Raku dining @ Canberra, ACT

Raku is what we’d describe as contemporary fine dining Japanese. We were in Canberra for the weekend between Christmas and new year and had heard good words about this restaurant. We are so glad to have visited and it ended up making our best of list for 2018.

The restaurant is located in the main CBD precinct near the shopping centre and thus was easy to locate.

The space is large with table seating or right up at the chefs kitchen as well private dining spaces. It is dimly lit and has a romantic feel to it.

We learn that Raku is named after a Japanese style of pottery (fired in open flames), which is apt for a Robata style restaurant. Secondly, the ceramics here were absolutely beautiful and demonstrated different designs and techniques.

The robata method enables the flavour of the flame to shine through the meat, seafood and vegetables and the blue eyed cod has to be one of the best things we’ve ever ordered. You can watch the chefs prepare the meats on the grill over the flame and it is mesmerising.

Given our seats in front of the chef, we could watch the masters at action, preparing beautiful plates of sashimi and nigiri as well as maki rolls. The chefs were precise, fast and seemed to be so calm and thoroughly enjoying their job.

The menu is extensive, so much so we found it an extremely difficult task to decide what to get. The tasting menu sounded brilliant, and the price is appropriate for what it includes. However we thought that ordering ala Carte would allow us to spend the same, whilst enabling us to try more of a variety of the menu offerings.

We started with some miso followed by the loved the Bresaola with kingfish sashimi and a light but lovely truffle dressing $22.

The sashimi looked great and you can order this in the 3, 5 or 7 varieties. We opted for the 5 varieties, which included bluefin tuna, scallops, snapper, kingfish and salmon. It was lovely sashimi and sliced to a nice size, served with wasabi and soy $47.

The absolute winner on the night was the Alaskan black cod $38 with Saikyo miso and picked cauliflower. The Smokey flavour was beautiful and it was so soft and melted in your mouth. We added a side of Asparagus with a miso butter.

We were still little hungry and so added on a maki roll and we were glad we did, as this was another favourite. A South Australian Kingfish with yuzu, truffle, chives and fresh chilli.

We ended with a whiskey ice cream which was also superb.

Drinks wise, they have some solid cocktails with Japanese flavours, sake, beers and wines and ask for the waiters suggestion to match your meal.

It was an all round fantastic experience, with a clean and sophisticated aesthetic, prompt service and incredible food. Whilst it is quite upper end for the budget, it’s worth every dollar.

Raku

148 Bunda St, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia

RAKU Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Urban Pantry @ Manuka, ACT

We were in Canberra for a weekend and looked up cafes to visit via google & Instagram. This café caught our eye and we are glad it did. We headed down to Mankua area, which is thriving with cafes, which we were pleasantly surprised about given it was between Christmas and New Year’s.

The Urban Pantry occupies a corner location just by a small open arcade. Its big swinging doors greet you from the front and it’s interior styling has a white cottage chic vibe going on, very pretty, with plenty of greenery. You can also sit alfresco.

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It wasn’t too busy and we were seated quickly. The food being served to other diners looked fabulous and the menu is very approachable so we had a very difficult time deciding what to order. Breakfast is until 11:30 or all day dining on weekends – we were brunch visitors but the lunch meals also looked very appealing, in particular the house made gnocchi or meat skewers. This will be for another time!

For the breakfast choices, their sweet dishes include Brioche French Toast and buttermilk pancakes. There’s also plenty of amazing choices to make that are savoury. Whether it be the chef’s pan or urban avocado, mushroom bruschetta or an omelette, you will find something to suit. We decided on their spring onion crumpets, topped with campari cured gravlax, creme fraiche and a toasted grain panagratto. The crumpets were light and fluffy and the topping was a lovely flavour combination. We really enjoyed this dish.

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I had the summer fruits – a plate of mango, dragonfruit, kiwi fruit, watermelon, pineapple and a coconut yoghurt pancaotta with macadamia granola. It was lovely and refreshing for summer. Could have done with a more generous serve of the granola for the crunch factor, but that said it was a good dish.

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To be honest I’m slightly regretting not ordering an open toast; the option that had oven roasted maple pear, basket ricotta and Majura Valley Vanilla honey is still calling my name. At least, it gives me a want to return!

The coffees are good too – we enjoyed an iced coffee, on what was a scorcher of a weekend.

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We really like that this café is not one of the typical cafes we often see in Sydney with their run of the mill bacon and egg rolls or over the top sweet colourful insta worthy dishes. We like that they are inventive and creative, making delicious dishes with beautiful fresh ingredients in an interesting way. Everything was stunning and we are super keen to revisit when in the area.

Urban Pantry

https://urbanpantrymanuka.com.au/

5 Bougainville St, Griffith, ACT

Urban Pantry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

QT Hotel Canberra – Rome: city and empire package

This hotel is 10km from Canberra airport and right in the heart of the Canberra CBD, only a few minutes’ walk from the Department store, cinema and restaurants. It is also only a very short drive to the Parliament House, National archives, Art Gallery, Questacon and more. It really is in a top location.

