The days are getting shorter and the evenings a little cooler but we all know Canberra will provide one last shot of summer before we turn the clocks back. What better way to spend those precious hours than in the company of good friends, with good food and wine. Here are some ideas for places, close to home, and a few further afield (just in case you feel like a last-minute road trip), to see out the end of summer.
Armada Outdoor Bar
This little gem popped up post COVID and we're glad The Boat House team has kept the Armada sails flying over summer. It's morphed a little, with marquees now providing a shady spot to grab a drink, or delicious bite to eat, along the shores of the lake. Styled by Show Pony Events the area comes into its own as the sun sets, with fairy lights and a cool breeze. There's a decent wine list and a cocktail menu that's intriguing. The house special, The Golden Armada, has been a popular choice. To eat, there are share-plates galore. From Appellation oysters to manchego and jamon fritters, finish the night with a tonka bean mini magnum dusted with freeze-dried raspberry. Linger until the sun sets over the lake.
Barton, Friday to Sunday, from 3pm.
The Pop Inn
The Pop Inn celebrated its fourth birthday recently and it's heading into the new year with a new look, expanded program and exciting new collaborations. The next few weekends you'll find the pop-up wine bar in Bowen Park (February 25-26), Telopea Park (February 27-28), Constitution Place (March 5), the Carillon (March 6-7) and Queen Elizabeth Terrace (March 12). Times vary but things usually don't finish up until about 7.30pm so there's plenty of time to relax. Enjoy a glass of bubbles or wine, perhaps a charcuterie plate, and if you're lucky there might be some live music as well.
For the event program head to https://www.thepopinn.com
Perfect spot for a little people watching in the heart of Braddon. The intimate enclosed garden setting setting is the ideal spot for post-work drinks and casual catch ups, and throws enough shade if the afternoon happens to be a hot one. The focus is on riesling, and we love the number of local varieties on the menu, from Helm to Lark Hill to Lake George. I'm a firm believer that rosé is the wine of late summer, and there's a few good drops here as well. To take the hassle out of dining, there's a "sort it out" menu you can match with your wine. Hard to go past the signature oysters but the seared snapper with braised fennel looks pretty good too.
Braddon, lunch Friday to Sunday from noon, dinner Tuesday to Sunday from 6pm.
The outside dining area at Pilot is a coveted area for warm summer evenings and weekend lunches. Made from reclaimed timber, there's a somewhat industrial feel to it in contrast to the minimal lines inside. The footpath at Ainslie can get pretty busy, particularly if it's pumping at Edgar's but you'll feel a mile away with Pilot's understated menu. Not that you'll know what it is. There's a set menu each day and you only see it at the end. A selection of nostalgic flavours given a modern twist by chefs Mal Hanslow and Barry Burger. Eight courses for $120pp. Sunday lunch is four courses for $70pp. Try the non-alcoholic pairing and your Saturday night will be a pleasant Sunday morning.
Ainslie, Wednesday to Saturday, from 6pm; Sunday long lunch from noon.
If there's one location to see off summer you can't go past the Pool Bar at Bannisters in Mollymook. Iconic is almost the word. Lounge beside the solar-heated pool and watch the sun set over the ocean while you enjoy cocktails, excellent pizzas, and tasty Mediterranean inspired snacks. For a place that's a little posh, the idea of a pizza seems somewhat out of place, but these wood-fired delights are to die for. Try a garlic prawn or a roasted pumpkin with Persian feta, some shoestring fries and settle in. Or if you have to sit with a glass of sparkling and the honey baked brie with stone-baked bread.
Mollymook, seven days, from noon until 2.30pm and 5-8.30pm.
D and K Kitchen
Training as a chef in his home country of Switzerland, and having plied his trade in the US, New Zealand, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Australia, Daniel Hiltbrunner is just as at home in the Bungendore kitchen overlooking the Lark Hill winery vines. Alongside his wife Katrina, Hiltbrunner is now managing the restaurant attached to the award-winning Lark Hill Winery. They grow their own herbs and vegetables and create seasonal menus around local producers and growers to ensure ingredients are as fresh and in season as possible. The deck overlooking the vineyard creates the perfect spot for a lazy lunch and in 2021 they're open for dinner one weekend per month.
Bungendore, lunch Thursday to Sunday, from noon.
A visit to Gallagher Wines is always a family affair. With dad Greg, the winemaker; mum Libby, the cheesemaker; daughter Lauren, the Sinister Apprentice winemaker; and granddaughter Winter, who is apparently chief mischief maker; it's no wonder you feel right at home in the new cellar door. Gourmet Traveller Wine recently listed the Murrumbateman winery as one of the Top 50 World Wine Experiences for their renowned cheese and wine pairing experience and the sparkling is one of the region's best. There are enough little nooks to find a seat and listen to passionate people talk about what they know.
Murrumbateman, Thursday to Monday, 10am until 5pm.
Late afternoon is the perfect time to head to Paranormal Wines in Campbell. Grab a seat outside on the footpath if you can, with a view over the park and grab a bottle of a superb natural wine from owner Max Walker. If you're not sure what you're after or you're keen to try something new, just ask him. What started as an idea for a little bottle shop has morphed into a funky little bar as well. There might be someone spinning some tunes, grab a charcuterie plate, and settle in. And if the party wants to continue, grab a couple of bottles to take home.
Campbell, Wednesday to Sunday, 11am until 8pm.
National Museum of Australia
Quite a few of our national institutions offer up a spot to soak up some sun and take in the view. Try Bookplate at the National Library or the terrace cafe at the National Portrait Gallery, but our pick is the museum. We love the view back over the lake from the western shore, it's a completely different angle to what we're used to seeing on our daily commute. The cafe is run by Broadbean Catering, who make the effort to source local produce and mix up the menu with daily specials and delicious cakes and pastries. There's a neat drinks list too so grab a glass and one of their signature toasties and grab a seat on the balcony.
Acton, weekdays, from 9am to 4pm; weekends from 9am to 4.30pm
This rooftop bar has been a favourite for sunset lovers since it opened a couple of years ago. With one of the best views of the city, particularly now the light rail construction is all out of the way, the fully-enclosed venue comes into its own on those cooler evenings. We love the cocktail menu, the sunset spritz with Aperol, Tanqueray gin and prosecco is aptly named. There's a neat little snacks menu to wolf down, or go with some more substantial plates, how does a roast dinner sound on a Sunday night?