Chifley’s Bar and Grill, Barton*

19 Dec

* I dined at Chifley’s Bar and Grill courtesy of the restaurant. In what must surely be the one of the busiest years of restaurant and cafe openings in Canberra’s history, historic Kurrajong Hotel is capping off 2014 and meeting 2015 head-on with the opening of Chifley’s Bar and Grill (Tuesday night) and the relaunch of the hotel (early February). Chifley’s is named after former PM Ben Chifley who preferred to reside at Hotel Kurrajong (believing it would save taxpayers money) and – unsurprisingly – regularly dined there. Continue reading

Ottoman Cuisine, Barton

18 Dec

Away from the hubbub of Braddon and the growth of the Kingston Foreshore sits one of Canberra’s most awarded restaurants. It’s not by the water, nor in a local shopping centre, nor near the mall. In fact, it’s in a suburb which is often lambasted for having little amenity – Barton – and on this Tuesday night is humbly packed.

Ottoman shares its abode with Barton Cafe, a stalwart but one of the few cafes in the area. While they’re both open for lunch, Ottoman continues into the night and quietly separates itself from its neighbour with translucent glass doors which only give you an impression of what might be inside.

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Mt Goodwin, Macgregor

17 Dec

Lately I’ve been feeling I am terribly unfit. I’m stuck in that terrible zone where I know I need to exercise but think I’ll really struggle on mountains I used to – well, struggle on (but just a bit). Cue a lot of neighbourhood walks and walks around beautiful Lake Ginninderra. But my map of all the mountains in Canberra which I’ve been slooowly marking off stares back at me, and I know there’s one I haven’t done yet which seems like it might fit my criteria of a) short b) not high c) close to my house.

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Black Fire, Braddon

8 Dec

It’s Monday night and there’s a rumbling – but it’s difficult to tell whether it’s from stomachs belonging to me and Capital Food Journal, or from the pending great storm. We’re at Black Fire in Braddon for the first time. The mediterranean restaurant with its charcoal grill (or black fire) has been getting plenty of good publicity, both formally and by word of mouth.

We’re seated in front of some neon lights in the restaurant, the space of which is smaller than I expect. The busy kitchen takes up one end of the restaurant, and it’s not short on wait staff – and is packed by 7.30pm.

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Canberra Southern Cross Club Yacht Cruise*

4 Dec

* I enjoyed this experience courtesy of the Canberra Southern Cross Club. All views are my own.

Summer to me means the full on retreat out of the house down to Canberra’s waterways – manmade or otherwise. It seems my idea of summer is everyone else’s idea of summer, because on Tuesday afternoon the CSCC at Yarralumla is absolutely packed with people dining and exercising – and a whole lotta folks about to go on a pretty extraordinary cruise of Lake Burley Griffin.

Not a bad afternoon for it

We’re welcomed onto the main deck of the MV Southern Cross where the air conditioning is pumping on this slightly muggy evening and there are views across the water to some of our most famous national institutions.

My immediate impression of the service is that it’s constant and consistent without being intrusive as we’re offered drinks and our first few canapes.

Chicken liver pate  and port wine jelly

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A real Christmas Tree*

3 Dec

* My real Christmas tree was a gift from The Christmas Tree Truck, through Her Canberra. All opinions are my own.

My early Christmas memories are of sugar cookies, plastic (but tasteful) miniature Santa sleighs filled with chocolate coins placed at heights just out of reach of little hands, candles shaped as snowmen, and the biggest Christmas tree imaginable with unique decorations.

As I grew up, that large Christmas tree shrunk. And shrunk. As a teenager I towered over it; as I grew, the magic of Christmas seemed to decrease.

Having lived in Canberra now for just on seven years (how did that happen?), I’ve still never spent a Christmas here, with the promise of Christmases at home – or, more recently, hurried trips abroad – too strong. Having lived in three apartments and one townhouse since I moved here has also provided me with a convenient excuse to not set anything up, arguing the spaces are “too small”.

That changes this year when new business, the Christmas Tree Truck, offer me my very own real tree. Well, kind of changes. I’m sceptical, but it forces me to rethink why I hadn’t got a tree in the past. Was it because I couldn’t be bothered? And is a real tree going to last long enough? Is it going to be way too big for the apartment? Will I kill it like most other non-self-sufficient flora in and around our house? What if the magic isn’t restored?

