I was looking forward to this dinner for quite some time before it happened. The QT hotel in New Acton has only recently opened under that brand, and with it came the Capitol Bar and Grill, promising excellence in steak. Challenge accepted. I went with three friends who are equally appreciative of a slab of beef, so we each ordered something different and decided to share a range of sides. I chose the 200g Eye/Ox Fillet from Tasmania, which I ordered medium-rare, along with a serve of the garlic and rosemary potatoes. We munched on a range of tasty breads while we waited for our slice of beef perfection. When the mains arrived they were worth the wait – my beef was so tender and flavoursome, and was perfectly enhanced by the horseradish cream picked out from the range of condiments on offer. The highlight of the side dishes was the mac and cheese, quite possibly the best I’ve ever eaten out. Despite being stuffed full, we pushed through for an apple tarte tartin to share for dessert – again very much worth the pre-warned 20 minute wait. Not an inexpensive meal, but we weren’t rushed and could savour every delicious mouthful.
Capitol Bar and Grill, 1 London Circuit Canberra, ACT http://www.qtcanberra.com.au/food-drink/capitol-bar-grill/
Canberra is a cold place. Cairns is not. On arrival, it was a bit of a shock to the system. Luckily, we’d scoped out Bang and Grind as a way to arm ourselves with nutritious… ok, who am I kidding, we just went out for breakfast, no excuse needed. I ordered the eggs benedict with bacon, wanting to see how they do this classic in the tropics, along with a fresh orange and apple juice. The juice came out first and was huge – great value for $7, and obviously fresh with froth on top. My friend enjoyed his coffee and ended up going back several times over the next couple of days. The eggs took a while to come out, but were presented beautifully when they did. Unfortunately they were overcooked when opened – one partially runny, the other completely solid – and the bread was far too tough to cut for my liking, but the hollandaise wasn’t chemically and the bacon was delicious. The serving size was generous and whilst the decor was simple, it is clearly a popular local haunt.
Bang and Grind, 8/14 Spence Street, Cairns QLD, no website
A lot of my friends are foodies. This usually works out well for me, especially when I visit cities they’ve lived in. Shoya was a fancy dinner choice booked by a colleague, and I feel like I now owe him a very good Adelaide recommendation in return. For me, the dinner at Shoya was all about the sashimi. Yes we had other things, including some excellent ageashi tofu, my first taste of abalone and some very tender, tasty beef. But having visited my favourite sushi bar in Japan recently, finding some good quality, well-sized pieces of raw fish in Australia was such a delight. Each piece was perfectly cut and melted in your mouth – the tuna was a particular highlight and I think I ended up eating more than my fair share. In fact, when it came around to ordering dessert, I looked at my friends and meekly suggested another sashimi plate instead. Luckily they agreed, and we all left with very happy tummies.
Shoya, 25 Market Lane, Melbourne VIC http://www.shoya.com.au
I can’t help but think of Alice in Wonderland when I come here, even though the pub’s name is the only link to Lewis Carroll. I’ve only eaten here twice, once for lunch and once for dinner, but both times I’ve been unable to resist the same item on the menu – the American pulled pork burger. Mmm. There are a lot of places to eat pulled pork in Canberra – it seems to have become fashionable since Smoque opened – but this one is still one of my favourites. The pork is so flavoursome and not overly greasy/oily as others can be. The colesaw is fresh and crispy (the way I like it), and the chips are crunchy on the outside and soft inside – although they could do with some sauce. The staff were very friendly and the pub has a warm atmosphere with a mix of comfy lounges, raised tables with stools and formal dining tables. My friends ordered two pizzas to share between two, and the large size defeated them – luckily takeaway boxes were on hand. Maybe I’ll have to try something different next time – curiouser and curiouser!
Gryphons: 16 Barker Street, Griffith ACT http://gryphons.com.au/home
Having formerly worked in a juice bar as a student, juice is very important to me. I even have my own juicer at home, although I’m usually too lazy to use it because it takes so long to clean. As such I don’t mind paying for juice, especially when I’m out of town. I’d seen a closed-up Pressed store after hours in Adelaide earlier in the year, but was very excited to wander past an open one when I was in Melbourne. I have to admit that the store fit-out drew me in – almost Scandinavian with blonde wood, plants (yay) and rows and rows of beautifully coloured juices. I’m not very adventurous when it comes to juice flavours, but Pressed really encourages you to move away from the traditional apple/orange mixes and pack some veg into your beverage. This time I stuck to something more traditional – green apple, lemon, mint and pineapple – and was rewarded with a tangy, beautifully refreshing juice that brightened up my afternoon. There is a clarity of flavour you get from cold pressed juice that isn’t like anything else. Definitely calls for a #cometocanberra campaign.
Presse Juices: various locations in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide http://www.pressedjuices.com.au/index.php/
I actually can’t keep up with the number of new places in Canberra. It’s like there’s something new opening every week, which is fabulous for the city and concerning for my waistline. Nevertheless, when a friend mentioned there was a new meat-and-scotch place in Braddon I jumped at the chance to try it. We went for dinner on a Monday night, and whilst the music was a bit too loud, the staff were friendly and it was no trouble getting a table. I ordered the bulgogi, lured by the prospect of kimchi ‘slaw (yes please), and wasn’t disappointed! The pork was melt-in-your-mouth tender and cooked in Hopscotch’s Argentine wood-fired grill, which gave it a beautiful smokiness that the pickled ginger cut right through. My friend had the jerk chicken – showing the diverse range of eating traditions the menu draws from – which looked beautiful and came with delicious corn bread. Apparently they’re planning to roast full pigs in the firepit out the front in summer, which could make Lonsdale St feel like someone’s back yard/street party. No complaints here.
Hopscotch, 5 Lonsdale St, Braddon http://www.hopscotchbar.com.au/
I was a bit confused when I first saw the sign for Kong BBQ – it was half written in Japanese, but when I approached the menu looked like Korean fusion. Ok, I don’t mind a bit of cultural confusion, as long as it’s tasty! Luckily despite the language/cuisine conflict, Kong has some very tasty offerings, many of which come with my favourite form of cabbage – kimchi! As a takeaway lunch from the pop up stall in the city, I started with two different buns – the smoked brisket and the spicy pork belly. Both are served in a soft bun and are packed full of flavour and spice (and kimchi). Bring your tissues for runny noses and oozy sauce – not elegant, but when food tastes that good who cares? To finish, I shared a chicken roti roll with lemon and (you guessed it) kimchi – this was far and away the highlight, and I would have eaten two more of them if there was any space left in my stomach.
Kong BBQ, Rue and Co (pop up), 80 Collins Street, Melbourne http://www.kongbbq.com.au/