see. Make sure you take in a meal at the Sir George, perhaps stay in their accommodation, and next morning poke about at the Long Track Pantry and the restored General Store. Drop in at Freeman Vineyards, their rose is one of my favourites.
When did the hometown become a foodie destination? Dine at Lolli Redini or head out to nearby Millthorpe and check out Tonic. Charred is a new venue with a focus on their wood and charcoal oven. The Agrestic Grocer is a must-see. Housed in a semi-industrial, semi-agricultural straw-bale/brick building and wearing its locavore ideology proudly on its sleeve, the grocer provides a unique shopping and dining experience. And the wineries.