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We would describe this as a luxury boutique hotel that would be considered quite ‘kitsch’, mostly of a political pop art style decoration. This can be observed as you enter the hotel, with art representing political figures, a hall of mirrors, reception staff in power suits and all round clever theming.

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The hotel as 205 rooms, with plenty of spaced and featuring some cool art. Rooms have a bar fridge complete with supplies, a coffee machine and kettle as well as snacks and products for sale. We also really appreciated the free wi-fi and complimentary movies.

The hotel has an onsite bar called “Lucky’s”, a barber in the hotel for shave, beard trim or haircut and there’s also free on site free parking.

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It is a short 5 minute walk to plenty of great restaurants in the city, but if you’d prefer to eat in, the hotel has “Capitol bar and grill” with an Italian themed concept devised by food director Robert Marchetti with entrees like oysters, steak tartare and antipasto plates to name a few. For the mains, they have plenty of seafood options of seafood and amazing cuts of steak cooked on the wood fired grill. It is in this restaurant where the buffet breakfast is served. As far as hotels go, this was a good buffet – deli meats freshly sliced, baked goods, roasted granola and fresh fruit and yoghurt, as well as hot food. There’s regular tea and coffee, but if you’d prefer a proper latte or cappuccino, it comes at an extra cost.

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We stayed for the package deal “Rome: city and Empire” which is extremely good value. Priced at $245 + (as the website states), but ours was $225 on the Sunday. This was for the room, on site parking, movies, buffet breakfast for 2, 2 tickets to the Rome Exhibition at the Australian museum and an exhibition book. This exhibition brings over 200 objects from the British Museum to Australia.

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So, if you’re exploring the nation’s capital, this is a great place to stay and we recommend the Rome package

Note – there is no pool, spa or fitness centre (something I normally look for in a hotel

https://www.qthotelsandresorts.com/canberra

1 London Circuit,

Canberra ACT 2601

Our ‘best of’ foodie experiences 2018: Sydney and Surrounds

2018 has been a busy year, we have been fortunate enough to travel much of this wonderful world and all over this beautiful harbour city. We’ve written over 200 blogs, as well as reviews on multiple platforms and are appreciative of all venues for having us well as the support provided from our friends and loyal followers.

We are very lucky to have such a multi-cultural influence in Australia which makes Sydney rich in culture and it also means we are spoilt for choice when it comes to dining options. We have compiled our ‘best of’ list, reflecting the range of cuisines on offer. We hope this list will provide some guidance when you are sitting at home in the new year procrastinating about where to go for breakfast, a coffee, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner or something sweet.

Whether looking for a coffee on the run or somewhere to catch up with friends for brunch, Sydney certainly delivers, with most Sydney suburbs having quality offerings.

Coffee

Our favourite way to start our day is with a good cup of coffee and there are plenty of places that come to mind. At the top of this list is Artificer on Bourke St Surry Hills and this humble little corner shop is a specialist coffee roaster which does only coffee and no food, so they have to be good.

A new one up there in the coffee stakes is Ona Coffee. Having opened their cafe in Marrickville this year, these guys have gone from strength to strength and they do offer food too. We also continued to enjoy Mecca, which always do a quality coffee roast and have a great selection of interesting food. We will also have to give props to the quality Baristas at our local Panivore in Pagewood who pump out the Mecca coffee and do it justice. There is also Coffee Alchemy in Marrickville, so popular, even David Beckham paid them a visit when in town.

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Image – Ona

Cafes

For good cafes in Sydney, there are so many to choose from and you pretty much see a new one open up every other week. However, at the top of our list is Edition Coffee Roasters, who have a sleek new space, close to what was once the Entertainment Centre. Edition do a nice cup of coffee and a sophisticated Japenese inspired cafè menu. The Sokyo Breakfast at the Star was very impressive and we suggest doing the double, ordering a la carte and the buffet. We also enjoyed At Neutral and also  5 loaves 2 fish in Neutral Bay for a quality breakfast offering, the Mews in Mosman also putting out a creative Breakfast menu. Girdlers stores in the Northern Beaches producers some great healthy food options. The Reuben bagel at Lox, Stock and Barrel and in Bondi also impresed. Buku, a new opening in Zetland also up there, with coffee by Artificer, quality pastries and a top notch food menu.

