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Top restaurants and cafés in Canberra

Canberra’s food scene is taking off in a big way, with award-winning cafés for lovers of the bean, and diverse and delicious restaurant offerings

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When you visit Canberra, you’re opening the larder door on an eclectic mix of cuisines and experiences. With award-winning restaurants and baristas, plus must-try dishes, it has earned its place on the gourmet map. The star of the show is Canberra’s local produce – including truffles and smoked meats.

Cool cafés

On the one hand, you could kick off your day with an acai bowl with muesli, banana, blueberries, and coconut milk, but just as easily you could find that you actually want strawberry and cream hotcakes, because you’re a dessert person who isn’t afraid to start the day with vanilla cream, berry sorbet and rose white chocolate. The little details show here, where they serve locally smoked Pialligo bacon, potato rosti with their Benedict, and a brekkie burrito with kim chi and hollandaise. Shop/7 Hopetoun Circuit, Deakin 2600. 02 6162 2027. Mon-Fri 6.30am-5pm; Sat, Sun 7am-4pm. $

By day this café and art gallery is the place to head for ricotta hotcakes topped with more fruit than a Carmen Miranda headdress; a classic brekkie roll beefed up with cheddar and zucchini in addition to your egg, bacon, aioli and barbecue sauce combo; and a litter of mixed mushrooms adorning your toast. Come nightfall, cheese, charcuterie and beef tartare are on the menu, as well as the possibility of some after-hours entertainment that could be local musicians one night, and a poetry reading or comedy set the next. 1 Wattle Pl, Lyneham 2602. 02 6249 8453. Tue 7am-3pm; Wed-Fri 7am-late; Sat 8am-late; Sun 8am-3pm. $


Canberra’s famous sustainable coffee roasters, Ona, are behind this rugged all-day eatery. They’re putting three kinds of cheese into their breakfast fritters with peas, or if you fancy a sweet start to the day, they make sticky date French toast with caramel and mascarpone. Their burgers run all day and onto the night menu, where they join seasonal modern Australian fare like season tomatoes with stracciatella or asparagus with feta and almonds. Plus, you know that the coffee is going to be black gold worth travelling for. 1 Woolley St, Dickson 2601. 02 6181 7799. Mon-Wed 7am-4pm; Thu, Fri 7am-late; Sat 8am-late; Sun 8am-3pm. $

Everyone has different ideas about what makes the perfect café breakfast, which is why this sustainable, free-range loving, gently industrial café provides the building blocks of your morning meal so that you can construct your own. Toast is the foundation, and you can opt for simple spreads, or customise with eggs, goat’s cheese, broccolini, kale, ham, salmon, avo or a tomato medley. Throw a salted peanut butter caramel smoothie in there for good measure and it’s a strong start to your day. 35 Eastlake Pde, Kingston 2604. 02 6162 1422. Mon-Fri 7am-3pm; Sat, Sun 8am-5pm. $


If you like your breakfast in as many styles as backpackers like passport stamps, head here for a morning meal that could start in China with chicken xiu mai, followed by a Nordic hit from smorrebrod with potato and mushrooms. India is represented in a paratha with cauliflower; Japan’s offering is a black sesame waffle with milk tea; and Vietnam’s famous street food sandwich, the banh mi, also gets a look in. And in a move that’s more New York than anything else, they have three breakfast cocktails, including a Café Toddy that mixes bourbon with chai tea and cold brew coffee. NewActon Pavilion, 2/15 Edinburgh Ave, Canberra 2601. 02 6257 6464. Daily 6am-3pm. $

You can get very Parisian at this bakery that managed to gain the attention of the New York Times on their last visit to the Capital. They’ll shave local truffles onto your scrambled eggs, sling you a very French breakfast of a $4.50 brioche with jam to go with your morning café au lait, or stuff buttery croissants with ham and cheese. Plus they bake daily baguettes and won’t judge you if you need a Bloody Mary – it’s the second item on the menu, they know what’s up. 36 Giles St, Kingston 2604. 02 6260 6060. Tue-Sat 7am-4pm. $

Top restaurants

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This buzzy pan-Asian bar and restaurant is big enough that you can walk up on a whim, but it’s also popular, so worth booking ahead for. Inside it’s decked out a little like a cabin in the woods by way of a Tokyo karaoke bar. There’s lots of warm timber lining the room and decorative wood piles as room dividers, but there’s also a whole lot of rainbow neon too. Pull up a stool to a high table and get snacking, though be mindful that serves aren’t small so you can fill up quick. Their dumpling game is on point, and they don’t get lazy on the veggo front, grilling a whole half eggplant with sweet miso and then adding some snap, crackle and pop with pepitas, puffed rice and seaweed. 40 Bunda St, Canberra 2601. 02 6162 0602. Daily 11.30am-3pm & 5.30pm-midnight. $$

