Canberra has seen a growing number of BBQ-style eateries recently - Hopscotch, Black Fire, and Ox Eatery, to name a few. Wood and Coal is the newest addition to this growing list. It's located in the Canberra Centre, near Jamie's Italian, replacing Babar's. The restaurant opened with a soft launch over the weekend, offering limited bookings to customers and giving a 25% off discount for the whole meal. Linda from Berra Believe It and I secured a booking and checked it out.
The interior blends several styles - the brick and wood panelling provokes a rustic home-style vibe, but the black steel accents keeps it modern. The new fit out creates several dining sections across the restaurant, making the most of the large space.
A long and impressive free-standing bar greets customers at the entrance.
The mix of modern and classic styles work seamlessly together - the funky oversized black dome lights complementing the white arches, which hint at elegant Venetian architecture (think Rialto Bridge).
We were seated in the terrace-like area next to the viney balcony.
The food menu features a selection of small plates (entree size) and large plates (main size), as well as a section dedicated to meat from the spit. The menu demonstrates contemporary flavours spanning multiple cultures - from Mediterranean to Japanese to French to Vietnamese cuisine.
We kicked off with the kingfish sashimi ($20) that was so fresh, there was absolutely no fishy scent. The flavours and textures of the fennel salad, smoke fish pate and crisp sourdough complemented the sashimi perfectly. What a great start to the meal.
The Milk bun thit ($12 for two) was Wood and Coal's take on the Vietnamese banh mi - and turned out to be pork sliders on yummy milk buns (which tasted kind of like brioche buns). While I felt it was a slightly oilier version of a traditional banh mi roll, I didn't mind as the meat was juicy and flavourful. The pickled carrot, cucumber, yuzu mayo and chilli gave the sliders a complexity of flavour not normally found in burgers this size. In terms of value, I rated it highly and would definitely choose this over Monster's 38 hour pork neck bao with cucumber kimchi which I felt was dry, lacked sauce and ridiculously overpriced (at $18 for two baos).
Next up was the lunch tasting plate ($25). The practical but slightly visually unappealing compartmentalised metal tray separated the various rotisserie meats. We were told that because we ordered it early, we got the crunchy outside bits. Hooray! There was a generous serve for each meat and would be a great option for solo diners. The maple-glazed pork neck and the capsicum-marinated lamb belly were both great, but the stand out for me was the charcoal free-range chicken and the amazingly creamy sauce that accompanied it. I loved that all the meats were served with their own unique condiments.
We also ordered a side of the snake bean ($10), which was a simple accompaniment to the meat dishes when you had just the beans, but became a flavourful and complex dish in its own right when you ate the beans with the garlic, chilli, shrimp and hazelnut mixture.
The lunch tasting plate comes with a dessert - loukoumades. But after we finished our savoury dishes, we asked to see the dessert menu because we thought the tasting menu-sized dessert was probably not going to be big enough for hungry food bloggers like us!
I'm really glad we tried a few of the other desserts because they were spectacular. My favourite was the brandy snap cannoli. There was a distinct crack when you broke into it and the ginger mascarpone was so light and the flavour was heavenly. I also savoured the smoked ice cream and its unique flavour. The whole dish worked fantastically well together.
The olive oil sponge dish was the dessert that took our breath away with its stunning visual appearance. The bright colour and smooth texture of the red velvet cheesecake ice cream contrasted so vividly against the rough texture and the dark colour of the sponge cake.
The wait staff knew the food well. When each dish was set down on our table, it was accompanied by a comprehensive rundown of what was in the dish, which was well received.
We couldn't help but notice that the wait staff were a tad overly attentive, checking on us and regularly interrupting the flow of conversation. Taking into account the restaurant is currently in their opening week and the meal we had was during their limited service, it probably wouldn't have been the case, if only one waiter was assigned to our table. A very minor issue in the whole scheme of things and I'm sure once the restaurant flings open its doors to the wider public and the restaurant is in full swing, other diners won't have this issue. The silver lining, however, was that my water glass was never empty, a huge plus for someone who drinks like a camel.
If you're into cool restaurant fit outs and barbecued meats, I would definitely recommend you check out Wood and Coal. Though I would have to say Wood and Coal is probably on the pricier side (it would have cost $103 for lunch for two people without the 25% discount, and we didn't order any drinks).
The Low-Down on Wood and Coal Cuisine: Barbecue What I loved: milk bun thit, charcoal chicken and creamy sauce, brandy snap cannoli Best for: Cashed up meat eaters and those who love fancy desserts
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