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Image – Edition coffee roasters

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Image – 5 loaves 2 fish

Cheap eats

For cheap eats under $20, you must venture west to the Casula Power House and go to Bellbird dining. The quality of meal on offer is amazing comparative to price, food fresh from their garden and great technique on display. Forever at the top of our list is Suzuya on Devonshire St Surry Hills. This place serves quality Japanese, with fresh ingredients, big portions and reasonably priced. For Thai, Spice I am is a great option with interesting dishes and the spice levels are through the roof. Charcoal Kingdom in Rockdale is geat for your fix of Lebanese Charcoal chicken with garlic sauce and across the road is an awesome Lebanese Patisserie called Ibrahims, making for a great dinner and dessert combo. We also love a good pie and sausage roll, so Bourke St Bakery are on the list. You simply cannot do a cheap eats list with out Bahn Mi and there are two that rise above the pack, Hong Ha for their chicken Bahn mi and Marrickville Pork Roll for their Pork Roll. Butter in Surry Hills great for some fried chicken booze and their cinnamon doughnut is simply ridiculous. We will also add some sweet – Gelato Messina always has a special place in our heart and we have now added Ciccone and sons to that list.

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Image – Bellbird

Dining

There are also plenty of great eating experiences around town. Sashimi Shingensumi was an amazing experience in Crows Nest. A small restaurant run by a husband and wife team, serving a beautiful sushi and sashimi degustation feast with masterful knife skill on display all for $70 and, it is BYO too. Although it is very difficult to secure a spot, the phone only open for booking once every three months, it is worth the wait.

Another great experience was the Basque Club Gure Txoko, which we found out about this gem through SBS food. This social club in Darlinghurst representing an ancient culture from the North of Spain and South of France, rich in culture and famous for their cuisine. Open every Sunday, putting on a delicious 3 course lunch for $30. There is also a good selection of booze and it is super cheap too.

There are also plenty of great reasonably priced meals to be had in Sydney. Peppercorn at the Civic being the pick of the bunch, you’d be hard pressed to find a meal with more flavour and it is a great fusion of Laotian and Thai cusine. Da Mario’s is good for some authentic pizza and Pino’s Vino e Cucina for some great pasta. We will also include Ho Jiak for some quality Malaysian food.

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Image – Ho Jiak

Bars

Big Poppa’s is a great spot for a drink with a bite to eat. Then there is Mjolner for a hearty feed and a great whisky list. The GPO cheese room for both their cheese and wine experience. Our favourite new bar is Redfern Surf Club for their party vibe and creative cocktails.

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Image – Mjolner

Fine dining

For something fancy, and on those special occasions, Fujisaki was a favourite with their classy display of Japanese cuisine and it is also great value. We revisited LuMi and it again makes the list, we love the sophisticated flavour combinations. Cirrus at Barangaroo is a great new addition, keeping up to those hats with a high quality seafood dishes by the water. Aqua dining in Milsons Point another great waterfront dining venue and we love that it is BYO. A classic, Macleay St Bistro has made the cut with a great offering of classic French food, done very well and some charismatic service.

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Image – Fujisaki

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Image – Cirrus

Out of Town

Out of town there have been a few standouts. A late visit to Canberra really suprised us. We knew they had some great cafès, however the number of quality establishments is understated. In fact, Canberra could quite possibly challange Sydney in this regard. We had a beautiful brunch at Urban Pantry, a great atmosphere and so many top menu items. It has been one of our favourite cafes of the year.

Image – Urban Pantry

We also had a wonderful meal at Raku, a phenomenal Japanese Restaurant with a Robata grill and a top class sushi and sashimi station. Raku is a classy establishment and has a great Japanese drinks list.

Image – Raku

We also ventured to Wollongong on a number of occasions and quite enjoyed Lily J cafe, they had quality coffee on offer and some great healthy brunch items.

The Press cafè in Bowral was another revelation with good coffee and quality cafè fare was elegantly presented.

We also headed North to Newcastle Habesha Ethiopian restaurant was a pleasant suprise, the food and atmosphere were equally excellent.

Image – The Press Cafe

We hope this list helps you to also enjoy some great dining!

Kurt and Sarah

 

It’s all about the coffee @ ONA

You know the coffee is good when that’s primarily all the café sells! Well, that and a few donuts to keep you from getting peckish. And it’s not really a café as such, more a “coffee bar”.

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Ona Coffee has long been popular in Canberra, with stores at Manuka and they’re already gaining the crowds here in Sydney at Marrickville. It’s clear that coffee is a huge passion for the staff here, headed by Head Barista Issaac Kim.

The venue feels like a pop up store in its décor, but that’s all part of the style. Trendy staff, music pumping, it’s got a fairly hipster vibe.

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Sit at the coffee bar, ask for some advice from the baristas. Whether it’s your typical latte or cappuccino (select your beans), or a filtered coffee (select from the menu options). It seems more like personalised coffee experience here. Sit, chat, sample different types of coffee and find the flavour you like and maybe even purchase your favourite bag of beans to take home.

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They have shortstop donuts, butterbing cookies and also a small menu. We tried the house-cured kingfish smorrebrod with lemon aioli, pickles, capers, boiled egg and rye. It might sound simple, but it looked and tasted incredibly good. I did want to try the rye waffles, but that’s for another time!

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They run coffee training school and also a latte art workshop.

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Pay this place a visit soon.

Ona Coffee

140 Marrickville Rd, Marrickville NSW 2204

Ona Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato