When we lost yet another trip to Melbourne to lockdown (this is three and counting), we were left lost and last-minute, with no plans for the long weekend. Free accomodation courtesy of family, plus a few fabulous recommendations from friends later, we were on our way to Canberra. And you know what – there were quite a few moments where we had to remind ourselves we hadn’t somehow made our way to Victoria. These were a few of them.
Tucked down a small alley off Lonsdale Street, is Kyo Coffee Project. A quaint little nook in the wall, with seemingly never enough seats, its got bottomless batch, warm bowls of congee and chilli eggs, and ceramics cups that feel so good clasped in your hands.
Something I’ve started to become more conscious of over the last few years, is how much I hammer in to a holiday. He generally provides a list of coffee shops, and me the restaurants, bars, shops and stays. Together, more often than not, we end up eating enough for a trip eight times as long as the one we’re on. But we’re both into it.
But this time I made sure to factor in more activities that didn’t involve eating, such as this one – a short trip to Shepard’s Lookout.
Too much time spent staring at scenery meant that by the time we made it to our lunch plans, they were closed. This is where having an abundant list comes in handy – and all of a sudden we were seated smack-bang in the middle of Rebel Rebel.
Beef tartare with pickles and the hottest hot English mustard, sugarloaf cabbage with whipped tahini and harrisa oil, and eggplant with ‘nduja, almond and cucumber (because cucumber is making a comeback). All that and more was shovelled up with souvenir spoons and swished back with a Wildflower X Ravensworth “Bright Side” Gamay, which is a beer brewed with grapes, and in this case smoke-tainted ones from the 2020 bushfires. Smokey, sweet, and something really special.
Having gone all fine-dining for lunch, I wanted to try something different for dinner, and landed on a local haunt called Happy’s. With all the trappings of Sydney institution “Chinese Noodle House” in Haymarket (which goes by a variety of names including “Grape Vines” and “that cheap Chinese place in Haymarket), needless to say I was excited. Framed in lights and located down twisting stair cases, I felt confident that anyone who made it to the bottom knew they were in for a treat.
While there was no plastic grapes hanging from the ceiling, and the bound menu was a step up from the sticky laminated paper you get at Chinese Noodle House, the food came just as quickly and was plated just as eloquently. And just the way I like it, to be fair. It took us a while to navigate the 21 page menu, another affectionate quirk, but we would definitely recommend the Shandong Chicken from the chef’s menu.
Then, in lieu of a reservation at Monster Kitchen, we headed for a night-cap at the bar. A slick, bespoke space inside Ovolo Nishi (formerly Hotel Hotel). He couldn’t get over the clever use of “cheap” materials like cinderblocks and reclaimed construction timbers, while I was tried not to be tempted by the “suite” dessert on the menu, which included heading upstairs to one of the hotels rooms.
The next morning we had breakfast where we’d planned to have lunch the day before, Intra. With a head-to-tail approach to the menu, they make cheese out of leftover milk, give food scraps to local chicken farms, send coffee grounds to schools to use for compost, and try to experiment with unusual cuts of meat. I had the sausage and egg he had pea, mint and butterbean smash with fermented chilli on toast. Yahhhh-mmm.
Conveniently, right next door is Paranormal Wines. Too early to drink, but not to takeaway, we scoured the shelves and selected a tasty sucker we’re planning on taking to Newcastle on an upcoming trip. If we make it there.
Packing in another non-eating-or-drinking activity to our trip, we headed off to the National Arboretum. Not sure what that is? Neither did I. The website describes it as “a mosaic of living forests and gardens offering breathtaking views”, and that feels pretty accurate as we walked around a bonsai exhibition with trees dating back to the 19th century, looked out across sweeping views of Canberra and wandered around a cork forest where you could see the remnants of the cutting and toadstools the size of my hand.
While we were there, the National Portrait Gallery was hosting the Australian Love Stories exhibition. From the famous to the forbidden, creative partnerships and family ties, it was a beautiful collection of pieces with stories to share. Along with the rest of the gallery with its stunning snaps.
To pass time in the afternoon we hired two of the many scooters dotted around the streets around the Art Gallery. Your first ride is free for 10 minutes, but we had too much fun and ended up scooting around for half an hour.
Dinner that night was at newly opened Inka, a Peruvian-Japanese fusion. The space looked like something out of a movie, and while the food wasn’t quite as fused as I’d dreamed, it was still delicious. I did spy RAKU across the road though, which quickly went on my ‘for-next-time’ list. If you’re looking for a special treat dinner though, I still can’t go past Pilot. Pricey, yes, but oh my goodness, still possibly the best food I’ve ever had.