A Food and Wine Lover's Guide to Spending a Weekend in Canberra
Turn your weekend getaway into an epicurean adventure.
A FOOD AND WINE LOVER'S GUIDE TO SPENDING A WEEKEND IN CANBERRA
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Turn your weekend getaway into an epicurean adventure.
Everyone has different priorities when it comes to planning a holiday. For some, it's a jam-packed itinerary of outdoor adventures. Others may be looking for a place to kick back and relax. But for you, it may be all about seeking out good food and drinks. Hey, we don't blame you. You've got to keep fuel in the tank for that sightseeing.
Canberra is one city that delivers all of the above on a silver platter. A weekend here can be filled with wondrous epicurean delights, plus a hell of a lot of life-affirming tasty vino. You'll find everything from fine dining establishments and cosy wine bars to bustling markets and top-notch wineries. Throw in a few more unique food experiences that you're unlikely to find in your city and you've got yourself a pretty amazing food-filled weekend.
If you're guilty of planning every single meal in advance, right down to the dishes you (and your travelling companion) will order, we've got you covered. Read on to discover five spots around the capital that you must make a stop at on your next trip.
Regional holidays to the ACT are now permitted for some states — check the rules for your own state or territory here. Also, some of the places mentioned below may still be closed or operating differently due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check websites before making any plans.
If you’re going to go to one bar in Canberra, make it Bar Rochford. This sparkling venue was awarded 2018 Bar of the Year by Gourmet Traveller, and there’s no doubt as to why. Prepare to be wowed by the bright decor with moss green accents, a stellar vinyl collection that bellows tune after tune, crisp and innovative cocktails and, most impressively, an expertly chosen wine list.
While this joint is unmistakably a bar — it’s loud and you can definitely expect dancing — the food is far and beyond that of the bar snacks at your local back home. Tuck into snapper ceviche, burrata with persimmon, salt and vinegar sprouts with kimchi and beef with coffee butter — it all sounds pretty rustic but the plates that’ll arrive on your table will rival your favourite fine diner at home. Bar Rochford completely removes the idea of having pre-dinner drinks before moving on to a restaurant. Here, you can just roll it all into one very dapper experience, instead.
These days, most people have a certain something we want to avoid when eating out — whether it’s a personal preference or an allergy. And that can make eating while on holidays especially hard. Well, rest easy, hungry traveller. Maple and Clove, a slick cafe in Barton, has the answer. The wholefoods cafe specialises in hearty, nourishing dishes made with locally sourced seasonal produce. The menu is built around a belief in increasing healthy fats, so expect to see a lot of nuts, avocado, salmon and olive oil on it.
The breakfast menu features a selection of recognisable cafe fare with a healthy twist — think waffles made with wholemeal spelt, zucchini and corn and topped with smashed avocado or an egg white-only omelette with green asparagus and spinach and served with a quinoa salad. At 11.30am, the kitchen starts to dish up a range of lunch items, including grilled barramundi with a maple glaze and raw green salad with chicken breast. Pair your meal with a healthy green smoothie, packed with kiwi fruit, banana, green apple, spinach and ginger, or a super nut smoothie with almond milk, banana, activated almonds and flaxseed. Or, if you want to add a glass of vino to your meal, the venue is fully licensed. You’re on holidays, after all.
Canberra’s fine dining scene has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and Pilot is one of the shining stars of the movement. Pilot takes everything back to basics. The small 30-seater places enormous value on local produce and has a drinks list wholly from Australia. It also sources the tableware (including handcrafted ceramics) and decor from local Canberra artists.
The menu might seem a tad confusing at first, purely because of the mystifying simplicity of the dishes. The cabbage e pepe is a noodle dish (which you’re going to want to recreate at home using this recipe). It sits on the menu alongside a list of other elusively named dishes — think potato salad, zippy salad and potato ice cream. At one stage, it even had a dish simply called ‘tomato’. But, as our hours of watching cooking TV shows have taught us, these dishes are much more complex than they may appear.
Thankfully, the knowledgeable staff are attentive and will spend time explaining the menu in glorious detail. You can opt to dine a la carte or via the prix fixe menu for $90 per person (or $150 with wine pairings) — it features a selection of the kitchen’s favourite dishes, plus some surprise extras. Whatever road you choose, you can’t go wrong.
A day at The Truffle Farm isn’t just about traipsing through a forest or tucking into a fancy dinner — it’s also a learning experience that you never knew you wanted. You can opt for just the truffle hunt experience ($60 per person), which will see you trekking through the Canberra hills with owner Jayson Mesman. Along the way, you’ll learn plenty of facts about truffles and truffle hunting, and find bunches of earthy fungi — with the help of the trained pooches, whose noses will truly amaze you. Afterwards, you’ll head back to the shed for tasting.
Alternatively, you can book in for the brunch option ($148) or the six-course lunch or dinner degustation ($198). Executive chef Damian Brabender will prepare the dishes in front of you using the truffles you just found — and there are opportunities to get involved, too. Not keen on a formal meal? Grab a truffle burg from the casual on-site eatery Funguys, set in a 40-foot shipping container, instead.
For food, wine and plenty of good times, head to refined diner Rebel Rebel. Located in the New Acton precinct, this eatery is led by chef Sean McConnell (Monster Kitchen and Bar). From its decor to its website, Rebel Rebel is unapologetically cool. Food-wise, expect the likes of poached eggs with salmon belly for breakfast, oysters with pomelo and pink peppercorn, sardine piadina, smoked beef tartare with whipped tahini and zhoug, and a meatball panino. Oh and the corn and manchego croquette with prawn head aioli is a must-order. The drinks list is impressive, too, with craft beer, small-batch gins and natural wines from around the world.
Image: Nathan Harradine-Hale
To discover more top-notch food and drink experiences to have in Canberra, head to VisitCanberra and start planning your next city break.
Top image: Rebel Rebel, Nathan Harradine-Hale