Acton is an artists’ hub, hipsters love Braddon, Barton has a cosmopolitan vibe and families flock to Kingston... Katrina Lobley asked locals from each of Canberra’s “tribes” to nominate their picks for a truly capital weekend.
Dr Ted Dunstone is CEO of biometrics company Biometix. He and his wife, Rachel, have two children: Evie, four, and Charlie, three.
My favourite place to eat in Kingston is… Saigon Foodies (02 6295 6489), a little hole in the wall on Giles Street run by Alice Ngo and her mum, Cam. It does amazing pho, spring rolls and pork banh mi. Alice knows everyone’s name and she always asks about my family. It doesn’t have a children’s menu as such so how much your kids enjoy it will depend on how adventurous they are – rice paper rolls and prawns and noodles are popular with my kids. For coffee, try Penny University, which is very hipster, or a more family-friendly option is Bittersweet (02 6260 7263), where kids can run around on the lawn out the front.
Another favourite is… Brodburger on the Kingston Foreshore – or as some of my friends call it, the “fauxshore”. The burgers are delicious – they’re huge and they have baby versions of them for kids. It’s at Canberra Glassworks, which is also cool; you can go there and watch people blow glass.
Something we love to do is… go for a walk along the foreshore. Our kids just love running down those big, long boulevards and there are lots of cafés.
We also like to… visit Telopea Park, which borders Kingston – it has a lovely playground. Something I’ve always wanted to do is visit the Art Deco Manuka Swimming Pool, next to the park. You see lots of families go there and just hang out for the day.
Kev Hingston is a co-founder of Pact Beer Co. The signature beer, Mount Tennent Pale Ale, is named after an ACT mountain.
My favourite place to eat in Braddon is… Lazy-Su on Lonsdale Street. It’s modern Asian with a strong Japanese influence and when you go there, you’re transported. It doesn’t feel like Tokyo or Korea but it has this almost cartoonish, surreal element that comes from those countries. It’s unpretentious and fun. I can’t recall a time recently when food has brought me to tears but this has. The oysters with Japanese salsa has flavours that permeate every tastebud you’ve got. There’s this sweet, salty, spicy, umami thing happening all at once – it’s next level. The Wagyu cheesesteak spring roll is pretty decadent and there’s a good bao-ger [bao-burger hybrid] as well.
Another favourite is… Grease Monkey, also on Lonsdale Street. It serves a “dirty burger”, which channels the traditional takeaway burger, with just a bit of salad, a fair amount of grease and a sweet bun. It’s sloppy in a good way – it’s really soft and melts in your mouth. There’s also a great range of craft beers, a couple of ciders and an outdoor area.
Something I love to do is… visit The Hamlet (0407 283 218), a little food-truck village in Braddon. It’s got the city’s smallest bar, The Hutch, which was designed by a bunch of Canberra architects, and it’s only licensed for four people [though you can also drink in The Hamlet’s beer garden]. The Hutch is a big supporter of all things local so it’s got Pact Beer Co. and Zierholz beers. Sit down with a drink then go to Broddogs, a hot-dog venture from the Brodburger crew. At the back of The Hamlet is a cool jewellery store, Kin Gallery, so you can do a bit of shopping, too.
For a night out, go to… Knightsbridge Penthouse, a cocktail bar that has a good selection of beer and wine, too, plus DJs and dancing. It was there before Braddon became a thing, when it was all car yards, car washes and camping stores.
Elsewhere in Canberra... I love to walk or cycle around Lake Burley Griffin; you pass the national musuem and library, the galleries and Government House. It’s a good way to experience the more cultured side of Canberra.
A former lecturer, Dr Suzanne Moss is an artist and coach who helps people embrace their creative side.
My favourite place to eat is… Monster Kitchen and Bar at Hotel Hotel in neighbouring NewActon. The staff are delightful, it’s got a cool-but-kind vibe and you can enjoy really good food and wine and it doesn’t cost the earth. I always get the eggplant with goat’s curd, sesame and katsuobushi [dried, fermented and smoked tuna]. The restaurant brings together unusual ingredients to make highly creative dishes.
