Archive | Drinking RSS feed for this section

Jaffle Degustation at 54 Benjamin

12 Feb

In the last few years, the Belconnen Town Centre has grown and changed in more ways than many of us could have imagined. One of the best parts about that has been the number of new businesses that have opened. 54 Benjamin is one of these: a hole in the wall cocktail bar at the bottom of the Churches Centre which just recently celebrated its first birthday. Its wide-ranging menu, convenient location and late-night jaffle menu makes it a favourite among residents and workers alike – and I’m proud to call it my local!

I have to say it wasn’t until Two Before Ten started showing up with their van and breakfast jaffle menu at the Aranda Shops – as it was developed to make way for the new cafe and the Bolt Bar that I was reminded of just how good the humble jaffle is. It’s the warm sandwich that doesn’t fall apart, with no end of delicious fillings. The only risk is a burnt tongue depending on your fillings – tomato, I’m looking at you – but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

54B – as it’s known – has brought jaffles back in a big way, with butter chicken jaffles and alphabetti-cheese jaffles proving a hit: so much so that 54B decide to shake things up a bit by kickstarting their Thursday night ‘event’ series with a jaffle degustation.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Bolt Bar, Aranda

5 Oct

A year ago Aranda Shops were empty. And they had been empty for more than a decade. The car park and the centre were dilapidated and if you were new to the area, you wouldn’t even know that it had once been shops.

That’s changed now. Two Before Ten has set up shop in the whole building, starting with its cafe on a far corner, followed by a library, followed, at the other end, by the adjoining, long awaited pub: Bolt Bar (named after Dirk Bolt, who designed the unusual building). Aranda Shops is now full of life in the mornings, and, with the Bolt Bar open til at least mid-evening seven days a week, I think it’s likely the whole area will be constantly humming very shortly.

Continue reading

Swan Valley and surrounds: endless experiences*

6 Jul

* I attended this experience as a guest.

It’s a Tuesday night during a sitting week and we’re at Parliament House. But not for work – Swan Valley has come all the way from WA to Canberra to showcase what their region has to offer.

Swan Valley was named by the RSPCA as Australia’s first humane food region: this means throughout the cafes and restaurants you can expect meats to be free-range and eggs to be cage-free. Animal welfare is paramount. Swan Valley is also home to around 150 wineries in the region, so there’s plenty to like!

I find it quite novel that so many producers in a region as far away as Western Australia find the time and effort to come all the way to freezing Canberra – it’s really quite wonderful to have Swan Valley come to us! The whole point, of course, is to convince us of the value of the region so much so that we give them a visit in return. I’m happy to report that there are enough stand-outs for me to genuinely consider a visit – something I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

The highlights:

Wild Swan Distilling Company is a microbrewery doing gin and vodka. And not just any vodka, but cold brew coffee vodka and pavlova vodka. I don’t even like coffee and I find the cold brew absolutely genius.

Ti produce tell me their strawberries aren’t quite at their peak yet, but of course they wanted to bring a batch. I’m not sure what their peak looks like: these are among the brightest, sweetest and juiciest I’ve tasted. Within an hour they’ve handed out every single strawberry they’ve brought.

Feral Brewing is a big player in the small brewers scene. I’ve long enjoyed their beers at some of Canberra’s beer festivals and Plonk stocks a great range. It turns out they’re from Swan Valley!

Mike Price of Sittella Winery and Restaurant is one of the key ambassadors for Swan Valley. Having trained in Michelin star restaurants throughout France, his food philosophy involves the least amount of human interference possible. On this cold winter night his roasted carrot shots hit the spot.

Have you been to Swan Valley? Would you go?

Date: Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Want more? http://www.swanvalley.com.au

Truffle Festival: Majura Valley Experience

21 Jun

* I enjoyed the Majura Valley Experience as a guest

My relationship with truffles has been fraught. I’ve had dishes where I can really taste what is supposed to be a flavoursome delicacy, and dishes where I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t notice if it had been added or not. It’s been cheese with truffles and Frugii’s divine truffle ice cream which has really helped me understand the flavour and what I should be looking for, but I’ve still come away confused about whether my palate just isn’t truffle friendly. The Majura Valley Experience – a day of three different truffle experiences – promises to change all that.

We arrive at French Black Truffles off the new Majura Road at 10am for a truffle hunt. The sun is shining brightly but, as every Canberran knows, clear skies just means it’s going to be stupidly cold. In the shade of Canberra’s tallest mountain, Mt Majura, the cold is biting. As the last of the cars arrives, we head into a small shed where the magic happens.

Continue reading

Pot Belly, Belconnen

7 Jun

It seems everyone has a story about visiting the Pot Belly in Weedon Close in Belconnen. The bar sits in the same street as other Canberra institutions – Turkish Delight, Laser Tag and Can Tho – and has been a haunt for generations of uni students and Belconnen residents. But the last few years of its decades-long history have been a little shaky.

Let’s be honest: as many Canberrans will attest, the Pot has always been a dive bar. Its lack of natural light and dark wood throughout lends itself to an ‘English pub’ descriptor. It’s also familiar – the customers are familiar (which can be a bit daunting if you’re visiting for the first time), the beers are familiar (the only craft beer offered was Roger’s), and the location hasn’t changed in 40 years. In the last few years it took on the name Pot Belly Bar and Bistro, operating a small restaurant which was open most days of the week – but it was empty. Few people knew about it, and if they did, they rarely took advantage of it.

Pot Belly had been for sale for around a year when finally there was a taker – or takers. Six people – or three couples – now co-own this skinny pub in the heights of Belconnen’s Town Centre. Within a few days the new owners stripped the taps and replaced them entirely with craft beer (and I’m not talking Roger’s). The structure is entirely the same, but oddly-framed live act memorabilia that crowded the walls has disappeared. I think the most interesting thing to watch over the coming months is whether the usual customers will disappear – and, if so, if they’ll be replaced.

Continue reading

Marble & Grain, Braddon*

16 Apr

* I attended this experience at Marble & Grain as their guest.

Hopscotch. Black Fire. Marble & Grain. Braddon restaurants have a thing about clever names and I was particularly excited when Marble & Grain launched, expecting a high-end gastropub, with gorgeous, delicately-marbled steaks and sides and a range of excellent beers to match. After its soft opening late in 2014, I watched first with interest, then surprise, as respected reviewers and friends emerged from their experience and gave Marble & Grain a resounding thumbs down.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading