White Rabbit Cocktail Room, Canberra

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Kremlin Bar is no more. Instead, it has been converted into White Rabbit Cocktail Room. 2015-09-27 13.06.34

I first noticed this development when I walked past and saw the renovations. Curiouser and curiouser.

It looks like they'll be opening their doors at 6pm on Thursday 1 October!

I was fortunate to be able to attend the grand opening launch party last night, where I had a chat to owner Alex Piris about Ivy and the Fox (Thanks to Jason Perelson for being my cameraman!)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoZyJ5UMa3o Alex will be bringing the magic of Fox and Bow to his new venture with co-owner John Stokes, who has owned the Ivy Cafe (previously at Old Canberra House) for the last five years. Initially, Ivy and the Fox will be serving the Crawford School on the week days. On the weekend, it will become a brunch spot where people can bring picnic blankets and sit outside, enjoying the lake view. Expansive shaded green lawns make for a perfect picnic spot, especially during sunset.

  A photo posted by Housh Fallah (@housh45) on

On Friday and Sunday afternoons, Ivy and the Fox will host some live music for after work drinks and Sunday sessions. Jack Billman will be kicking this off at the happy hour this Friday.

Jack Billman at the launch of @ivyandthefox_ #music #livemusic #newacton #foodie #launchparty

A video posted by Foodpornjournal (@foodpornjournal) on

A truly multi-function space, the gorgeous courtyard out the back would be a beautiful space for an intimate event like a wedding!

A photo posted by Wita • P (@wita.pspt) on

The Old Canberra House has been revamped into a sophisticated cafe/ bar with a minimalist colour scheme. Black accents and touches of greenery contrast beautifully against the simple white walls and gorgeous white window. It's an elegant and cosy bar that welcomes anyone and everyone. A feature wall is tucked in a corner, displaying a street-art mural by Steve Caddick.

A photo posted by OutInCanberra (@outincanberra) on

The finger food that was brought out at the cocktail party showcased some beautiful produce. My group hovered close to the kitchen entrance so we had the best chance of getting to the food as soon as they were brought out!

The prawn, wasabi and avocado mousse was a simple and fresh pairing of flavours. The peppered lamb crostini, mint and cashew pesto, beetroot relish was an interesting mix of flavours and textures. The perfectly pink lamb went so well with the crunch from the pesto and the sweetness from the beetroot relish. The whipped goats cheese and slow roasted heirloom tomato tartlets was a delightful interpretation of classic tomato and cheese flavours.

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I also enjoyed the wagyu rump skewers with chimichurri (an Argentinian green sauce used for grilled meat). The meat was just so tender and the sauce was punchy and balanced out the richness of the meat.

My favourite canape of the night was the chilli crab and pea croquettes with kewpie mayonnaise and bonito flakes. I love putting this seasoning on my rice and it was a genius decision to add it here. The croquettes themselves had a wonderfully fluffy texture and an obvious crab flavour. It was so good that when I saw them come out again, I rudely abandoned my conversation with someone so I could go over to the waiter and grab one!! (luckily they came with me)

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Ivy and the Fox really know how to throw a party! If you are looking for a secluded, elegant party venue with a view of the lake, I suggest you get in touch with Alex and his team!

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As for the kind of food they will be serving as a cafe? It will be similar to Fox and Bow cafe, but with a few tweaks. Menu coming soon, so stay tuned!

Ivy and the Fox Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Low-Down on Ivy and the Fox Eatery type: Cafe and bar Address: Old Canberra House, Lennox Crossing, Acton (Australian National University) Open: Mon-Fri as a cafe from  7 Sep. Friday drinks and brunch on Sat-Sun coming soon. Phone: 0422 108 713 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ivyfoxfood

Are you on social media? Don’t miss my latest updates on the best food and drink in Canberra and beyond! You never know what hidden gem  might be just around the corner from you!

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Thanks to @housh45 @foodpornjournal @inexplicablewanderlust @wita.pspt and @outincanberra for their lovely Instagram photos!

