A weekend in Canberra, 7-8 March 2009

Trips to Canberra never sound appealing to us city folk from either Melbourne or Sydney, as the notion usually conjures up memories of school trips – hours spent stuck on a coach, too much sugar whilst on said coach, visiting Parliament House/War Memorial/Telecom Tower (now known as Black Mountain Tower) and people prank-calling each other between resort/hotel/motel rooms. Pushing these slightly traumatic (and often humorous) experiences aside, as an adult, Canberra means good food to me. This is not only because of Weirdo and Ms Sourdough’s welcoming hospitality but also because they recommend us good places to eat. It is always ever so helpful to have locals who can direct you to the great places whilst steering you clear of the pothole of less-than-desirables.

After our drive down with Dr King and Kiki in tow (plus multiple soft-toys which doubled as cushions/pillows), we dump our luggage at our accommodation for the night and head into the city for a spot of stomach-refuelling. We decide on Koko Black for a few reasons:

  1. It means chocolate.
  2. Monsieur Poisson and I have visited on a previous trip to Canberra.
  3. There is no Koko Black in Sydney. (Why??)
  4. Dr King and Kiki used to live in Melbourne – home of Koko Black.
  5. Did I mention there was chocolate?
It is particularly busy on this Saturday afternoon and the four of us, after waiting a short while, are seated at an outdoor table facing a column. With the sun on our backs, Dr King and Kiki decide to share a dulce de leche ice-cream martini while Monsieur Poisson opts for an iced chocolate.

The ice-cream martini is not overly sweet but is quite sizeable with three scoops of dulce de leche ice-cream, chocolate sauce, caramelised coconut (which doesn’t look very caramelised) and is decorated by a chocolate lattice as well as a chocolate twirl. It is very pretty to look at. The iced chocolate stands prettily too in its bulbous wine-shaped glass with a mass of chocolate flakes adorning the floating vanilla ice-cream.

I decide that I want something a little richer with more body so I order a hot mocha for myself and a cake and biscuit plate to share with Monsieur Poisson. The mocha is served in a classic logo-stamped Koko Black cup and is decorated with lots of chocolate swirls as well as chocolate flakes. The cake and biscuit plate has two pieces of macadamia shortbread decorated with chocolate drizzle, a small but dense, brownie-like chocolate mini-cupcake, a blob of velvety chocolate mousse dusted with cocoa and the requisite chocolate lattice. The best part is that the cake and biscuit plate costs a measly $5.50!

For dinner Weirdo and Ms Sourdough take us to Ironbark Café – a place that uses native Australian ingredients and bush spices. We start with the tempura crocodile bites which have been tossed in a light spice mix and are served on a section of bark with a tangy pink sauce for dipping. The crocodile is juicy and tastes like firm fish without being overly fishy. The sauce adds a light, creamy dimension but we cannot pinpoint what is in it.

Ms Sourdough tells us that her recommendation is the ‘Coat of Arms Burger’ which is now no longer featured on the menu but the kitchen still makes it on request. The current variation is a ‘Coat of Arms’ entrée – kangaroo fillet wrapped in emu prosciutto with tangy bush tomato glaze. The owner wanders around and we kindly request three of these burgers for our table.

The burger is served on a soft damper roll alongside the best and herbiest thick-cut potato chips I have ever had and a small side salad. The chips are light and fluffy in the middle and crusty on the outside like potato wedges. The damper roll is soft and doughy and holds some salad as well as the kangaroo and emu prosciutto. The kangaroo is a bit chewier in texture than beef while the emu prosciutto tastes like any other prosciutto crisped up, although maybe not as fatty. There is also more of that unidentified tangy pink sauce for dipping.

The remaining three people at our table all have the ‘Beef, Barra & Prawn Stack’ which is a wonderful take on surf ‘n turf. Atop a bed of roast vegetables sits a fillet of wild-caught barramundi alongside a fillet of grain-fed beef, which is finished by a couple of shelled prawns perched on top and creamy mountain pepper leaf sauce. The fish is moist and the beef is beautifully charred with distinct grill marks. The prawns are nothing out of the ordinary but the sauce is surprisingly un-peppery and pleasantly nutty almost.

Several bottles of water and many lame jokes and accompanying sniggering later, we leave with our tummies full and head to bed with a day of homemade sourdough pizzas to look forward to!

Koko Black Canberra
Canberra Centre, Shop FG02, 148 Bunda St, Canberra City ACT
Tel: (02) 6230 4040

Opening Hours:  Sun-Wed  10am-5:30pm
                        Thurs-Sat  10am-10pm

17 Franklin St, Manuka, Canberra ACT
Tel: (02) 6239 7143

Opening Hours:  Mon  CLOSED
Tues & Wed  6pm-11pm
                        Thurs & Fri  10am-midnight
                        Sat & Sun  9:30am-midnight

happy eating!

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