28 December 2021

2021 Year in Review: The best of Canberra's Food & Wine

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Canberra is home to some top-notch food and wine and, despite a tough year, the region’s restaurants and producers have continued to impress.

From local cheese, international flavours and iconic Canberra venues to our top chips and exploring the city’s big breakfasts – our reviewers have gnawed their way through mountains of food just to give you the inside scoop on what’s hot and what’s not.

Here, we’ve pulled together a dozen of your favourites. Take a look back at the best Canberra food and wine of 2021.

12. Meet the Makers: Canberra’s only cheese company Gypsy Cheese Co is breaking the ‘mould’

Tubs of cheese from Gypsy Cheese Co

Where there’s a curd, there’s a whey: Gypsy Cheese Co is Canberra’s first cheese company. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Cheese lovers are rejoicing – this year Canberra got its own cheese!

Canberra’s only cheese company Gypsy Cheese opened a cheese lab in Mitchell, bringing owner Jordan Hartas’ adventurous dairy creations to the city.

Jordan first discovered the world of cheese when he took part in an overseas exchange program.

11. Hot in the City: Leave it to the chef at Chairman Group’s exclusive new venue Mu Omakase

Chef Shinya Nakano

Chef Shinya Nakano puts his sashimi skills to work in preparation for the opening of Mu Omakase. Photo: Michelle Rowe.

Mu Omakase opened in Civic this year, serving up a slice of Japanese tradition with some unexpected Australian flourishes.

The interaction between chef and diner is critical to omakase, or kappo, dining – gauging a diner’s tastes and tweaking courses accordingly – heightening the experience for customer and chef.

It’s this intimacy between creator and customer that brought a smile to the face of chef Shinya Nakano when he discussed his new restaurant.

10. The Big Breakfast: choose your own adventure at Assembly (and bring another plate)

Fried breakfast on plate

One plate was not enough at Assembly. Photo: David Murtagh.

Big Breakfasts aren’t just meant to be big – take a plate and fill it – they are also meant to be easy. Like Sunday morning.

That’s the wisdom Region Media’s resident big breakfast boffin David Murtagh bestowed this year, as he explored the best of what the city has to serve up.

Particularly pertinent advice the time he was faced with too many choices at Assembly The People’s Pub.

9. Hot in the City: Melted Toasted Sandwich Emporium

Mie Goreng noodles toastie

The Mie Goreng noodles toastie with fried eggs is a staple at Melted Toasted Sandwich Emporium. Photo: Supplied.

Melted Toasted Sandwich Emporium in Fyshwick gave the humble toasted sandwich the gourmet treatment.

The owners, with over 20 years of fine dining experience between them, elevated the status quo with freshly made bespoke creations using top-notch locally sourced ingredients.

With an ever-changing menu, embracing the creative whims of the chefs, you know you are in for a treat.

8. The Institutions: Malaysian food worth shouting about in Civic

Chicken satay

Madam Lu’s satay comes with a peanut sauce so moreish it’s hard to resist eating it by the spoonful. Photo: Michelle Rowe.

An ear-shattering “Helloooooo!!!!” rings out across Madam Lu Malaysian restaurant (and quite possibly the whole of Civic) as each new guest arrives.

Owner Ming Kong, whose diminutive stature belies her impressive decibel level, is a familiar face to many Canberra food-lovers.

She was the first in our series called The Institutions – celebrating the stalwarts of our local hospitality industry.

7. The Institutions: Happy’s Chinese Restaurant, the underground restaurant dishing up tasty Chinese food since 1962

Gavin Chan

Gavin Chan, owner at Happy’s Chinese Restaurant in Civic. Photo: Supplied.

Happy’s Chinese Restaurant in Garema Place is Canberra’s iconic underground restaurant, dishing up tasty Chinese food since 1962.

As soon as you go down the stairs and open the door, you’re hit with the smells of delicious Cantonese food cooking in the kitchen.

Gavin Chan now runs the family restaurant, but it was his grandfather, known as Mr Happy, who started the business all those years ago.

6. Hot In the City: Streattoast are cloning their deliciousness!

Streat Toast

Streattoast on Strickland Cct in Deakin. Photo: Kazuri Photography.

Streattoast does more than great coffee, it’s bringing the taste of the Mediterranean to the streets of Canberra.

Most mornings you’ll find workers already gathered around, waiting for their breakfast orders and coffees, with more striding across the street.

The menu reads like a quick voyage around the Mediterranean, exotic ingredients spicing up classic cafe staples.

5. Five minutes with Frank Condi, Edgar’s and Public Bar

Frank Condi

Wakefield’s Bar + Wine is the latest venture for hospitality veteran Frank Condi. Photo: Megann Evans.

Frank Condi, owner of Edgar’s, The Inn, Mama Dough and Wakefield’s Bar & Wine in Ainslie, and Public in Manuka knows how to draw a crowd.

This year he sat down and gave us an insight into his life, loves and Canberra food secrets.

You might be surprised what he’d want as his death row meal.

4. The Institutions: Cheers to feminist icon Tilley’s Devine Cafe


Tilley’s in happier days – when we could enjoy a step back in time in the company of friends. Photo: Region Media.

Tilley’s at Lyneham has been making waves since it opened in 1984.

The house rule banning men unless in the company of women has changed, but the classic decor, including leather booth seats, is reassuringly the same.

Canberra’s vibrant hospitality scene often seems to be playing a game of ‘follow the hipsters’ but Tilley’s Devine Cafe and Gallery in Lyneham remains a steadfast favourite.

3. A food-lover’s guide to Bungendore

The Gathering, Bungendore

Corn fritters with poached eggs, home-made relish and parmesan at The Gathering. Photo: Michelle Rowe.

The gorgeous town of Bungendore, just half an hour’s drive east of Canberra, has morphed into a stellar dining destination.

From cooking classes and cellar door experiences to authentic French food and pub grub that’s a cut above, Bungendore has all the ingredients for the perfect gourmet getaway.

Here are our top picks of the amazing range of remarkable epicurean experiences on offer.

2. I hate to break it to you Canberra, but these aren’t Australia’s best chips


Kingsley’s chips: saturated with oil and salt, but it wasn’t all good news. Photo: Genevieve Jacobs.

This year, Kingsley’s Chicken’s hot chips were nominated as Australia’s best hot chips in the Wotif Uniquely Aussie Awards.

Region reporter Max O’Driscoll, who’s from Melbourne, was told he had to try them but came back with a sacrilegious review of our beloved chips.

Was he right? Are there better? Not just in Australia, but in Canberra?

1. Dobinson’s Canberra will close doors in Civic after 21 years of baking the goods


Sue at Dobinson’s in Civic is a familiar face, especially when prepping for morning teas. Photo: Supplied.

After 21 years and thousands of pies and pastries, Dobinsons Canberra in Bunda St closed its doors for the last time.

The good news is that the business still has several other outlets across Canberra.

Dobinson’s Canberra wrote on its social media page, “We’d like to thank you, Canberra for all your support in keeping our family business alive,”

“It’s the community that has kept us going all these years.”

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