Westside Acton Park - shipping container village

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After our yum cha experience at AKIBA, Linda and I decided to go in search for dessert. I'd heard that the shipping container village was doing a soft launch on the Canberra Day weekend and we wanted to check out the creperie, news of which kept tantalising me.

Image credit: Linda Soo

When we got there, it looked as though the recreational area was ready to be used, but not all shops were open, including the creperie. The skateboard swings were pretty cool though!

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynerDfs0Gho&feature=youtu.be

A bit of digging on the Westside Acton Park website uncovered the following information I was after about the food and drink on offer:

Miss Vân’s Street Food (Vietnamese, Lao and Thai food)

Miss Vân’s is proud to offer food that has been cooked by three generations of our family, spanning over four different countries. Though focusing primarily on Vietnamese cuisine, we incorporate a heavy influence of Lao & Thai cooking flavours and dishes. Food that is commonly sold by street vendors and at hawker markets in Vietnam, Laos & Thailand; we present tasty, vibrant, fresh and healthy classic dishes.

A central menu consisting of phở (beef noodle soup), bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwich) & bún (Vermicelli noodle bowls), we will offer a weekly rotating “specials” menu, where one featured dish is sold in addition to the regular menu. These dishes will include items such as Vietnamese pork & lemongrass soup (Bún bò Huế), chicken congee (Cháo gà), Vietnamese chicken rice, sticky rice & grilled chicken, pad thai, springrolls & stuffed chicken wings etc.

Beverages will include Vietnamese iced coffee, homemade soya bean milk infused with pandan leaf & ginger, young coconut juice, along with the standard fare of soft drinks.

La Crepe (French Creperie)

La Crepe is the creation of Parisien, Franck Leonhardt, whose connection with Australia commenced after a chance meeting with an Australian woman in the romantic city of Paris. It was love at first sight! They got married, lived in Paris for twelve years and relocated to Canberra in 2012 with their two sons.

Franck will be recreating the delicious sweet and savory crepes from his childhood at the exciting new Westside Acton Park precinct.

O' So Smoothie (smoothie bar)

O‘ So Smoothie will predominantly be a smoothie kiosk which will also offer the O’ So Smoothie specialty muesli. We have developed a menu which caters to the dietary requirements of dairy-free and gluten intolerant people, being a health focused café.

The menu includes a range of rich and creamy to light and refreshing smoothies. There will be everyday smoothies and a specials board which will change weekly. We will have low-carb options for those who wish to watch their sugar intake and high protein and energy shakes for those looking to power through the day. All smoothies will be made from fresh and healthy ingredients sourced and bought locally where possible.

Damn Fine Roasters (Canberra's first drive-thru coffee shop)

Damn Fine Roasters is a coffee roasting business with its roots and family heritage originating from Italy. It’s unique blend is Southern Italian, a family recipe which will leave you with the hypnotising aroma of this fine blend of fresh coffee.

Along with selling fresh coffee, they also offer hot herbal teas, ice cold herbal teas, Italian ice cream, and a new product from Italy called Crema Caffe.

What is unique and sets Damn Fine Roasters apart, is that it will be the first drive thru coffee shop in Canberra, strategically positioned at Westside Acton Park to be able to operate from dusk till dawn.

Aviary (rooftop bar)

This ground-breaking rooftop bar is Canberra’s first sky high saloon, the perfect place to drink in views of the city skyline while you, well, drink in! The entire structure has been designed from the ground up (literally!) with custom furniture made from recycled wooden pallets complementing the ecological feel of the garden bar.

The panoramic windows provide spectacular views of Black Mountain Tower, the National Galley, Parliament House and many of Canberra’s most famous landmarks, all while you sample a bespoke menu of crisp cocktails, craft beers, side by side with both the best of local and imported beverages to suit everyone’s tastes.

Located on Barrine Drive in Acton, Westside Acton Park will officially open on Saturday 14 March 2015.

Want more information on the Canberra shipping container village? Check out the website and Facebook page.

