Welcome back to dining out, Canberra. Have you missed it just as much as we have?
But there is so much catch up on - where do you start? And what were things that kept foodies going during lockdown?
Here's our pick of Canberra's food scene in this post-lockdown life.
It felt like for most of 2021, Canberrans went about our business - aware, but not really affected by the pandemic. And then in August, one mystery COVID case led to 63 days in lockdown.
Now, with the great honour of being the most vaccinated city in the world, Canberrans are ready to get back out there and do what we do best - support local. I've had a lot of time to plan for this - here's my list of places I just can't wait to get to.
When I want a good honest feed, an impeccable wine selection and the feeling of dining at a good friend's house (but don't want to actually do any cooking) Terra is my go-to. Their takeaway hit the spot during lockdown - all the usual suspects like brisket and ribs, not to mention the best damn rotisserie chicken and chips in town. If restaurants were friends, Terra would be my BFF.
Table by Canberra Gourmet x Truffle Farm
Thomas Heinrich's 19-course degustation was hands down the best meal I've had the pleasure of eating this year. There's a beautiful ebb and flow; desserts masterfully woven through the menu amongst bite-sized snacks and larger savoury courses.
I can't wait to see Table go from strength to strength now that they've taken up residence at the iconic Truffle Farm. How often can I book into a 19-course degustation? Asking for a friend.
Pizza, ramen, sourdough - I've conquered many culinary feats over the past two lockdowns. But you know what just cannot be replicated at home? Korean barbecue.
The dazzling array of tiny side dishes, red hot coals and cold beers to wash it all down with; Hangari Kimchi is the best in town. The seafood pancake here is the best I've had. Oh, and while you're here, you might as well get some Korean fried chicken.
Temporada never disappoints. The food is always excellent, but if there is one dish I dream about all year, it's their sourdough with confit tomato and anchovy. Like all the best dishes, it appears deceptively simple - a slice of toasted sourdough drenched in olive oil, slices of confit tomato, a single anchovy laid on top. While I'd normally try and reverse engineer something like this, head chef Dave Young tells me that it's one of the most labour intensive things on the menu. It's only around for a few short months - November to February - so get your fill while you can.
Kingston has long needed a local eatery. A casual, unpretentious kind of place where you can wander in after a long day at work for a few small bites and have the waiter immediately pour you a glass of cool-climate red; because you come so often that they know your preferences. Fortunately, Louis Couttoupes' new establishment Onzieme looks to be just that. Unfortunately for me, it's the hottest ticket in town - not quite the sort of place you can saunter into just yet. With the warmer weather, they've started taking walk-ins for the outdoor area, so I think my dream might be about to come true.
Every Sunday morning, I make a grand pilgrimage across the bridge to Haig Park for the sole purpose of getting a raspberry danish from Owen Saddler at Dream Cuisine. It is perfection in a pastry. It has brightened many a sad lockdown weekend, and I foresee many more raspberry danishes in my 2022 future.
For years I have maintained that Aubergine is the best value two-hatted restaurant in all of Australia. This year, it received our highest review score of any restaurant in Canberra, ever - 17.5/20. The only downside was that I wasn't the person who wrote that review or ate the food. Classic #FOMO moment. Suffice to say, I can't wait to book in to check out what Ben Willis is dishing up.
Am I the only person in Canberra who hasn't yet made it to ILY? I'm coming for you!
International borders may be open, but I'm not quite game to hop on a plane to South America just yet. Inka's the next best thing - it feels like being transported to another country.
It's been a long lockdown. Weekends that were once filled with various outings with friends - be that for brunch, lunch, dinner or drinks - were instead spent on the couch watching Squid Game (and some takeaway - because you can't go cold turkey from Canberra's food scene, right?).
But as Canberra wakes up and we are now released onto the capital's food scene, where do we start? And what do we want to stick around?
What's not to love about Pilot? It was recently named as one of the country's best restaurants in Gourmet Traveller for the magazine's annual awards - and if that doesn't have you itching to get back there, its menu will. Pilot has a casual approach to fine dining, combining nostalgic flavours and complex dishes to give you a degustation menu that will excite you. And in the 18 months that have proven difficult for everyone, the restaurant is still flying high.
