It’s hard to keep up with all the new cafes opening in Canberra, but when I heard about Muse, a cafe/restaurant/bookshop, it went to the top of the list. We booked in on a Sunday morning and were all delighted by the space; despite the industrial feel with concrete floors, it wasn’t very noisy and fresh flowers added a nice style element. The menu had some exciting options, and I went with the most unusual – brown rice with avocado, beef tapa, chilli jam and a fried egg. As it came to the table, we could all smell the garlic rice aroma and I was delighted to see that the dish looked like bibimbap. I wasn’t disappointed flavour-wise – the beef was a bit sweet and tender, the fried egg was oozy and salty, and the garlic rice was a dream. I appreciated the fresh carrot to break up the heaviness of the rest of the dish. Our drinks arrived much later than our food, but I loved my fresh lemon and ginger tea – it was literally those two things in hot water and was the perfect digestive at the end of a lovely breakfast. I can’t wait to come back!
Muse, East Hotel, 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston ACT http://www.musecanberra.com.au/#welcome
Miss Peaches promises soul food, and that’s what we went seeking on a chilly Wednesday night. Bringing Southern American to Newtown, Miss Peaches takes up the space formerly occupied by the Marly Bar. We arrived as they opened, and snagged a table overlooking the street, after admiring the art in the hallway. Their cocktail list sounds fantastic (will have to go back for that), but we got right into the food. I ordered the smoked brisket po’boy, which comes with onions, pickles, mustard and gravy, as well as a serve of fries. The po’boy itself was a good size, and was packed with thickly-shredded brisket doused in gravy. Mmm. I am a huge fan of pickles and there was a very generous amount in the roll, which was light and just the right thickness. It’s not an elegant meal to eat, but dipping the fries into the gravy was particularly satisfying and delicious. Dad tried the gumbo – it was very spicy, but had a great complex flavour that I would probably have enjoyed more with a touch less spice. We were there very early, but I can imagine a really great atmosphere with some live music on a weekend. Soul food? Fo’ sho’.
Miss Peaches, 201 Missenden Road, Newtown, Sydney http://www.misspeaches.com.au/
On my visit to The Market Shed’s Twilight Market, my friend and I scoured the stalls looking for the beautiful mini doughnuts posted on Instagram. After getting through a couple of savoury courses, we found them – success! There were six flavours on offer ($6 per doughnut) and we picked one each – Turkish delight and peanut butter. Disclaimer – we didn’t get to eat these on the night so refrigerated them overnight to taste test the next day. Raw Karma’s doughnuts are vegan, paleo, and gluten-free, and wow are they filling! Whilst they may look small, the dough is less of a dough and more like a fudge – dense and packed full of flavour. The peanut butter doughnut is topped with dark chocolate and crumbled peanuts – it could have had a stronger peanut flavour, but the chocolate is decadently rich. The Turkish delight leaves you in no doubt that’s the flavour you’re enjoying – the rose flavour is beautifully fragrant and cuts through the richness of the chocolate. I’d recommend getting these to share or eat over sometime, as they’re really very dense, but they’re absolutely delicious!
Raw Karma, fortnightly stall at The Market Shed, Holland St, Adelaide SA http://rawkarma.com/
Ladies and gentlemen of Canberra, how is it that none of you have told me about this place before?! Oh my! I was feeling very lazy on a Friday night and driving through Kingston, I decided to treat myself to pizza for dinner – I saw the sign for Pizza Arte and went in, keen to try something different. Pizza Arte dishes up woodfired pizzas that are cooked while you wait (if you didn’t order ahead, like me) – and cooked fast. I ordered a small ($13) Marinara, and sat there for less than 10 minutes before my pizza was ready. Wow. I took it home to devour, and devour it I did! The base was lovely and thin, and had a beautiful smoky charring around the edges, making it nice and crisp. The toppings were perfection – kalamata olives, capers and anchovies – all incredibly tasty (and salty), and in authentic Italian proportions (i.e. just enough). What really surprised me was the huge flavour packed into the tomato base sauce – wow. I noticed that they sell jars of it, so on my next Friday night pizza run, I’ll definitely snap one up to try. Serious pizza love.
Pizza Arte, 13 Leichhardt Street, Kingston ACT, http://www.pizzaarte.com.au/
A perfect spring day really does call for icecream, so we stopped in at Gelato Messina in Surry Hills. I love the vibrant colours and huge spheres of icecream in the display cabinet at Messina stores, and this one was no exception. The sorbets at the entrance caught my eye and I ordered a cup of the raspberry and mandarin sorbets ($6.80 for two scoops). The bottom scoop of mandarin was a bit bigger than the top scoop of raspberry, but the whole serving together was massive and I took my time enjoying it at the park across the road. I won’t talk too much about texture, because by the time I crossed the road the sun had started melting the edges and it went downhill from there (as to be expected), but the flavours were fantastic. The raspberry had a particularly intense flavour that is probably the most concentrated pure raspberry flavoured sorbet I’ve tried. The balance betwen tartness and sweetness was just right. The mandarin flavour was equally lovely – it was really juicy and whilst not as intense, it was beautifully refreshing and had real clarity of flavour. Ah Messina, you never fail to impress.
