Reinventing Canberra - part 1
Above: Raku Dining - seared 150-day angus beef strip-loin,
black truffle dressing, pickled onion and garlic
Canberra. Yes to alarm you, read and act now people. I don't say this lightly when I say it's an AWSOME little break away!
On a recent road trip to our Nation's Capital, I found myself feeling a little uneasy admitting to my friends prior, that we had Canberra solely in our sights for an upcoming mini break adventure. On reflection, never speak too early when embarking on a 'reinvention' of your childhood school day adventures, nothing could be further from our previous experiences. In a nutshell Canberra was fantastic from all aspects, and it was that good, I'm flying the parliamentary flag and sharing it with you in 2 posts.
Last time I ventured down for a 'serious' look at our headquarters, I had an overly crafted, gelled up fringe that sat without moving upright from my blonde curly perm.
I sat jammed into the back row of a greyhound bus with a huge ice-cream container packed full of snakes and banana lollies that mum had packed for me and 30 of my other best friends, as a walkman playing a cassette of INXS sat on my lap (and yes, those are waist high, acid wash jeans that I was wearing!).
Those school trips to Canberra, how can we forget them? I have to say at my school, we were the last grade to experience this wonderful 'school camp' adventure as we returned with one student with a broken arm and another with concussion (OK we went to the snow too) and 2 others who had been suspended for being caught smoking, quite possibly something illegal, so let's just say all trips to Canberra from that day on were cancelled until further notice! I will note here, I actually went to quite a good school.
Reinventing Canberra was a breeze thanks to my more 'mature' outlook on the world. The sense of respect for my fellow countryman's services to Australia in times of war and my husbands ongoing commitment to political conversations over red wine and bbq'd sausages, were the main draw cards. However, a little extra sparkle caught my eye too as a flash of the current Cartier Exhibition appeared on my TV screen on the days prior.
A stunning display from 'Cartier - The Exhibition'
It's a trip that is well worthy of an extended stay to take a fresh look at our history, politics and nature, all with a dash of glamour and of course great food and drinks along the way too.
Firstly I have to say, it is the best museum I have ever seen and experienced anywhere in my travels around the world! It still has it's dioramas (those little sculptured scenes depicting specific moments in battle) from when I visited as a school kid, but it has so, so, so much more to offer now and technology is helping to enhance your experience. In the 'ANZAC Hall' you will be able to relive, via a sound-and-light show which surrounds a huge Avro Lancaster bomber, a moment it flew on a night operation over Berlin in Dec 1943. In the 'Second World War' section, fly inside the belly of a simulated vibrating aircraft as it conducts a bombing raid over Germany, or in the 'Conflicts 1945 to today' section, take a climb inside the HMAS Brisbane to stand on the bridge of this historic warship. Wander in 'The Hall of Valour' honouring those who have received the Victoria Cross, which also holds a fully kitted uniform of Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith. How that man never got shot amazed us as he is so huge! At the moment there is an exceptional exhibition called 'From the Shadows: Australia's Special Forces' which was extraordinary. There is just so much to see we actually went back following afternoon and even more importantly, stayed to watch Last Post Ceremony which is held every day just before closing to commemorate one of the names on the Roll of Honour. An emotional moment, which included haunting live performances of both the bagpipes as wreaths were being payed and bugler sounding of the last post to close the ceremony.
Please go, but reserve lots of time to immerse yourself in this very special place, it's like no other (oh and remarkably, it's free/gold coin donation).
More details here
Modern day 'paparazzi' as the Queen arrived to open the 20th Parliament in the Senate Chamber in 1954
Highlights for me were the Press Rooms where I recorded my own newsworthy interview with Paul Keating and was able to put myself in the 'back stage' rabbit hole offices in the rafters behind the House of Representatives. Many of the rooms in the building were small and poky at best and I could only imagine what it would have been like working there in the times of typewriters, wall to wall wood paneling, cigarettes (and all with no windows in many of the offices) and Bow Hawke, the last of the serving Prime Minister before moving into the new digs up the road in 1988. Wow hasn't time moved along. There was a great area dedicated to all the serving Prime Ministers where there was information on each which you could listen via a connected telephone handset to news reels and info about them. There were lots of small interesting exhibitions, my favourite was 'Dress Code: Empire'.
