Canberra is entirely to blame for my love of Filipino food – luckily, Lolo and Lola can help me feed the habit started by Kusina! The latest shipping container store to open at Westside, Lolo and Lola (formerly Waterhouse Bakery) offer fresh Filipino dishes and cakes with a menu that changes daily. I went on a Friday and ordered the Grilled Pork Tocino ($12) – cured sweet pork slices served with rice and a tomato salad – to takeaway. The portion size is fantastic – exactly the right amount of food for lunch, and I was impressed by the amount of pork in the serve. The meat was amazingly delicious – sweet as the menu says, but also very tender. The spring onion sprinkled on top helped to lift the flavour and I loved the way some of the sweet coating from the pork oozed onto the rice, which I’m sure was infused with garlic (yum). The tomato salad had wedges of fresh tomato, slices of red onion and cucumber it was really refreshing to contrast the heavier pork and rice, but I’ll save this dish for weekends as the raw onion was strong and not ideal for going back to work! I’d very happily order this dish again and can’t wait to try more from the exciting menu!
Lolo and Lola, Westside Acton, 3 Barrine Drive, Acton ACT, no website
Gondola Gondola is my new happy place. I started with the Weaboo cocktail ($18) – rum, yuzu liqueur, nashi pear shrub, lime, mint and soda. This drink was basically refreshment in a glass, well-balanced and perfect for a hot day. Up first was the salt and pepper bean curd ($12), fried so lightly that it formed the thinnest, most perfect skin over the soft curd inside. It’s super salty (in a good way), and the salad it’s served on packs some heat and epic ginger action! There were a generous 6 pieces to enjoy. Next up was the banh xeo (Vietnamese pancake, $22) with pork mince, prawn and sprouts, served with lettuce, purple leaves, mint, coriander, carrot and pickled cabbage. Whilst it looked big, this was a fairly light dish – a bit like san choi bao in that you wrap the ingredients in the lettuce and add sauce. Messy, but a great mix of textures and flavours – the coriander in particular brings it all to life. Finally, we had the bun cha ($22), which was our pick of the night – the pork was utter perfection, with a super crispy skin and tender meat, plus the noodles were fabulous! Everything here is packed full of flavour and perfect – take me back!
Gondola Gondola, 1 Peel Street, Adelaide SA, http://www.gondolagondola.com.au
I dined as a guest of Remi Food & Wine Bar. Tucked away in the sleek ground floor of 14 Moore Street, Remi has recently come under new management and offers a great value menu breakfast. I chose a comfort food favourite, shakshuka ($14) and a glass of fresh orange juice ($6), made from oranges from Leeton NSW. The juice was served with ice in a large glass, and the shakshuka was nicely presented on a wooden board with a huge pile of sourdough. I was surprised at the generous three eggs included in the dish and only one of the three had just gone past the point of being poached; the other two oozed perfectly into the tomato sauce. The dish itself was full of spinach and tomato, and whilst I would have liked a greater kick of heat, there was great depth of flavour and the sauce was well seasoned. The sourdough was excellent quality and again, I was surprised by how much was included. The service was friendly and prompt, leaving me with the impression of a good, mid-range breakfast venue doing simple classics well.
Remi Food & Wine Bar, 14 Moore Street, Civic ACT, no website
Another ‘wish-I-was-in-Singapore’ flashback! I am a bit of a snacker, and no more so when I’m in a country for the first time, burning energy exploring and trying to find stomach space to eat all of the things. As such, when we arrived in Singapore and had waited a good hour for an issue with our hotel booking to be resolved, I was on a mission to find some food. Luckily, we didn’t have to go far. Old Chang Kee’s street-side booth beckoned, luring us with delicious curry scents and the promise of trying a local snack food. I ordered a single curry puff, which was presented piping hot in a bright yellow bag, which I let cool a bit before tasting. I was surprised at how thick the pastry was, but was immediately converted by the incredible filling. A dense mix of chicken, egg and potato, the curry filling was fantastically rich and spicy and jam-packed into the shell. By then I was appreciating the spice-neutralising effect of the thick pastry – although it wasn’t an unpleasant amount of spice – and the mix of textures. The puff was really filling and a perfect snack for the hungry traveller.
Old Chang Kee, Paragon Shopping Centre, 290 Orchard Road #B1-10 Singapore http://www.oldchangkee.com/
Avesta has opened in the space previously occupied by Pheast, adding a meat/smokehouse and Kurdish flavour to the menu. We had a group of 12 booked for lunch, and were told to sit anywhere (no table prepared for us), so we gathered the outdoor tables and set up to enjoy the warm afternoon. Things here are still a bit new – staff are still getting to know the menu and the register system, but after a long ordering process, the food came out quite quickly. I ordered the Qaisy ($25.50), a Kurdish beef and apricot dish served with almond and raisin garnished rice. The portion was the perfect size for lunch and I really enjoyed the plentiful, tender pieces of beef. The apricots had leeched their flavour into the sauce, leaving their hydrated forms with little more than texture, but the sauce had a lovely depth of flavour (but no heat). The rice was perfectly cooked and I liked being able to dip my spoon of rice into the sauce, rather than having it all in one bowl. The almonds and raisins added great texture and I would have happily added more on top. The food was slightly pricey for what it is, but everyone enjoyed their meals.
