5 foodie tips for a weekend in Canberra

If your most recent memories of Canberra involve a primary school excursion, it’s time to firmly place the Nation’s Capital on your getaway radar. Almost out of nowhere, it’s undergone a serious foodie revolution and even the pickiest food and wine fans will find plenty to love in Canberra.

1. Kick off with an an indulgent lunch

A few hours driving down the Hume Highway from Sydney is hunger-inducing stuff and what better way to nourish up and kick off your Canberra stay that with a long lunch. As soon as you set foot on the gorgeous grounds of Pialligo Estate and step through the door of its Farmhouse Restaurant, you’ll know your tastebuds are in very good hands. With a paddock-to-plate philosophy, stunning garden views and warm rustic design, this is ‘country’ dining at its best. While the Chef’s Tasting Menu is tempting, needing to save some room for dinner adventures, we opt for a la carte and aren’t disappointed.

Starters of Kangaroo Island Scallops, Butternut Squash, Black Trumpet, Blood Orange & Ginger and Lady Elliot Island Bug Tail, White Polenta, Smoked Eel, Sweetcorn & Black Truffle set the scene perfectly, while the Moorlands Biodynamic Lamb, Turnips, Heritage Cauliflower & Honey Mead and Muscovy Duck from the Macedon Ranges, Globe Artichoke, Spring Onion & Natural Juices for mains have my husband and I confirming why we could never be vegetarians.

It’s the chocolate tart and petit fours that win my heart though.

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  2. Stay at a hotel with gourmet cred

A hotel that gets food is my kind of hotel and the simply named Hotel Hotel (yep, that’s the H word four times in one sentence) fits the bill perfectly. Monster Bar and Kitchen isn’t your average hotel restaurant, it’s the cool kid in town and one that you should definitely book ahead for if the sad faced people turned away on our Saturday night visit are anything to go by.

The Yabby Jaffle from the bar menu has had plenty of hype but it was the Boxgum Grazing Beef Tartare and Liquorice Cured Duck Breast that I left raving about. Do it all again at breakfast with house-made crumpets served with Hotel Hotel honey from hive #9 according to the menu. And I dare you not to be tempted by the glistening pastries and cakes cabinet.

Of course this hotel isn’t just for the food lovers, design aficionados will be wowed with the stunning architecture and stylish touches throughout. It oozes cool factor and it’s the sort of place you can see yourself staying at again and again.

3. Get to know the small bar scene

Just across the road from Hotel Hotel is Black Market. If only this gem was in Sydney, I’d be a regular.  Find the roped off black door, head down the lift and be rewarded with small bar heaven: a unique cocktail list, moody vibe and friendly stuff. A big thumbs up too for the parfait and rye chips. Bar food at its best.

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 4. Eat at award winning restaurants

The problem with food awards is they sometimes bring with them a lot of hype and a whole of expectation. But I’m happy to say Akiba, the Australian Financial Review Top Restaurants People’s Choice for 2016, lives up to the hype and then some. The funky space is only outdone by the knock-out menu.

The Tuna Tartare with Ginger Ponzu, Jalapeño Mayo, and Nori Salt (a tip from the bartender at Black Market who used to work there) is everything raw fish dishes should be and more. Order the famous Pork Belly Bun, with Char Sui and Asian Slaw but be resigned to the fact they are so good that you will order another serve.

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Big love too for the Wok Blasted Asian Mushrooms with Tofu and Cashews and the Beef Short Rib with Tamarind Caramel and Thai Basil.

5. Learn all there is to know about coffee

I’ll confess, despite being a barista in my uni days, I’m not a coffee drinker but luckily my hubby is and he (not very reluctantly) takes one for the team and partakes in a cupping session at The Cupping Room.  Home to Australia’s first World Barista Champion who took the crown in 2015, this café powerhouse takes you on a journey as you discover all there is to know about those magical little beans. Even I’m enthralled as we’re taken through the history, processes and tips and tricks for what makes a good coffee.

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And bonus, they also do a killer breakfast. It’s hard to beat the French toast.

Extra tip: It’s not a deal-breaker but timing your trip with one of the region’s food and wine festivals is a great option. My visit during Truffle season was particularly memorable!

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