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Buvette Petit Feast, Barton*

6 Jun

* I attended the Buvette Petit Feast as a guest.

It’s a dreary Canberra morning – one that it’s easy to despite but photographers love. The light casts just right. There’s no glare or overshadowing and the pale grey backdrop is just perfect for that picture.

While it’s too cold to sit outside, we’re offered a table near gorgeous lengthy windows at the new Buvette Wine Bar and Bistro at the bottom of Hotel Realm. It’s in the space of the old Mavi (kebab-loving public servants will know what I’m talking about) and another restaurant space where seemed to be to go through a few hands. The result is a dining area which reaches, stretches out; as we walk in it’s not clear where it ends and the numerous doorways remain – closed today (and a tad confusing to know where is the actual entrance), but potentially thrown open in warmer weather.

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Our view outside is Autumn’s last echo – sparks of green against burnt orange and roar-red – and we drink it in while we’re served the complimentary glass of Mt Majura rose to start our petit feast.

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Movenpick, Kingston Foreshore*

22 May

* I attended Movenpick as a guest

For the uneducated (like I was), Movenpick is an international ice cream brand. It’s one of those franchises people are obsessed with: queuing up outside for hours, sampling all the flavours, and coming back the very next day to try it all again.

And that’s the story of Siddharth Mahabal and Aneeta Singh. While living in New Zealand they didn’t just eat Movenpick but they lived it, and on moving to Canberra figured if there wasn’t a store here already then they had to work hard to bring one here – including opening it themselves.

They did just that. At the launch of Movenpick we heard from the head office how the husband and wife team would regularly contact Movenpick to ask them to consider opening a store in Canberra. They were nothing if not persistent! The good news – for Siddharth and Aneeta, as well as for all of Canberra – is that it worked.

Canberra’s very first Movenpick store is located on the still-expanding Kingston foreshore, down the end where you’ll find Molto Italian. It’s a corner store, luxuriously fitted out with leather couches in the traditional Movenpick colours of black, red and white and curved edges everywhere I look. It’s classy and homely.

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One of the best parts of Kingston foreshore is being close to the lake. Movenpick’s taken the bold step of having an outdoor eating area. Given Canberra winters average about eight months, I was skeptical whether this would be successful but Movenpick has been able to stretch out the awning to provide a covered area and they also have these beauties:

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They work a treat and have me shrugging off my jacket.

But we’re here for the ice cream! So what’s on offer?

The first thing you need to know is that Movenpick offers free tasting of all its flavours. And there are a lot. And some of the flavours you can’t quite properly grasp until you taste them, so don’t be shy. I try blueberry cheesecake, cinnamon, raspberry sorbet doubled with Swiss chocolate to make a Cherry Ripe-style duo, caramelita, espresso (as a non-coffee drinker this almost blew my head off – the flavour is strong), maple walnut, mint chocolate, chocolate brownie… you get the idea.

Siddharth isn't just the owner of Movenpick Kingston, but probably one of Movenpick's greatest ambassadors! And he consistently serves with a smile, even at my 10th tasting.

Siddharth isn’t just the owner of Movenpick Kingston, but probably one of Movenpick’s greatest ambassadors! And he consistently serves with a smile, even at my 10th tasting.

The process of creating Movenpick ice cream is something of a feat. Ingredients are sourced from all of the world – Madagascan vanilla pods, cocoa beans from Venezuela – and brought to Switzerland where the ice cream is prepared centrally, before being shipped to its stores around the world. You can’t doubt the Swiss for wanting to achieve consistency in quality product, even if I do wonder a bit about overall efficiency.

Movenpick ice creams are creamy. Really creamy. And the flavours come through strongly – they use natural ingredients and there are no artificial additives, colours or flavours – just like our own local Frugii. My favourite flavours are cinnamon and blueberry cheesecake (these are two separate flavours), but the tasting helps me uncover flavours I was convinced I wouldn’t really like and love: caramelita (with both caramel ripple and caramel bits) and the white chocolate, too.

I start with a double serve of cinnamon and blueberry cheesecake in a cone. But it turns out to be that my only love is sprung from my only hate. Or, to be less dramatic, the delicious blueberry cheesecake (which I love) is slated to replace the cinnamon ice cream (which is beyond devastating!). If you are reading this, Movenpick head honchos, you are making a mistake. The cinnamon is so, so good. (If you think you might like even kind of like the cinnamon I urge you to get in quick before it’s gone forever!)

Cinnamon and blueberry cheesecake

Cinnamon and blueberry cheesecake. The cones are made on site.

While I’ve been on my Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-esque taste of everything on site, Boyfriend has gone ahead and ordered a plate of the Movenpick macarons: macaron shells filled with ice cream and served with cream and a dash of chocolate sauce. It’s pretty darn decadent with chocolate, salted caramel and pistachio ($12.95).

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I think this is one of the best value for money offerings that Movenpick has: the macaron shells are high quality and the servings of ice cream sandwiched in each is essentially three different scoops. I’m not sure what it is about the pistachio but I’m not a fan and neither is Boyfriend – but otherwise the tastes are very, very good.

(Do you like the plates? They’re by Robert Gordon Australia.)

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Siddharth insists we try the chocolate waffles. These, along with the apple strudel, are items which obviously have a particular appeal during winter. The waffles are prepared on site according to the Movenpick recipe and they’re made to order so they come out hot and fresh with another two big serves of ice cream and brilliantly-red, sweet strawberries with lashings of chocolate sauce.

