I love Two Before Ten in Aranda, and was excited to hear they’ve taken over the space that was occupied by 79 & Fine in the city. The decor hasn’t changed much, but the menu is certainly more expansive than its predecessor’s. I ordered a fresh juice, which unfortunately tasted awful, so the staff kindly replaced it with a bottled juice. So it was a disappointing start, but when my breakfast arrived, all was redeemed. I ordered the Brown Bear ($13) – a boiled egg with avocado and a rye muffin, with mushrooms. The plate was beautifully presented, and my egg, when opened, was cooked to perfection. The salad greens on the side added a hit of fresh, crispness that complemented the other textures nicely. Both the egg and the avocado were nicely seasoned (I do love a good smattering of pepper) and the rye muffin wasn’t too heavy, as I often find rye to be. On the other hand, it wasn’t so light as to not be filling, so the balance was just right. The mushrooms did steal the show a bit – juicy, earthy and salty, I scooped these up with no remorse. A perfect weekday breakfast in town.
Two Before Ten, 1 Hobart Place, Canberra ACT, http://www.twobeforeten.com.au/
I’d never been to the Torrens shops before, but my friend booked us in for their first high tea and I will certainly be back. We were greeted with a glass of sparkling on arrival, and then the food began to flow. One of the highlights of this high tea was the fresh serving of each savoury piece, rather than all being lumped together to go stale/cold on a tray. Classy. First up were two mini sausage rolls, pork and lamb, served with a tomato relish. The pastry was crisp and buttery, and both had great flavour. This was followed up by the ‘Caesar salad in a pastry shell’ (refreshing) and finger sandwiches, which were perfectly fresh (no stale bread here!). The savoury highlight was a haloumi, preserved lemon and mint pastry roll – I could have eaten fifty of them! So good. There was a nice break between servings, and then came dessert. The tiered tray held 3 different goodies – scones with jam and cream already applied, mini raspberry and Oreo cheesecakes and mini chocolate brownies. Small portions turned out to be essential, as both mini desserts were super tasty and rich! The scones were also lovely, and went nicely with the tea, coffee or hot chocolates we picked. For $40, this is certainly one of the best value, high quality (although casual) high teas in town.
Smogue, 2/24 Torrens Pl, Torrens ACT
Those who know me know I’m partial to a G&T, so when I heard icecream genius Mr Frugii was doing a G&T sorbet, I put it on my Canberra foodie ‘must-try’ list. That was more than 12 months ago, and I FINALLY managed to visit when it was on offer! Unlike the usual Frugii fare, this sorbet is more like a jelly version and comes in a tube kind of like an icypole for grown ups. Firstly, let me say, the flavour is excellent. Made with local The Canberra Distillery Gin, the rich juniper flavour leaves you in no doubt this is a G&T. Secondly, the texture is an absolute delight. Because it’s hand-held, it does melt a little quicker than the usual icecream or sorbet, but the slightly jelly-like smoothness keeps the sorbet together to be eaten from the tube. The portion is smaller than a standard flavour serve, but given the alcohol content, maybe that’s a good thing! I also found that by the end it was a little tricky to get out of the tube, but other than that, it exceeded my (high) expectations. Go team Frugii! Champagne sorbet is my next boozy bucket-list flavour goal!
Frugii Dessert Laboratory, 30 Lonsdale Street, Braddon ACT, http://www.frugii.com/
Chez Frederic has been getting a lot of my business lately – I’d forgotten how amazing it is, and this is no more evident than in my new favourite dish – the Aglio e olio ($12), one of the simplest, but most delicious, pasta dishes I’ve had in Canberra. There’s not too much to write here – this dish is authentic in its simplicity, with extra virgin olive oil, parsley, garlic and chilli, plus your choice of pasta, but somehow these ingredients come together in an explosion of flavour that takes me back to Italy. The pasta was cooked al dente, and the portion was huge – although I was greedy and ate most of it! There is a lot of oil, which makes the pasta nice and glossy, and the kick of chilli is lovely at the back of the throat. I can’t believe that so much flavour is extracted simply from parsley and olive oil, but there’s nothing else there to do it. Magic. I also treated myself to a side of garlic bread ($3.5), which was super garlicky and very, very yummy (useful to balance the chilli too). I’ll be back for this again soon.