Gelato Messina, 389 Crown Street, Surry Hills, NSW http://www.gelatomessina.com/au/
My team organised a lunch at Bookplate, the cafe at the National Library of Australia, which has come under new ownership this year. The menu is varied and extensive, making it hard to pick just one thing. One of my favourite lighter meals is a caesar salad, which was my pick on this visit. Whilst you have to order at the counter, meals are brought out to you – we sat under the beautiful stained glass windows. The salad was elegantly presented in a reasonable-sized bowl. This caesar was all about the individual flavours – the pancetta was beautifully crispy and salty, the lettuce really fresh, and the spring onion added a kick. I am a sucker for good croutons, and these were right up there, although a little hard to cut. My only complaint was the lack of dressing – a good, oily caesar dressing would have gone better than the sparing daubs of a creamy version. For dessert I ordered one of the giant hazelnut meringues in the cake cabinet – it was heavenly! There was a lovely balance of crispy outer and gooey inner and the hazelnut flavour was just perfect throughout. Oh yes, I’ll be back.
Bookplate, National Library of Australia, Parkes Place, Parkes ACT http://bookplate.com.au/
One of the best things about visiting Tokyo is getting to catch up with old friends. On this visit, my friend suggested meeting at Afternoon Tea in Marunouchi, near Tokyo station. We arrived to find an elegant cafe with a great view out over the city – the tables had fresh green flowers on them and the seats were welcoming and comfortable. There’s also a lovely homewares store out the front of the cafe, which we spent some time browsing afterwards. There was plenty to choose from on the menu, but having already had lunch, we decided to stick with the drinks (although the scones sounded tempting!). After much deliberation, I chose the orange iced tea, which was an earl grey mixed with orange. It came out and immediately looked refreshing with a vibrant orange colour, a segment of orange and a sprig of mint on top. Given how warm the day was this was exactly what the doctor ordered. The flavour was stronger on the orange than the earl grey and was quite sweet. I couldn’t imagine a better setting in this city for afternoon tea or meeting lovely friends.
Afternoon Tea, 4F Shin-Marunouchi Building, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo Japan http://www.afternoon-tea.net/
When a friend mentioned that the Hyatt was doing a series of Latin Flavours feasts from around South America, we booked in quick smart for the Argentine one. We were met with one of the best buffets I’ve ever seen in my life. There were three buffet stations, PLUS a stand from which to get your cooked goat. Swoon. I started with seafood – cold crabmeat, octopus salad and fresh prawns, plus oysters and mussels. I also fell in love with the beetroot salad. Oh my. Next was the red meat – rib eye steak in chimmichurri, goat, mini empanadas stuffed with beef and cheese, cheesy cabbage rolls and a selection of cold meats (chorizo, jamon and salami). By this point my initial goal of three savoury and two sweet rounds was seeming overly ambitious. I ditched savoury and loaded up my plate with a melt-in-your-mouth mango cake (I don’t think they have mangoes in Argentina, but who cares?), churros dipped in chocolate from the chocolate fountain, dulce de leche pancakes, strawberries and cream and quince tart. The tango demonstration was a good digestion pause before cheese to finish. There are a couple more nights left (Venezuela and Mexico) so get in quick!
Promenade Cafe, Hyatt Hotel Canberra, 120 Commonwealth Avenue ACT http://canberra.park.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html
Last time we went to Westside, my friend got a sandwich from The One and I promised myself I would get it on my next visit. So, instead of making a beeline for Miss Van’s, I branched out. The One offers a range of meat-packed sandwiches and tacos, and I was tempted by the promise of pickles on their Cubanos – slow-cooked pork, pickles, onion, leg honey ham, mustard and cheese, toasted. I chose the large size ($12.50), but it ended up being large enough for two lunches (!) so I would probably get the small size ($8.50) next time. This sandwich was to die for. I LOVED IT. Firstly the pork. There was LOTS of it – I’m talking tender, tasty, melt-in-your-mouth – and it went perfectly with the slightly sweet honey ham. There were plenty of bits of pickle throughout, and what really kicked the whole thing into the ‘out of this world good’ category was the mustard. I really loved the buttered American-style bun too. Ok, I loved everything about it, and, bonus, I got to enjoy the second half the next day. Get on it people, this is the real deal.
The One, Westside Acton, 3 Barrine Drive, Acton ACT https://www.westsideactonpark.com.au/the-one/
I rarely come to this end of Civic, but was happy to make the trek to try out Milk Crate Cafe, a slightly hidden but exciting new cafe bringing a bit of New York to Canberra. All of the seating is outdoors, spilling out onto the pavement in the little urban courtyard. The staff are really friendly and when I arrived there was a steady flow of people coming in for coffee. I ordered the Istanbul Roll, which came with poached eggs, sucuk (a spicy Turkish sausage), grilled haloumi and homemade tomato relish. The roll was presented unlike any I’ve seen before, with a crisp, flaky Turkish bread lining a tin, and the filling topped inside. Unfortunately the poached eggs were cooked through, but that was the only downside. The sausage was delightfully spicy and the tomato relish had a rich, deep flavour and stopped the dish from being dry. The grilled haloumi was thin as crispbread and had a fabulous salty kick, and I loved mopping up the relish with the unusual bread. Get the eggs right guys and this is a real winner – and at only $9.50, great value too.
Milk Crate Cafe, Shop 6, 12 Moore Street, Canberra ACT, http://milkcratecafe.com.au/