Another favourite is… A. Baker, just across from Hotel Hotel. The “A” stands for Acton. I order a coffee and croissant but there are great breakfast dishes as well – they’re beautifully presented, like works of art.
Something I’d recommend is… my old university. I was a lecturer at the Australian National University for seven years. The wonderful ANU School of Art & Design Gallery holds amazing exhibitions by students who are graduating from master’s and PhD programs, as well as visiting artists. There might be sculpture, print media, drawing, painting or gold- and silver-smithing items – there’s a wonderful range of possibilities and the exhibitions change more often than at most galleries.
I also like to… walk down to Lake Burley Griffin and around the National Museum of Australia. I enjoy the museum for its architecture: the space is interesting outside and inside. You can now sit on the deck on the side that faces the city and that’s really pleasant. The exhibitions are also superb.
Elsewhere in Canberra... my favourite thing, for years, has been the fog sculpture by Fujiko Nakaya in the Sculpture Garden at the back of the National Gallery of Australia. It turns on at 12.30pm each day and runs through to 2pm. Water is forced through these jets and it creates a beautiful soft fog.
If you’ve had a rough day or week, you can walk through this gentle caress of fog. It’s lovely.
Kate Driver is the deputy director of Canberra’s much-loved science centre, Questacon.
My favourite place to eat in Barton is… Buvette Bistro & Wine Bar at Hotel Realm. The food is a nuanced French style with a very Australian twist and they make a good coffee. There’s a lot of dark wood and an upmarket feel but the prices don’t reflect that.
Another favourite is… Ottoman Cuisine, a Canberra institution. This modern Turkish restaurant has delicious food and a great wine selection. The restaurant is quiet and intimate and it has some private dining rooms for small groups that overlook the lovely courtyard entry.
Something I’d recommend is… finding your inner child and experiencing Questacon [in neighbouring Parkes; questacon.edu.au]. Our after-dark program includes SciNights for adults only – they’re Questacon with alcohol. They allow people to enjoy the centre without worrying about the kids. Our most successful night was about X-rated science. On 11 and 18 August, we’re presenting another one, the Physics of Beer.
I also like to… enjoy the hidden beauty of Barton and surrounds. Rug up for an early morning walk and watch the rowers on the misty Lake Burley Griffin. Then walk through Barton, past Telopea Park, and on to the Burbury Terrace restaurant at the Burbury Hotel for breakfast. After that, a short walk will take you past the National Press Club where many a journalism career has been forged.
Elsewhere in Canberra... I like to visit the National Arboretum, which rose from the ashes of the devastating Canberra bushfires of 2003. It has the most beautiful views across the city, especially at sunset, and the vision behind it is quite ambitious and exciting. What’s enjoyable is seeing it evolve over time. A lot of trees have been planted by VIPs, politicians and celebrities – Jimmy Barnes planted a flame tree [as an homage to the Cold Chisel song]. ￼
Where to stay
Design lovers will adore the Mad Men aesthetic of the 140-room East Hotel. The six-storey apartment hotel channels a vintage homeliness – think lolly jars and beanbags – with pops of bright colour and digital-art projections.
Mercure Canberra was originally the Hotel Ainslie; it was built by the government for public servants and was part of the fabric of the early city. The style of rooms in the Heritage Wing hasn’t changed since the 1920s, though modern rooms are also available. The bistro pours craft beers and cider. Dogs are welcome.
The 68-room Hotel Hotel is located in the pineapple-shaped Nishi building in the heart of hip cultural precinct NewActon. Even the lobby is a work of art: stacked concrete beams form the concierge desk, while the strikingly sculptural use of timber has garnered global attention.
Political junkies can soak up the history of Hotel Kurrajong Canberra, which opened in 1926 to provide quarters for staff who were transferred to the capital for the 1927 opening of Parliament House (now Old Parliament House) 700 metres away. A 2014 revamp added Art Deco furnishings with splashes of peacock blue.
SEE ALSO: Canberra’s Bar Scene is Hotting Up