I put my concerns aside and agree to go the whole hog and get the standard package: a six foot Christmas tree, beautifully shaped, with a stand. On Saturday morning I clear a space in the living room and wait for my Christmas tree.

The doorbell rings and Cooper knows we’ve got a guest (little does he actually know). And there they are. And there it is.

And it is definitely bigger than me.

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Why the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan matters to you*

20 Nov

What makes you come to Belconnen Town Centre? What would make you come to the Belconnen Town Centre more often (or at all)? What would make you spend more time in it?

These are critical questions, and this is your opportunity to influence the answers – and, in turn, the future of the Belconnen Town Centre.

All the Town Centres in the ACT – as well as a few other distinct areas – have master plans. These are high level documents which set out an area’s character and quality, and how it can develop into the future (you can read more about master plans here). In 2015, the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan will be updated. Consultation has begun in earnest.

The thing about consultation is that people need to know that the consultation is happening, and that their views will be taken seriously. Often consultation is on something which has already been developed or fully worked up, which can give the sense that the consultation is a ticking the box exercise rather than views being taken seriously. Fortunately in this case, the three months of November, December and January is the ACT Government’s effort to gather as many views from people interested in the Town Centre as possible. There’s no plan to comment on, just a few documents with some key considerations to help guide your thinking. A 12 week consultation (the initial consultation on Woden Town Centre’s Master Plan was six weeks) is important – it’s enough time ensure the community knows it’s happening, and gives the opportunity for the community to really think through the issues and present their views.

You can meet the planners at Westfield on Saturday outside Max Brenner (what more motivation do you need?)

One of the common criticisms of master plans is they’re not binding. That they’re a guide. They outline how an area can develop, not how it will.

This is probably not going to change any time soon. But I believe in the power of the people:
– the more people who make their views known, the more these views can’t be ignored
– the more that views can’t be ignored, the more they’re going to be reflected in the master plan
– a master plan which genuinely reflects community views benefits from the community having a sense of ownership in it
– the more the community feels they own it, the greater the weight it will have, and the more attention it will be paid.

And that is why the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan matters to you. The Town Centre has some great amenities – an excellent Arts Centre, the Belconnen Community Services and its Centre, Lake Ginninderra, the library, wonderful restaurants, a new bus interchange, live music venues and, yes, Westfield – but it could have more.** And, these amenities could definitely be better connected. I strongly think networks of pedestrian and cycle paths could be improved. Do you agree? Tell them. There’s a real opportunity to have a street cafe culture – restaurants like Pho Hub, Lonsdale Street Roasters and Chatterbox have been a great start, as well as the Westfield restaurants on Lathlain Street – so where do we want to see more of it? If you’ve got ideas, make them known.

Have you ever noticed the huge amount of outside space at Westfield?

What would you like to see along the lake front, particularly at Emu Bank? Do you want more restaurants that face the lake? If so, tell them. Are there places where you regularly walk where there isn’t a proper path? Or there’s a path but people are using a shortcut? Identify it. What could improve the trade services area and ensure it remains viable? Submit your ideas. And just how do you make your ideas known?

      • You can meet the planners at Westfield Belconnen between 10am and 2pm at the bus waiting area on Saturday (22 November)
      • You can also meet the planners at the Belconnen Markets between 10am and 2pm on Saturday, 29 November
      • You can view a poster display at Belconnen Library until 30 January (or check it out here), and one at Westfield until this Saturday
      • You can come along to a design workshop at the Belconnen Arts Centre on Thursday, 4 December from 6pm. You have to RSVP to I’ll be there!
      • You can e-mail your submission to
      • You can get in touch with the Belconnen Community Council
      • And of course I’m always happy to talk about it in detail!

AND, if you’d like to read more in the meantime
– I first wrote a post on this back in February
– The Belconnen Community Council conducted a survey earlier this year; this report summarises the views of over 200 respondents.
Her Canberra published a lovely interview with me about the report
– Some historical resources are available here

Decisions are made by those who show up – or in this case, make their views known. If there’s something you want to see in the Town Centre, or want to see changed, you have to get involved now.

What would you like to see around the lake? How can we best make use of this beautiful amenity?

* I am currently serving as the Chair of the Belconnen Community Council. The views above are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council or the Committee.

** Here’s one such idea:


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