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Just as the cutesy name suggests, this fast food joint is all about the good clean fun of a Korean fried chicken burger, a teriyaki cheeseburger or a bulgogi cheesesteak serve with kimchi and nori. They waffle their fries, they add gochujang to their Buffalo sauce, and they add panko crumbs to their kimchi spiked mac’n’cheese. It’s like the food of Pixar’s San Fransokyo came to life in Canberra. And if you struggle to choose between fast-food treats, they have an $18 deal that gets you a burger, waffle fries, a piece of fried chicken and a lychee or passionfruit soft drink. 54 Alinga St, Canberra 2601. Daily noon-10pm. $

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This Braddon hotspot has worn a comfortable groove, and most importantly, dining here is fun. Maybe you’re here for pork belly with pickled fennel and black pudding, or the soft, three-bite steamed buns filled with duck meat, hoisin sauce and quick pickles. Or maybe all you want is a little bucket of fried chicken with kewpie mayo and sriracha, and more power to you. It’s a good call. Staff here have that knack of making you feel like their personal guest, and their enthusiasm for the local wines on the menu is contagious. Cnr Lonsdale & Eloura St, Braddon 2612. 02 6161 8686. Sun, Tue-Thu 6-10pm; Fri, Sat 6-11pm. $$

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These guys are the mechanics you see when you need to grease up your system with burgers, fried chicken and a milkshake. When you need a full service and oil change, that’s the time to go big with a burger featuring a beef patty, streaky bacon, egg, cheese, pineapple, lettuce, tomato, beetroot, onion, relish, and special sauce. But if you’re part of the vocal movement who know that the best fried filling for a burger is a fillet of fish, then you want to order the ‘Wanda’, which stars tempura hake, cheese, lettuce, tartare and relish, in a higher end riff on your favourite fast food order. 19 Lonsdale St, Braddon 2612. 02 6174 1401. Daily 11am-late. $

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Spring and summer in Canberra are ideal for alfresco dining. With their pretty miniature garden area outside, and an interior panelled in warm wood and hand-glazed tiles, centred around two striking bars, Mocan and Green Grout is a restaurant for all seasons. The menu, while small, will cater to most dietaries – given the small kitchen they keep things pared-back, veg-heavy and local-produce focused. 1/19 Marcus Clarke St, Canberra 2601. 02 6162 2909. Mon 7am-4pm; Tue-Sat 7am-9pm; Sun 8am-2pm. $$

Thai is the dominant influence on the menu of this mod Asian diner down by the foreshore, but elements of Chinese, Malaysian and even Burmese cooking also find their way onto the dynamic menus here. They change regularly, so your meal could jump from soft shell crab rotis with yellow curry to barbecue pork buns, to Burmese curry, to northern Thai-style barbecue chicken, with a duck red curry and old-school fried rice thrown in for the full Contiki-Asia experience. 18/19 Eastlake Pde, Kingston 2604. 02 6295 0112. Wed-Fri, Sun noon-late; Sat 6pm-late. $$


This is where you come for beautiful, restrained Japanese food with a focus on seafood. You can have it raw, in the kingfish served with truffle yuzu, cold in a spanner crab salad with soba, or hot as king prawns doused in XO butter. They’re slicing up fresh snapper, tuna belly and scallops into sashimi or nigiri; adding crunch with popcorn shrimp on the tempura menu; and glazing salmon in teriyaki. They’re also amping up your vegetable sides with more of that famous sweet, soy-based sauce, adding it to heirloom carrots and duck fat potatoes. 148 Bunda St, Canberra 2601. 02 6248 6869. Daily 11am-late. $$

Lots of people have misgivings about Australia’s contribution to Mexican food, but when a venue is hand pressing their own tortillas out of masa, it’s a good sign of the things to come. The fillings also don’t conform to the box-ticking spread of pulled pork/spicy chicken/beans. They get creative, using sugar snap peas, chilli creamed corn, carrot pickles and nuts; or perhaps pairing refried black eye beans with smoked ricotta, jalapeños and a red salsa. On your visit, the chicken might come with tomato and chipotle gravy, onions and guacamole, but it could be something entirely different. That’s the beauty of this taqueria. Shop 8, No Name Ln, 40 Marcus Clarke St, Canberra 2601. Mon, Tue 11am-3pm; Wed-Fri 11am-late; Sat 5.30pm-late. $

Pialligo Estate

Surprisingly, this rural escape is actually only 15 minutes from Civic, and right next to the airport, though you’d never know it from the look of this riverfront estate featuring a vineyard, olive grove, it’s own smokehouse and restaurant. It makes sense that charcuterie plays a big role in their offering, as do prime cuts cooked over hardwood charcoal or in cast-iron pans on open flames. 1/18 Kallaroo Rd, Pialligo 2609. 02 6247 6060. Wed-Fri noon-4pm & 6pm-late; Sat 9am-4pm & 6pm-late; Sun 9am-4pm. $$


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