Avesta, 2 Furneaux Street, Griffith ACT, http://www.avesta.net.au/
Adelaide is definitely going through a burger phase, and personally, I hope it’s here to stay. The latest addition to the burger scene is Burganomix, offering classic, fresh burgers the way I remember them from my childhood. I ordered the Nomix ($16), basically the burger with the lot – patty, mayo, beetroot, fried egg, tomato, lettuce, pineapple, pancetta, onion, pickles (seriously, as if the beetroot and pineapple wasn’t enough of my favourite things on burgers) and chutney. Phew. Served on a cradboard tray with a small handful of fries, the burger was huge – both hands required! This is what burgers used to be like, packed full of fresh ingredients to the point where it’s hard to eat without making a mess. The patty was thin, but nicely herbed, and somehow all the fillings went together. Ok, she’s not the most sophisticated dame at the ball, but damn that burger was delicious. And the fries were perfect – soft inside, crispy outside. Don’t forget to say hi to Jack, the friendly proprietor, who takes the time to chat to all his customers. Yep, everything here is good and old-fashioned, just the way I like it.
Burganomix, 2/1 Colley Terrace, Glenelg SA, http://www.burganomix.com.au/
I haven’t been to Sammy’s Kitchen in such a long time, so I was excited when we organised a work lunch there. On arrival, you notice the lovely plates with Japanese words for fruit and vegetables on them – I had persimmon on mine. We went for the $26.50 per person banquet option, starting with spring rolls and prawn toast. Guys, this is one of the biggest prawn toasts I’ve ever had, and it was amazing – entirely covered in sesame seeds and with heaps of lovely prawn meat inside, I’d come back just for this. But then we had the shantung chicken, and it got even better. Oh hello crispy skin and tender meat and unctuous sauce – get in my belly! Also a dish to come back for. Repeatedly. The beef rendang again had very tender meat and wasn’t overly spicy, and the sizzling prawns in XO sauce disappeared quickly – delicious! We were all getting very full by the time the bean curd and vegetables came out, but again this was a winner, with everyone making just that bit more stomach space to fit it in. The banquet was amazing and great value for the price.
Sammy’s Kitchen, 9 Bunda Street, Civic ACT http://www.sammyskitchen.com.au/
As part of the Weekend Bliss package for the Summerside Festival, we had lunch at Four Winds Vineyard before heading on to Robyn Rowe chocolates for dessert. The $36 package included a hot chocolate (your choice between milk or dark) and one of six desserts, all with a chocolate theme. I picked the ‘chocolate cup’, with a chocolate cup filled with chocolate and vanilla icecream, plus a chocolate spoon and a choice of any two truffles. I was delighted by the chocolate butterfly perched on top of the icecream; both icecream flavours were luscious and creamy and perfect for a hot day. I particularly enjoyed the chocolate flavour, which had great depth and was very moreish. I chose the milk hot chocolate and dissolved my chocolate spoon inside – mmm, so much chocolately goodness! The truffles were a real highlight – I picked the Clonakilla muscat and the orange cream truffles. Both were beautifully tasty, the muscat sweet and rich, the orange light and fluffy. Although I still had order envy over the cassata my friend chose (next time). Robyn was very welcoming, talking us through everything and explaining that the store hosts local art exhibitions (how lovely!) – we left in happy food comas all.
Robyn Rowe Chocolates, 1153 Nanima Road, Murrumbateman NSW, http://www.robynrowechocolates.com.au/
Canberrans, clear your weekends! My friends and I took advantage of the Weekend Bliss package as part of the Summerside Festival. For $36, you receive a glass of wine and a woodfired pizza from Four Winds Vineyard, and a hot chocolate and dessert plate from Robyn Rowe Chocolates – what more could you want? Four Winds has a lovely restaurant space; spilling out onto the lawns in front of the vines are tables on the porch and more tables covered by shadecloth. I chose the 2015 Riesling, which was a great match for the pizza – light, not overly acidic and fresh, it was perfect for a warm summer’s day. There were four pizza choices, but I couldn’t go past the February special of fresh tomato with fennel and garlic sugo, topped with slices of mozzarella (usually $15). The wood oven sits outside so you can watch your lunch cook – our food took a little while to arrive, but was fresh out of the oven when it did. The pizza I loved the charred effect and the fresh burst of flavour from the tomatoes. I would have liked a touch more salt, and the base wasn’t crispy the whole way through, but the subtle fennel and garlic sugo was divine and the mozzarella was a great cheese match for the flavours. A nice part one to our bliss package! Part two to follow on Monday.
Four Winds, 9 Pateman Lane, Murrumbateman NSW, http://fourwindsvineyard.com.au/
Weekend Bliss packages are available every weekend in February, available at the cellar door or online at: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/the-weekend-bliss-package-tickets-21103984586