I usually find myself at Local Press for breakfast, but on my last day before going back to work, I treated myself to a late lunch on a whim. The lunch menu has great seasonal options, and given the heat of the day, I opted for something on the refreshing side – Seared Tuna with furikake rice, house kimchi, pickled vegetables, miso bok choy, edamame puree and togarashi ($24). Phew. Luckily, eating it wasn’t as exhausting as typing it. This is definitely one of the food highlights of 2017 so far – the tuna was beautifully cooked (although one of the three portions was a bit cool by the time it got to the table), and the togarashi seasoning added a nice kick of spice. The accompaniments were well-considered, each adding great flavour and texture, and making the dish easy to eat slowly and savour. The bok choy was crisp and salty, and matched nicely with the heat of the kimchi (soooo good). The rice, well-seasoned, also helped to cool the kimchi heat and helped the dish become filling. The pickled vegetables were a highlight – the cucumber stole the show, although the beetroot and carrot were also tasty. This one is definitely a keeper please Local Press! Can’t wait to order it again!
Local Press, 128 Trevellian Quay, Kingston ACT http://www.localpresscafe.com.au/
Little Bird is one of the nicest mid-range places in Barton for lunch, and, stopping in with a friend on a warm weekday, I was tempted by their salad options. The quinoa and haloumi salad ($17.5) , while not something I would usually order, turned out to be an excellent choice and one I will happily order again. Firstly, the serving is generous, not just in terms of size, but also in terms of grilled chicken, avocado and haloumi content. These folks know how to cook their haloumi, bringing out the natural saltiness with perfectly charred pieces. This is complemented by the creamy avocado and good dose of chipotle hummus, which adds a nice but not-over-the-top kick to the dish, and also removes any risk of the dish being dry. Roasted sweet potato, fresh cherry tomatoes and rocket make up the rest of the salad, creating a good mix of textures and flavours. The quinoa is a great lunch option, not leaving you feeling sluggish in the afternoon and with a drizzle of lemon on top you couldn’t really ask for anything more.
Little Bird, Corner of Macquarie and Broughton Streets, Barton ACT, http://littlebirdbarton.com/
The food at Barrio is never what I expect – they’re always trying something exciting and slightly off-kilter (which I mean in a whole-heartedly positive way). This time I picked their take on a potato salad, but don’t imagine it’s your usual staid boiled-with-mayo affair. No. Here, your potato is candied. What, I hear you ask? Like almonds? Not exactly – the potato is cooked but almost dehydrated, with a texture that reminded me of unknown but delicious vegetables in Japanese supermarket salads (again, a good thing). To contrast this almost sponginess are segments of fresh orange, which add a divine splash of acidity and freshness, slightly bitter green leaves and some sort of split bean/pea thing (woe is me for forgetting to photograph the menu). That’s not to mention the smattering of puffed wheat and fried shallots on top. I ordered this dish with a side of smoked salmon (the recommended optional extra), and was delighted by the three thick, not overpowering slices that brought great balance to the riot of flavours and textures in this salad. The whole thing was nicely complimented by a glass of fresh orange juice; I could have happily had a dozen more glasses as this was the real deal. Never expect the ordinary here.
Barrio Collective Coffee, 59/30 Londale Street, Braddon ACT http://www.barriocc.com/
Part One is here. We were served the prawns and the curried fish salad at the same time, so we left the cold salad until after we’d finished the delectable prawns (I scooped up every last bit of that heavenly sauce!). My only criticism of the night was that too many dishes came out at once, rather than being well-paced over the course of the meal. We had just started the salad when the chicken biryani was served. The salad was the dish of the night for me – the curried ocean trout was tender and flaked into perfect pieces, and the cucumber, celery, onion and green beans were incredibly refreshing after the spicy prawns. We saved a bit to finish with, then got stuck into the biryani, which had been cooked until some of the rice was crisped (like bibimbap). The chicken had some sort of yoghurt coating which was luscious and perfect, and the almonds, herbs and sultanas added hugely to the flavour. Finally, we decided to share a dessert – the coconut sago and mango. We loved the toasted coconut and sesame topping, the pops from the sago pearls, and then deliciously sweet, fresh mango. All in all another spectacular kitchen takeover. Come back again soon?
eightysix, 11 Elouera Street, Braddon ACT http://eightysix.com.au/
I usually stick to the breakfasty items on the menu at Local Press, but this visit was definitely at lunchtime, so I ventured into the actual lunch offerings. I was tempted by the kangaroo sirloin, but being a warm day decided for the cooler salad option – a soy ginger chicken and black sesame Vietnamese salad. The plate came out and I was impressed with the vibrant colours – getting stuck in, the salad was just as fresh as it looked. The snowpeas, capsicum and broccoli were all lovely and crisp, enhanced by the fresh mint and basil and rounded off with a good kick of chilli. The noodles were a bit underdone for my taste, although it made them easy to pick up, and I loved the fresh, tangy flavour of the vinegary sauce. The black sesame and cashews added flavour hits, but the star of the dish was the chicken – beautifully tender and packed full of flavour, these pieces were plentiful and moreish. I also had one of the cold pressed juices – orange, mandarin and passionfruit, which helped me cool down from the chilli. The citrus was sweet and refreshing, and the passionfruit added a nice bite. Lovely.
Local Press, 128 Trevellian Quay, Kingston ACT http://www.localpresscafe.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/
Good gyoza are an amazing thing. One night I went for a wander and found a particularly good gyoza place, although to be honest the only reason I ducked in was a) they had a huge tiger on the side of the building and b) my brain was tired of translating Japanese and the restaurant’s name was in English. It may have been the best decision of the whole trip. We ate four plates of gyoza on the waiter’s recommendation, plus the tomato and avocado salad. The salad had us in raptures – topped with fresh cress and corriander, the avocado and tomato chunks were doused in an oily corriander dressing – we licked those plates clean. Seriously, seriously good salad. The first two plates of gyoza were equally amazing – each plate had six dumplings – one normal-sized the other giant. The giant gyoza (called bukkuri gyoza) were the pick of the menu – packed with pork, crunchy sprouts and cabbage, they were to die for served with the corriander, onion and chilli condiment sauces. We weren’t as keen on the green soup gyoza which came third, but the yuzu gyoza on the final plate were refreshing and incredibly tasty. We dined here twice on this trip and I will most definitely be back.
Tiger Gyoza Hall, Hiroo 5-14-2, Tamachi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Japan (in the backstreets opposite Keio University East Gate)