Are you on social media? Check out my latest updates on every dish that’s worth eating in Canberra and beyond! Facebook : /thefoodavenue Instagram: @thefoodavenue Twitter: @thefoodavenue

Canberra: AKIBA, Civic (with menu)

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Possibly the most hotly-anticipated new restaurant in Canberra in recent months, AKIBA invited the first 100 people through its doors on Saturday night to have their first six dishes for free. (My free dishes in this review can be identified by the asterisks next to the prices.) AKIBA is a vibrant and fun casual dining establishment that has a lightning strike for a logo, always spells its name in capital letters and is named after a fire-controlling Japanese deity. Located in the ACTEWAGL building in Civic, and inspired by Akihabara, the electronics precinct of Tokyo, there is a definitely an electric vibe to AKIBA!

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My research revealed that the creators of AKIBA, Mike and Pete Harrington, also operate Sage restaurant and had previously worked at fine dining establishments such as  Tetsuya’s, and Aria. Chefs Johnon Mcdonald and Brian Logan, between them have worked at institutions including Tetsuya’s, Rockpool Sydney, Marque, Morimoto NYC and Nobu London. Needless to say, I was particularly looking forward to this restaurant opening.

I heard about the promotional deal via Amanda from HerCanberra and my FOMO (fear of missing out) went into overdrive. I wasn't the only one, because when I rocked up to AKIBA, Grant from Ink and Leathers had just arrived too! Other lovely foodies started joining the queue, including Kristy from Tales of a Confectionist and Michelle from HerCanberra. Check out their reviews of AKIBA!

Our first experience of the energetic AKIBA team was when we walked into the restaurant. When the doors opened at 6pm, we were greeted by a round of applause and loud cheering. Perhaps a nod to the usual Japanese restaurant welcome where staff show their appreciation for customers by greeting them in unison? In any case, it was an exciting way to start the evening.

I was also impressed by the funky interior design - the feature wall of wooden logs, the beautiful bar, the open kitchen, and the neon signs. There's also a dedicated raw bar for preparing the sashimi and oysters.

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Everyone in the queue ended up getting a seat in the restaurant and Kristy and I were able to sit together on the long communal table - a strategic decision so we could try more food and drink items!

Akiba has an exciting selection of cocktails, ranging from a $9 Snaquiri of white rum blended with grapefruit and honey all the way to the most expensive Snap, Crackle and Pop Punch at $20. (Food and drinks menu are at the end of the post)

I was intrigued by the rice bubbles infused milk in the description and decided I had to try it. When it came out, I asked the waiter about the cocktail and he very knowledgeably described that it was a Heston Blumenthal-style cocktail that contained just the essence of milk. Basically, they infuse Rice Bubble in the milk, mix it with citrus juice which curdles the milk. They then strain it to get rid of the curdles. After that entire process, the rice bubble flavour had long gone, but it was a complex-flavoured cocktail that reminded me of a fancy probiotic drink.

The Fukushima Zombie ($18), a blend of rums, triple citrus and ginger was a much stronger-tasting cocktail and quite sour.

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I spied a colourful cocktail at Grant’s table and went over to check it out. It was the Gaijin Fizz ($19) comprising of Tanqueray gin, aloe vera, pandan and banana. He kindly offered me a sip - the cocktail tasted delicious and subtly tropical.

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Despite the restaurant having a Tokyo-inspired name, the menu has been influenced by Asia Pacific in general. In fact, our first dish seemed more like Thai food than Japanese food.

The Kingfish Sashimi ($12*) was my favourite dish of the night, predominantly because of the punchy nam jim sauce. It was the perfect balance of sweet, sour and spice. The coconut swirl added a hint of creaminess and body to the dish. The sashimi itself was a beautiful texture and very fresh.

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The dishes came out in succession, degustation-style. The raw beef in the Beef Tartare ($5 each*) was very fresh-tasting and had a great texture. There was a very light flavour to the beef mixture. It wasn't particularly salty, sweet, sour or bitter. The flavour of the sweet potato crisp, however, was quite strong. A good dish to try for those unaccustomed to eating raw beef.