More details here
Inside the House of Representatives Chamber at Parliament House Canberra
It's always kinda cool to see something in person which you often see on TV. The House of Representatives Chamber was great, all be it empty on the day we visited but still quite impressive in real time. The free tour was excellent and helped to point out the important parts of the building, including speaking in 'laymen' terms for those less informed about today's politics. Let's just say, our tour guide also conducted the school tours though the building and that was very helpful for me! Worth a look and even fun to do both 'Old' and 'New' houses in the same day. If timing permits, go on a day when Parliament is sitting, and sit back and let the games begin!
More details here
Enough about all that stuff, let's get to the notable food bits...
The Cupping Room, Canberra
This place was packed when we arrived and as soon as we stood in the long line, with as it seemed everyone else in Canberra, we could see great things happening everywhere. The staffing systems (meet and greet by one person, seated by another, coffees by another all beautifully timed etc) were perfected and yes I know it's strange to comment on this, but when it works it's nice to watch! We had breakfast here on 2 occasions and both were equally excellent. The setting is lovely both outside in the Canberra morning sun with perfectly placed awnings which allowed sun on our backs and not in our face, and inside on the second visit with lots of wood, clean lines, mint green highlights and flowing green hanging plants among the various seating configurations. Felt good.
Mushroom, mushroom mousse, nectarine, peach, crumbed mozzarella, dark rye
The Cupping Room Canberra
My standout meal was an amazing dish of varying styles and varieties of cooked, dried mushrooms and even a mushroom mousse which all melted in my mouth. Also added to the flavour bomb was nectarine, peach and a lovely crispy ball of perfectly portioned crumbed mozzarella, all on a beautiful toasty dark rye bread. There seemed to be a lovely hit of maybe lemon myrtle sprinkled on top (sorry should have asked) which enhanced it to another level - nice! Coffee was so perfected, nothing more to say, except they are serious here so try their different blends and enjoy the perfected cup with properly textured milk!
More details here
Seated at the bar at Raku Dinning - best spot for all the action!
This modern Japanese was simply superb on every level. The name Raku is a Japanese style of pottery which is crafted by hand so every piece of our dining crockery was simple and individual. The setting was of varying communal and individual tables, seats at the stone bar and then even little almost sectioned off individual tabled, 'traditional Japanese' rooms. We fortunately took an earlier booking which meant we could sit at the bar and watch the chefs strut their knife skills with precision.
Left: Signature Oysters, cucumber w tozasu dressing. Right: South Australian albacore tuna tartar, wasabi miso w crispy rice crackers.
Left: Sashimi santen.
Right: Canadian scallops, jalapeño, green apple w garlic mayonnaise
Left: Tender stem broccolini w moromi miso & ginger dressing. Right: Toasted sesame ice cream w caramelised hazelnuts, sticky miso caramel & matcha wafer
We enjoyed the Tasting Menu which comprised of about 10 dishes (some I have added above) and have to say, I had the best Oysters I have ever tasted. Everything was done to perfection. Simple, delicate and with flavour combinations which were fresh and enlivening. Our best dining experience in a long time, let alone in Canberra.
More details here
We found that the area around Braddon was a great place to stay, just north of the city centre so we could pretty much walk to the city if needed (about 15-20 mins walk) and there is a fab strip of food, bars and boutique brewery's, among the very cool mix of both vintage and arty shops in there too. To me it felt a bit Surry Hills kinda style, but on a super miniature scale. The Visit Canberra site has some handy information.
So that's it folks until next week. Hope I have inspired you so far with some exciting places to visit. In my next post I'll share more about the Cartier Exhibition, The National Arboretum and National Portrait Gallery, and get ready for some more exciting foodie stops with a fantastic Gin & Tonic experience, a great burger and a lovely neighbourhood cafe. I've also got a new 'hit-list' of spots for my next visit to share too.
Get booking, school holidays are coming!
LOVE YOUR FOOD (and road trip) MOMENTS... ENYOY!