Muse, Kingston*

17 Sep

* I visited Muse as a guest

This humble little blog recently celebrated four years – four years of eating, drinking, reviewing and peeling back the layers of Canberra bit by bit. While still being hosted entirely by WordPress after all this time (yes, yes, there are moves afoot to discard wordpress from my URL!), I’ve also seen a lot in this time and the only thing that’s surprised me recently is that this city still tolerates bemusing degustations.

But then I experienced Muse, the definition of which might be ‘Food, Wine and Books’. (That’s what the wine glass tells me, anyway.)

On first impressions, Muse reminds me of a hotel room where the ‘double bed’ is actually two single beds pushed together (hello, any European hotel ever). The concept is spread across a split-level – the bookstore at entry level to the street and East Hotel’s foyer; the restaurant a whisper above – and the spaces can easily flow between each other or be completely separate. It’s inspired by Beijing’s The Bookworm.

We enter through the bookstore and I’m already convinced I’m on a winner – not only does the entry table have Jonathan Franzen’s Purity front and centre (one of my first ever blog posts was about my experience meeting Franzen at the National Library of Australia in 2011), but an entire shelf looks exactly like a bookshelf in my home.

The bookstore’s small, with about 2000 books available, but that doesn’t quell its ambitions. Each Tuesday there’ll be author talks for the price of $10 (including house wine, beer or spirit) and Bernard Keane will launch the program on 29 September. The bookstore’s also available to be set up as a private dining room. (I know many Canberrans who’d love nothing more to dine with good friends among books!)

So what of the food, then? This is where my interest is really piqued. On weekdays, breakfast is 6.30-10.30am and lunch is 12noon-3pm. On weekends the brunch menu spans 7am-3pm but includes distinct breakfast and lunch dishes so you can come back twice! Evening dishes start at 5pm with tapas-style and dinner offerings. A lot of the menu is Bill Granger inspired and there’s an emphasis on freshness.

We’re here for lunch and the concept’s a little new to me for a restaurant of this calibre: there’s a range of salads/sides and a range of mains, and you can order two or three salads ($16 or $20) or a main and two or three salads ($26 or $28). The lunch menu is updated every day on the website at 11am and everything on the menu can be ordered to take away. It sounds like it might be a hassle, but it’s not: East Hotel is very centrally located – right across from The Kingo and on Canberra Avenue – and underground parking is free for the first half hour (ie while you’re dashing in to pick up your meal).

Everything at Muse has a story behind it. Surveyor’s Hill (a favourite winery of mine!) features across every type of wine on the list because it’s where the owners got married. Oh, and every wine, beer and spirit is Australian – owned and made. There’s a bottled beer available from every state (except for the Northern Territory which needs to catch up).

I’ve possibly ordered the biggest piece of pork belly in my life for lunch, offset by a generous smear of cauliflower puree.

While the crackling is a little too tough for me, it’s a flavoursome serve which soaks up the puree. I never thought I’d say this, but it’s the salad that makes it for me. It’s a yummy dish alone, but having tasted the belly with these sides, it’s unimaginable to not pair them. A special shout out to the spiced pearl couscous, both dishes of wish I somehow managed to get surrounding me. For good reason, too, because it was moreish and the sweetness of the currants in the dish underwrote the salt and fat of the belly and the creaminess of the puree.

Could I be a salad convert?

Muse is doing a whole lot of new things which surprise me – but these new things fit so well together and make so much sense that I leave more surprised that it’s not been thought of before. The overriding commitment to quality service over the top of superb food and environs bodes well for another Canberra success story.

Where: East Hotel, 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston

Cost: I dined as a guest of Muse

Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile

Want more? Try here for opening hours and contact details.





3 Responses to “Muse, Kingston*”

  1. whisperinggums September 17, 2015 at 4:46 pm #

    I read about this coming a week or so ago, and saw a photo on Instagram today in which I thought “I’m sure that’s Tara”. Sounds like a wonderful idea. Has it replaced the Ox Eatery? We went there a few times, but last time, only a month or so ago, it seemed a little lacklustre. Presumably this restaurant is occupying that space and the big foyer area? Or not? Anyhow, good on East for trying something different and exciting.

    • Muse September 22, 2015 at 8:32 am #

      Hi whisperinggums β€” we haven’t replaced Ox. East Hotel now has three hospitality venues on the ground floor: Ox, Joe’s Bar and us. Joe’s is owned and operated by the hotel, but us and Ox are independent businesses. Hope you can drop in and see us sometime!

      • whisperinggums September 22, 2015 at 10:14 am #

        Thanks Muse, I sure will. Books, wine and food. Hard to beat.

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