Whether you’re celebrating or simply treating yourself, these Canberra restaurants have a sense of occasion.
Monster Kitchen and Bar
Set on the ground floor of the exceptionally fashionable Hotel Hotel, this eatery and bar operates all day and well into the night. In the morning guests from upstairs filter down for house-made crumpets, scrambled eggs and locally roasted coffee, but as the day moves on so do the patrons. The share-plate menu (midday to 10pm) created by chef Sean McConnell (brothers Andrew and Matt are leading lights in Melbourne’s restaurant scene) highlights local ingredients and Asian influences. Enjoy charred broccoli with miso puree and puffed wild rice, for instance, or hoisin-flavoured twice-cooked pig cheek with burnt eggplant and scallop floss. This is where Canberra’s beautiful people come to play and promenade; the bar in the adjacent Salon room is definitely the place to be late at night.
25 Edinburgh Avenue, NewActon
When chef Ben Willis took over Aubergine in 2008, he brought his creativity and passion for local produce to the kitchen. Aubergine remains the only two-hat restaurant in Canberra in The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide. Sourcing produce from local farmers means the four-course menu changes daily, but you can expect refined dishes such as roast quail with baby cabbage, vanilla, horseradish and mustard leaves, and venison loin with Jerusalem artichokes, cipollini onions and truffle sauce. In 2014 the Aubergine crew opened its low-key Temporada bar and grill, where French cider, cool cocktails and local and international wines are served alongside tuna tartare, barbecued octopus and baked mussels.
18 Barker Street, Griffith
Settle into the deep chairs in this luxurious space overlooking a walled garden and delight in chef James Mussillon’s modern European menu. Dinner is a four-course affair with unusual riffs on classic combinations: seared scallops with smoked cauliflower puree and fermented black garlic, for example, or an updated version of Eton mess that includes a mint cloud and freeze-dried mandarin. There are some fine French drops on the wine list, too.
54 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra City
It’s noisy and the blackboard menu dominates the room. But that hasn’t stopped Eightysix from becoming Canberra’s go-to dining spot, particularly if you like a helping of fun service and open-kitchen antics with your meal. All the colour and movement doesn’t take away from the food, either. Dishes range from the delicate (ceviche, for example) to the traditional (they do a serious pulled pork terrine) and some cater to current trends (blackened chicken with buttermilk coleslaw). How to choose? Take some friends and order whatever catches your eye, because it’s all good. Make sure you leave room for the banoffee pie and caramel popcorn sundae. Why Eightysix? When they run out of a dish it’s struck off the menu, or ‘eighty-sixed’.
Corner Elouera & Lonsdale Streets, Braddon
When you’ve been attracting diners and awards since 1992, you’re doing something right. Chef Serif Kaya’s exceedingly smart Turkish restaurant, set in an elegant Art Deco pavilion, is frequented by powerbrokers and politicians but somehow manages not to be pretentious. Back when he opened, Kaya says, diners were reluctant to eat ingredients such as eggplant, but now he serves it in a number of guises, including a modern-day moussaka featuring seared scallops on baby eggplant, tomato relish and taramasalata. Order the tasting menu to sample the best of everything.
9 Broughton Street, Barton