Corella Bar and Restaurant
This year Corella Bar and Restaurant opened on Lonsdale Street. Corella is a refined little place and there's something almost European about the way that it looks. Soft pastel greens, tactile furnishings, a mirror behind the bar, give it a homey feel - if your home was elegant and moody.
When it comes to food, however, it couldn't be more Australian. Corella - as the name hints - embraces native flavours like no other, with a menu filled with bush herbs, fruits, nuts and oils. Think little share plates of lamb ribs with bush spices and yuzu; spatchcock with prunes and dessert limes.
A good suburban venue always feels like home - and Edgar's Inn's Frank Condi sees it that way as well. And like a lot of Canberra homes, the past 18 months or so have seen some renovations. For this Ainslie local, there was a complete revamp of Edgar's Inn and the addition of The Inn upstairs mid-2020, and this year he opened Wakefield's Bar and Wine Room.
"If the main bar is the playroom, and The Inn is the dining room, Wakefield's is like the loungeroom," Condi says.
The space is anchored by a large walk-in wine room, it's temperature-controlled and we love the pebbles on the floor - and the selection of wine, more than 100 Australian wines, including a good range of local wines from wineries such as Mada, Helm, Clonakilla and Eden Road.
As Canberra found itself staying indoors once again during the lockdown, we found ourselves getting everything delivered. This meant, those who may not have already fallen in love with produce boxes during the first lockdown, found out how great they were. So great, that we are now converted - swapping the weekly shop for deliveries from places such as Pialligo Estate or Alpha Fresh.
Pialligo Estate needs no introduction and its orchards, market gardens, butchery, bakery, smokehouse, kitchens, wine cellar and beer fridge helped to feed Canberra during the lockdown.
Meanwhile, Alpha Fresh is one of the ACT's largest wholesalers, stocking fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, chicken and seafood, and usually are suppliers for supermarkets, restaurants and cafes. Now they are doing home deliveries to Canberra, Queanbeyan and surrounds six days a week.
While Canberra has started to open up, Ottoman lovers will have to wait a little longer. The Barton restaurant is relocating to a yet-to-be-revealed waterside location early next year after finding their Barton location, which they've had for 20 years, was starting to get a little small at times. But while we wait for the new restaurant to open, know that the new venue aims to meet and surpass everyone's expectations.
Who doesn't love a cob loaf? We know Husk Bakery is a fan of them which is why they have a menu specialising in them at its new dine-in shopfront in Fyshwick. There's the Big Breakfast Cob - filled with eggs any way you want them, mushrooms, a hash brown, bacon and baked beans.
The vegetarian version has portobello mushroom, eggs, beans and avocado, and there is also a spinach, ricotta and roast pumpkin cob and a cheese and bacon cob. And if none of those takes your fancy - or you just like having options - there is plenty more on the menu.
One of Canberra's newest additions, Loquita was only open a few weeks before lockdown hit, meaning many of us didn't get a chance to say "hola!" to this Mexican restaurant. The restaurant - which took over the space once held by Honkytonks in Garema Place - is the latest offering from the hospitality team behind Akiba, Sage and Kokomo's.
It promises experimental and elevated Mexican flavours with a strong emphasis on mezcal and tequila delivered in an informal and lively way. We may not be able to get to Mexico but it seems a little bit of Mexico has come to us.
Melted Toasted Sandwich Emporium
Those who know me, know how much I love a good toasted sandwich. Whether it's the humble ham and cheese, or something a little fancier, there's just something comforting about them. This is probably why Melted Toasted Sandwich Emporium became a bit of a shining light in the lockdown and the drive out to their Fyshwick store would be the highlight of my day.
At the moment my favourite is their Cubano - which is on their specials board - but whether you choose the Reuben, the 24hr beef brisket, or, really, anything on the menu, you can't go wrong. They even have a lasagna toastie - need I say more?
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