If you wanted to pinpoint the epicentre of Canberra’s dining and nightlife revolution, you’d look no further than Braddon’s eat streets.
These blocks just north of Civic, running parallel to Northbourne Avenue between the city centre and the mature evergreens of Haig Park, were as recently as the early noughties better known for their used-car lots and carwash businesses than for craft brewing, specialty coffee, cocktail bars, edgy floristry, boutique retail and hip bistros.
But what a difference a few years makes. Right now Braddon is recognised by cool-hunters and trend-watchers as one of Australia’s most dynamic new precincts, drawing on dining, artisanship, commerce and all the other strands that define centres of culture in Melbourne and Sydney (and indeed New York, London and Berlin), but in a way that is unique to Canberra.
And as urbane as Braddon is, it’s fringed by well-established parkland, is just minutes in the car (or on the bike) from farmland and countryside, and boasts clean air, open streets and plenty of sunshine. It’s city living redefined — and that’s before you even get serious about the eating and drinking.
Want top-flight contemporary dining? Buzzy Eightysix and the effortless Italianate style of Italian & Sons on Lonsdale Street have you covered. For coffee lovers, Barrio Collective just down the road roasts beans with rare style.
Frugii Dessert Laboratory’s bold experiments with ice-cream will blow your palate, and Grease Monkey answers your burger cravings in no uncertain terms. On Mort Street, BentSpoke Brewing Co. is a pioneering craft beer bar. A staggering variety of street food is yours under one roof at The Hamlet, while Thai flavours, Fukuoka-style ramen and savvy vegan cooking are well represented by Zaab, Ramentic and Sweet Bones. Dig in.
FIVE ESSENTIAL BRADDON DISHES
Eightysix’s Banoffee pie with pretzels
A tough call when Eightysix, perhaps the keystone venue in Braddon’s transformation to a dining hub, has so many signatures to choose from. How do you go past the duck buns, the habanero steak tartare or the mighty black fried chicken with buttermilk slaw. How? By taking the classic moreish magnetism of caramel and banana and supercharging them with the salt and crunch of pretzels.
Barrio’s Don Bocarte anchovies in the tin with sourdough and lemon
It almost seems like cheating, simply opening a tin of very good Spanish anchovies and placing them next to some sourdough. But when the anchovies meet the hot toast with a squeeze of lemon, it’s clear why this is a long-respected tradition back in Spain.
BrodDogs’s “The Veggie One”
Why on earth would anyone opt for a vegetarian option at a hotdog shop, especially when those hotdogs are this cult food van’s all-beef Vienna dogs? The Veggie One’s mix of fried popcorn, cauliflower and eggplant in a fondue sauce topped with Gruyere argues the case with devastating conviction.
Italian & Sons’ cassarecce al ragù
Pasta made by hand, a ragu conjured by the slow and gentle cooking of suckling lamb in red wine and tomato. Add a fine vino rosso to the mix (and there’s no shortage of that on hand) and life is good.
Frugii Dessert Laboratory’s ice cream on a stick
This polished dessert bar pulls flavour-raiders from Sydney, Melbourne and beyond with its radical ice-cream specials; the twang of jackfruit or the funk of durian are just the tip of the iceberg when past flavour experiments have included seafood laksa, butter chicken and black pudding.
BRADDON AL FRESCO
BentSpoke Brewing Co.
How do you improve on some of the nation’s best craft beer (carbonated or hand-pumped, hoppy, mild, malty, for sipping or sessions) served with hop-dusted hot chips, smoked mac and cheese and a side of charm? Easy: take it outside.
Argentine wood-fired grill meets burgers meets souvlaki under the open sky: good times ensue.
Back in the day, street eats on Lonsdale meant chips and gravy. And we’re happy to report those good things are still with us, only now they’re complemented by a variety of interesting things corralled together at The Hamlet, serving Peruvian pork-belly sandwiches, killer hotdogs, Vietnamese beef noodle soup, wings, pizza, spit-roast rolls, coffee and beer plus pop-up exhibitions and boutiques.
Vegan right down to the Braddon burrito, the tempeh Reuben and the bacon “cheeze” burger. The pick of the lot is the baked goodies, starting with the coconut brownies, which are gluten-free to boot.
Venturing to the capital for a foodie feast this summer? Book your stay at one of our four properties in Canberra here.
Images: Visit Canberra