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The Spiced Pork Jowl Pancake ($4 each*) reminded me of turnip cake from yum cha.

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J.F.C. ($14*) wasn't spelt out on the menu but I suspected it stood for Japanese Fried Chicken, which the waiter confirmed. Unfortunately, the coating was lacking in any particular spices and the dish tasted like ordinary crumbed chicken. However, this could have been due to first-day hiccups.

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The Beef Short Rib ($20*) was delightfully fork tender and had a wonderful rich flavour. I could have happily eaten five more plates of this dish.

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I really enjoyed the filling in the Pork Belly Bao ($8 each*). The pork was braised in a sweet, sticky soy sauce and was accompanied with an Asian slaw. I loved that the strip of cucumber was pickled. ‘Bao’ refers to the oval-shaped steamed bun which is folded over and used to sandwich the filling. Traditionally, bao in China and Taiwan is soft and fluffy. The AKIBA bao wasn’t quite like that on my first visit and it was much better the second time round. But more on that later. I would recommend ordering the Pork belly bao over the Soft Shell Crab Bao ($9 each*), which had a slight hint of ponzu flavour, but required a fair bit more dressing.

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Beef Short Rib Dumplings ($10 for four dumplings*) came in a star anise broth. The skin of the dumplings was very thin and I was impressed that none of the dumplings had split. Generous amounts of shredded beef and other ingredients were visible in the filling.

However, desserts did not seem to be one of AKIBA’s strong suits. We ordered both desserts and I’m glad I tried a bite of the Tofu Cheesecake ($8) first as it was not as sweet as the chocolate tart. I wasn’t sure whether the cheesecake was meant to taste like cheese or tofu because it tasted like neither. I'm not sure if it was because the presentation made it look unappealing, but the flavour was indistinct and the texture was slightly lumpy. The Chocolate Tart ($9) was definitely my pick of the two desserts. It was a deconstructed chocolate tart with a block of hard chocolate, what seemed like dulce de leche and pieces of  chocolatey shortcrust pastry. I really enjoyed the gooey portion of the dessert but there wasn’t enough of that part and there was a lot of the hard chocolate that was difficult to break up into smaller pieces with a dessert spoon. I'd be keen to see the chefs do a few more Asian-inspired with their desserts, especially as they could draw so much inspiration from a huge range of Japanese desserts. I'm thinking something with mochi would be amazing!

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After  two hours, we discovered that this was not the place for a leisurely dining experience. With the restaurant hoping to have a 200-300 person turnover per night (according to our waiter), they are expecting fast-paced dining. The seating arrangements in the restaurant, which mostly consists of high tables and stools, facilitates this game plan. There are a couple of booths (i.e. seating with backrests) but they seemed to be reserved for families with children or groups of 5-6 people. This didn't deter me, however.

Three days after my first visit to AKIBA, I was back. A friend from Brisbane was in town and I told her about the new restaurant in Civic. It didn't take much to convince her to have our catch up dinner there!

We were about to be seated at the communal table again but I asked to sit in front of the raw bar so we could watch the chefs at work.

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The massive fish on the raw bar was the kingfish we were about to eat. Seamus (I hope I've spelt the name correctly!), the sous chef, explained that they source all their fish straight from the Sydney Fish Markets. Their oysters, which include Sydney Rock oysters and Pacific oysters, come direct from an oyster farm at Clyde River.

We started off with the Kingfish Sashimi again because it was my favourite dish from last time! It was still just as flavoursome and delicious.

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As with all Japanese products and restaurants, there is an adorable mascot. The Japanese-influenced AKIBA was no different. Seamus noticed me taking a photo of the mascot on the chopstick cover and mentioned that the mascot was called Hatchi and that they might even get a life-size Hatchi suit in the near future for marketing purposes!

