A weekend in Canberra shows a new side to our nation’s capital.
In the past, the word “cool” has only been applied to Canberra in reference to a nippy July morning. However, with the advent of the NewActon precinct, complete with its idiosyncratic spelling and community vegetable patch, it’s time to take another look. Young entrepreneurs, experimental architects and more students than ever are helping to turn the city into a mecca of cool.
A weekend in the capital city definitely means visits to the national gallery and the Australian War Memorial but now it can also include Canberra’s first rooftop bar overlooking Lake Burley Griffin, shopping for handmade wares at the Old Bus Depot Markets and cold-drip coffee.
The 68-room Hotel Hotel is groundbreaking – and not just for Canberra. There’s really nothing else like it in Australia, which means that it made Canberra a talking point when it popped up a couple of years ago. The precinct of NewActon, fittingly for Canberra, was carefully planned – but not by bureaucrats and public servants. Instead, it’s the result of the collaboration of creatives, architects and designers – and its crowning glory is Hotel Hotel.
Located in the Nishi building, which also houses apartments and commercial spaces, Hotel Hotel is guided by sustainable practices. Its stunning foyer is made up of 2250 pieces of recycled timber and in its suites are pieces of restored furniture or bespoke designs made from salvaged materials. The rooms come in four categories: Cosy, Original, Creative and Meandering. They all have original artworks, fabulous mid-century Australian furniture and clay-rendered walls, plus minibars filled with locally made goodies.
The bathrooms are enormous, with a rain shower, Aesop bath products, heated floors and luxurious bathrobes made in Melbourne by Elizabeth Pertile.
The huge open-plan foyer/restaurant/bar is a gathering place for locals as well as visitors and guests. Entering via the grand staircase showcases the area’s charm, with its towering stacks of vintage suitcases, enormous open fireplaces and light installation. Nishi also houses a cinema, an art gallery and a hair salon.
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Monster Kitchen and Bar
Hotel Hotel’s restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as killer cocktails and a late-night bar food menu, plus coffee and pastries can be obtained any time of day. The restaurant embraces multiculturalism, heading from Greece to China and many places in between. The bar menu is perfect for sharing – try the 38-hour pork-neck bao and crisp fried quail with sriracha.
25 Edinburgh Avenue, NewActon
Mocan & Green Grout
A small community has sprung up around the Nishi building, which means an incredible breakfast is just steps away from Hotel Hotel. Mocan & Green Grout sources produce from local surrounding farms and serves up fair-trade coffee. To experience what Mocan & Green Grout is all about, order the baked eggs with charred eggplant, harissa and Meredith chevre.
1/19 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra
Look no further than Pialligo Estate’s Farmhouse Restaurant for a long, leisurely lunch. A short drive from the city centre, the vineyard’s restaurant oozes a warm, rustic charm and serves up some of the most sophisticated farm-to-table dishes in Canberra. Try dishes such as Kangaroo Island scallops with butternut squash, Lady Elliot Island bug tail with white polenta and smoked eel and chestnut gnocchi with salsify and shiitake mushrooms. We recommend the six-course tasting menu with matching wines. Be warned, the restaurant is popular so it’s best to book in advance.
18 Kallaroo Road, Pialligo
For dinner, make your way to the trendy suburb of Braddon. The buzz at Eightysix is hard to find elsewhere in the nation’s capital. The seasonal menu is ever-changing and is scrawled across the blackboard on the left-hand side of the restaurant. Dishes are designed to share but when it comes to dessert, order one for yourself. You won’t want to share Eightsix’s famous caramel popcorn sundae.
Mode 3, Elouera street and Lonsdale streets, Braddon
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For a few hours of boutique shopping, head to Braddon’s Lonsdale Street. The Ori building is a mecca for homewares, clothing and accessories. Don’t visit without stopping off at beloved local fashion emporium Rebel Muse and the newly opened shoe shop Peachy Keen. For those needing a hit of caffeine, Barrio Collective makes some of Canberra’s best coffee. Alternatively, head across the road to the esteemed Lonsdale Street Roasters. For a vintage find, venture down Lonsdale Street towards the city and stop at Designer Op Shop. It’s a haven for clothing, accessories, furniture and décor to suit every budget.
When was the last time you visited the National Gallery of Australia? It’s home to more than 90,000 works by Australian and international artists. Set aside a couple of hours to really explore the gallery, or better yet, embark on the NGA highlights guided tour, which take place every day at 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, 1.30pm and 2.30pm. The incredible Versailles: Treasures from the Palace opens December 9.
Parkes Place, Parkes
Old Bus Depot Market
On a Sunday morning, local produce, handmade goods and a range of clothing and accessories can all be found at Kingston’s Old Bus Depot Markets. Experience the market like a local would and stop by popular stalls, Home French Home, Être candles, Bread Nerds and The Fudge People.
21 Wentworth Avenue, Kingston
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