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This is another very decadent dessert. The waffles are crisp on the edge and overall very cakey in texture. Noting most of my waffle experience has been with frozen ones that you microwave that are essentially hollow inside, this takes me by surprise. Keeping the ice cream and waffles separate keeps the ice cream from melting and lets you choose how you want to eat them, but my recommendation is to pile the ice cream on the waffle so you get the cakey bits, the crunchy bits, the cold bits and hot bits all in one mouthful. Yum! (Save the strawberries until last so you can end feeling healthy.)

While Frugii will always be #1 for me, I’m impressed with what Movenpick has to offer, especially given it’s a franchise. The personal effort from Siddharth and Aneeta can be felt throughout the store and the ice cream flavours are spot on.

(Please keep the cinnamon ice cream, Movenpick. It really is very, very good.)

Date: Saturday, 7 May 2016

Where: Kingston Foreshore, 43 Eastlake Parade

Cost: I attended Movenpick Kingston as a guest; we paid for the ice cream sandwich macarons

Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile

Value for money: Reasonable: as you might expect from a product with ingredients sourced from around the world and centrally prepared in Switzerland, a single scoop is on the upper end for cost – but it is very high quality.

Want more? Check out their Facebook page for more.

Cork Street Cafe, Gundaroo

8 May

Forty minutes from Canberra, Gundaroo is an historic village where there’s a lot to see, eat and drink along its main street – Cork Street. Along the street is the Gundaroo Pub and further up is Grazing and Capital Wines.

Today we’re at the the Cork Street Cafe, an institution on the site of the old police station across the road from the pub. The cafe proper is in the horse tables; a barn of stones and bricks.

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Ha Ha Bar, Belconnen – revisited*

23 Mar

* I visited Ha Ha Bar as a guest.

Belconnen Town Centre’s Emu Bank is something special – or it has the potential to be. Facing (what I think is) the best lake in Canberra, with the Arts Centre at one end and one of the world’s best skate parks at the other, Emu Bank could be a promenade in Canberra’s north.

But it’s not quite there yet. While the restaurant quality is mixed from the average to the very good and caters from takeaway to pub to formal dine-in, it’s been missing a high-quality restaurant to anchor the area and attract similar ventures.

Ha Ha Bar is one of those venues that’s always been very good. I’ve always enjoyed the food (in addition to plenty of brunches and dinners there, you can read my first review in 2011 here, and 2013 here) even if the service left a little to be desired, but it hasn’t been what you’d necessarily call a fine dining experience.

I genuinely think that’s about to change.

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Pizza Artigiana, Jamison

16 Feb

It’s increasingly common these days for me to first get notice of a new restaurant through Facebook: friends liking the page, or a sponsored post. So it was for Pizza Artigiana which I first heard about through its common presence in my newsfeed since back in May last year. It boasts of handmade pizza and imported beers and, being so local, made it onto my ‘must try’ list. After months I made my way there – but, happily, it won’t be months before I’m back again.

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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.

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Trev’s at Dickson, Dickson*

10 Oct

* I reviewed Trev’s at Dickson as a guest.

Not that long ago, Trev was The Lodge’s resident chef for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. A little over five years later, Trev leads his eponymous cafe/restaurant tucked away in the office area of Challis Street, Dickson.

Trev’s is open seven days a week for breakfast/brunch and dinners on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Today’s a Thursday at what seems a very early 7.30am. On arrival we’re greeted with requests for coffee orders and my large chai latte arrives truly large with a yummy crust of  cinnamon sugar on frothy milk.

Trev’s is also renowned for its similarly eponymous dish: the Trev’s Taste Collective. Have you ever perused a breakfast menu and felt like you really want something sweet but you also really want something savoury, and somehow early on a Saturday morning you’re still required to make that very difficult choice? For me it’s almost always pancakes with fruit and ice cream versus a dish – any dish – that has poached eggs. The eggs usually win (unless it’s pancakes from Ha Ha Bar – then pancakes are victorious!).

Trev’s Taste Collective goes some way to solving this. At $18.50 you get a small stack of thick pancakes with strawberry and basil compote, marscapone and a smatter of icing sugar, a very thick corn fritter with a heaping of avocado and tomato salsa and a bacon rasher, followed by a two-fruit salad (today it’s strawberries and watermelon) with kaffir lime syrup and a wisp of fairy floss. It all comes with their mini JOD (juice of the day) – today it’s apple, orange and cranberry and it’s tangy and delicious and all too small; I’d love it slightly larger with an ice cube.

Corn generally is not my thing but what I do have of the corn fritter is tasty. The generous helping of avocado salsa is a stand out and I could eat plenty of it with the bacon. The strawberries and watermelon are sweet and fresh and it’s easy to devour. The pancake batter is a little thick rather than fluffy but they’re just enough to make the whole dish very, very filling.

I’m sure a few friends have questions about eating it altogether or separately, and whether it’s weird to have sweet and savoury near or touching each other. While it’s clear from the photo that some of the juice from the berry compote and syrup leak under the fritter, I don’t know it at the time.

Trev’s idea is a very clever one which finally provides an answer to so many people’s early morning dilemmas. But to answer mine, it still needs a poached egg in it somewhere!

Date: Thursday, 8 October 2015

Where: Challis Street, Dickson

Cost: I dined as a guest of Trev’s at Dickson. The Trev’s Taste Collective costs $18.50 including a small juice of the day but not including coffee/s.

Want more? Trev’s has a very comprehensive website and detailed menus.