Chez Frederic: 4/14 Lonsdale St, Braddon ACT, http://www.chezfrederic.com.au/
It has been way too hot to cook lately, so I met a friend at Betti Bravo’s for dinner to let them do the cooking. I started with a Mojito mocktail, which was refreshing with mint, soda and lime and, more importantly, a lot of ice. Our first plate was the Salted Cod Croquetas ($11, 3 to a serve) – these were beautifully fluffy on the inside, although the cod flavour was rather subtle for my expectations. I loved the spicy dipping sauce too – more please! Next was the Mexican Street Corn ($15, 4 to a serve), topped with chipotle aioli (seriously good), iberico cheese and lime. The lime really made this dish – there was heaps of cheese and the flavours worked in perfect tandem. For the main, we ordered the Paella with King Prawns ($33) and a Mixed Leaf Salad ($12) to lighten the load. The prawns were amazingly good, as were the mussels and pieces of fish and calamari (the latter two both plentiful) in the dish, and I loved the soft-but-not-gluggy texture they achieved. My friend, however, pointed out that there were no beautiful crispy bits of rice on the bottom, meaning it wasn’t served in the pan it was cooked in (a no-no for paella, apparently). The salad was simple and refreshing, and we were both glad of not having to do any dishes in this heat!
Betti Bravo’s, 6/2 Trevillian Quay, Kingston ACT, http://bettibravos.com.au/
I hadn’t really noticed the lack of Greek food in Canberra until my friend and I were perusing the menu at Zeus. Newly opened, Zeus offers classic pita and souvla, plus a selection of sweets. I ordered the Spartan Box with lamb ($16.5 + $2 for lamb), which is essentially 140g of lamb served on top of a delicate mixed rice pilaf, with sides of tzatziki and coleslaw. We also ordered a side of fetta & oregano chips to share ($9.5) – these weren’t strictly necessary, but they were tasty! The fetta fell off easily, so we learned to skewer them with our forks, and I thought the chips could have used a tad longer in the frier, but I’d happily chow on these again. The lamb in the Spartan Box was tender and tasty, with a reasonable amount of fat and a fairly magical rub on the outer pieces (give me more of those bits please, especially drizzled with fresh lemon!). The ‘slaw had beautifully fresh walnuts inside, and the tzatziki matched the lamb well. We were also offered a complimentary plate of loukoumades (usually $8) for dessert. I’d eaten way too much already, but these Greek doughnuts are drizzled in a super tasty cinnamon-dusted honey and walnuts, so I forced myself to have one. Yum, yum, yum. Can’t wait to come back and try the pitas!
Zeus Street Greek, Shop 7/21 Genge Street, Canberra City, ACT, http://zeusstreetgreek.com.au/
As you may be aware, XO is one of my favourite restaurants in Canberra, and I made it my first stop for dinner after coming back from holidays. My friend and I decided to only order dishes we hadn’t tried before, and so started with the KFC wings, marinated in buttermilk and served with kewpie mayonnaise ($10). It was a very good place to start. The wings had a perfectly crisp coating on the outside, but were beautifully tender and underneath. Kewpie was a perfect match and we didn’t speak much while devouring the portion. Next up was the sexy squid with sweet chilli salt ($16). This was another winner, and with a drizzle of lime on top, the combination of flavours really packed a punch. Finally, we had the Lo Bak Gou as our large plate, which is a radish gnocchi served in prawn chilli butter, with dehydrated scallop, prawn, lap cheong and dusted with umami ash ($30). This was probably the pick of the bunch. The gnocchi parcels were delightfully fluffy, and didn’t sit heavily in the stomach the way traditional gnocchi does. The seafood toppings were a punch of flavour, and the umami ash added to the mix. Maybe not the healthiest choices, but certainly tasty ones!
XO, 16 Iluka Street, Narrabundah ACT, http://www.xo-restaurant.com.au