54 Benjamin, Belconnen

16 Feb

Five years ago people would have laughed if I’d said Belconnen would soon be home to some of the trendiest bars and cafes in Canberra – or that the service in these places would be among the best. But it’s happened. It’s come to Belconnen. In fact, it’s a close tie between La De Da, Chatterbox and newcomer 54 Benjamin on which has the best synergies with Cheers: everybody (at least the staff!) knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.

54 Benjamin is tucked off main street Benjamin Way on the ground level of the Churches Centre. The venue’s capacity is around 50 and while it’s tiny it doesn’t feel crowded. The staff go out of their way to see if you’re after another drink and ask about you, and help make room at the bar.

Most of all, it’s just fun. My friend and I arrive for the second time on Friday night just before Valentine’s Day, and they’re offering a drinks special.

Cocktails are normally $10-18 but average at about $15, and high-quality basics are about $9. So, while we start as ‘Just Friends’ it’s easy to see the value with ‘The Tinder Surprise’.

My eye’s caught by the Passion Pop cocktail – it’s not glamorous sounding, but it turns out it’s a clever play on words. The ‘pop’ is a glass of Wily Trout sparkling white (from the local vineyard connected to Poacher’s Pantry) and it’s got a base of elderflower cordial and a foam of ‘passion’ (fruit). It’s sweet and frothy and creamy and quite simply just a really enjoyable drink.

My friend gets the Coconut Tiki Tiger – spiced rum, coconut rum pineapple, lime, sweetened condensed milk and their own secret herbs and spices. It’s summery and eminently drinkable.

The menu also has a focus on Japanese whisky served as the locals do: with ice and soda water ($10-18 with different twists and sprigs available); tall glasses with low alcohol; a Pimm’s punch (yes please); boozier cocktails which let the key alcohol shine; sweets (including the Passion Pop!); a range of larger craft brewer beefs including Rogers, Endeavour and Stone & Wood ($7.50-10); a small selection of Aussie and international reds and whites; one local sparkling (the Wily Trout mentioned above!) and a rose ($8).

There are 11 gins, seven vodkas; eight rums, seven tequila and a STACK of whiskey and whisky including a Yamazaki 12 year old ($16). Not bad for a little place in Belco.

And, look, I can’t go past another sweet cocktail: Mum’s Pavlova. It’s got subtle kiwi fruit vodka, lemon, sugar and passionfruit and topped with a freeze-dried strawberry.

It’s a little like the Passion Pop but with more of those true, homemade pavlova flavours (and less fizz!). Another winner.

If it sounds like I really like 54 Benjamin, it’s because I do. It brings something completely new to Belconnen; complementing the existing offerings. And, like with Remedy and Pho Hub, it’s quite thrilling to see the life that’s coming to the Town Centre’s main street. What’s not to like?

Date: Friday, 13 February 2015

Where: 54 Benjamin Way, Belconnen Town Centre (open evenings, Wednesday to Saturday only)

Cost: $70 (five cocktails, two spirits between two)

Value for money: High

Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile

Want more? Check out Her Canberra’s review, which includes detailed background about how it came to be. The menu is also available here.


5 Responses to “54 Benjamin, Belconnen”

  1. Giulia Porro February 17, 2015 at 9:20 pm #

    I’ve yet to visit, but have heard only good things! X

  2. veronicashortandsweet February 17, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

    OMG what’s in the ‘Tinder surprise’?

    • inthetaratory February 17, 2015 at 10:35 pm #

      Four cocktails and two basics – a good way to fast forward your night, I suppose! 😉


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