Kimchi and Oyster Pancake, with kewpie mayo, sriracha (chilli sauce), ittogaki (similar to dried bonito) is one of the most popular items on the menu. I asked Seamus about the use of oyster in the kimchi pancake as the oyster flavour wasn't very prominent. He said a lot of people would be put off by a strong oyster taste. The oysters were mainly used for the umami flavour and as a sort of seasoning without adding salt. The pancake itself was made from a sourdough base. They put yeast flour and water together and over time kept feeding the dough with more flour and water. They then used that sourdough as a base for all three types of pancake. They also fermented the kimchi themselves.

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I was curious about their signature soft drinks, which you can “make it boom” with tequila, dark rum or bourbon for an extra $5. I ordered the Pineapple and Coconut Akipop ($7) with dark rum (+$5). The Akipop was sweet and delicious on its own. It was a very different and interesting drink when I poured it into the glass with rum in it! My friend ordered the Summer Spritz ($12), which was a refreshing way to drink sake.

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Next came the Beef Short Rib ($20), which I couldn't resist ordering again. Then we tried the Steamed Prawn and Chicken Dumpling ($10 for four dumplings), which was another dish I couldn't get enough of. I discovered that the dumplings tasted infinitely better when you bit a small chunk out of the dumpling and then scooped a few spoonfuls of the sauce into the dumpling and then ate the dumpling. Not that the dumpling itself was bad, it was just that the sauce was SO GOOD, that it would have been a huge shame to waste the miraculous black vinegar sauce. I'm not ashamed to say that when I ran out of dumpling, I kept tasting the sauce until it was all gone.

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Lastly, the chicken in the Caribbean Chicken Bao ($8) was incredibly tender and was great with the pineapple salsa. The bao from the second visit was much better than the bao from first visit. Pete Harrington joined our conversation and he clarified that the bao served on Saturday night was a shipment from Sydney, whereas the bao we were having were made by his chefs because they weren't happy with the ones from Sydney.

Pete also mentioned that the current menu is only about two thirds of the full menu. They want to take full advantage of their Josper charcoal oven, which will produce dishes like smoked chicken and smoked vegetables. This doesn't technically fit into the Asian vibe, but it does fit in with the eclectic element of the restaurant. The yum-cha style food carts will also be up and running from next Friday onwards with other eclectic dishes on offer.

AKIBA's website says "Expect the unexpected. Prepare to be thrilled..." They want to bring fine dining to the masses and make it more affordable and fun. So, the question is - does it do that?

While there are some technical aspects of the Asian cuisine that needs further improvement, it's not a deal-breaker and there's lots to like about AKIBA and its creativity. I love that fresh, high quality ingredients are used and I'm thrilled that restauranteurs with non-Asian backgrounds are starting to focus on Australia's position in the Asia region. I'm excited to see Canberra getting on board with the "Asian Century"!

In terms of the price point, I think that each individual item is priced quite reasonably, considering the amount of effort that has gone into each dish and the quality of the ingredients. The only risk is that you'll rack up a massive bill unintentionally because you want to try everything on the menu!

AKIBA is still on 'training wheels' until their official opening on Friday 19 December, which is when they will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with the kitchen providing continuous service throughout the day. The kitchen will close around 10 or 11pm but the bar will be open til around 2 a.m. AKIBA will be open 7 days a week.

The low-down on AKIBA Address: 40 Bunda st, Canberra Phone: 02 6162 0602 Best bit/s: Heston-style cocktails, Kingfish sashimi, Steamed prawn and chicken dumplings, Beef short rib. Worst bit: Bar stools and communal tables. More: Canberra Times article (I make a cameo appearance!)

Akiba on Urbanspoon

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Drinks menu

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Food menu

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Review: Wood and Coal, Civic, Canberra

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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.

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A long and impressive free-standing bar greets customers at the entrance.

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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).

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

Website: http://www.woodandcoal.com.au/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/woodandcoal Phone: 02 6162 0055 Address: 7 Bunda st, Canberra ACT 2612

Wood & Coal on Urbanspoon

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