This week for Best of Canberra we have explored some of the city’s favourite café/restaurant/bar strips. Our hunt was for the best all-in-one spot to grab a bite to eat, a coffee or maybe have a few drinks with friends.
Some responses from our readers included streets such as Emu Bank in Belconnen, Lonsdale St in Braddon, East Row in the city and Gartside St in Wannaissa.
Parking came up as quite an issue in the comments, as a deciding factor on where Canberrans would realistically go, so I’ve kept that in mind when evaluating my choices. As you can see there were plenty of great suggestions, but the top two that I investigated were Bunda St in Civic and Kennedy St in Kingston.
I began by checking out the Kingston shops. The great thing about Kennedy Street is the variety of types of venues here; there are plenty of dinner, lunch and brunch options. If you’re after breakfast or brunch, the iconic Penny University is located here. It is the ultimate hipster hangout (think lots of wood, bicycles, plants and a chilled atmosphere), and offers some tasty breakfast choices, often featuring Pialligo bacon. It is also open for lunch.
A new and happy discovery for me was Two For Joy, a café also offering breakfast and lunch. The décor of this small establishment is wonderful and welcoming, the coffee is great, and I was overwhelmed by the number of choices on their breakfast menu (some of which are served all day). They also serve alcohol and specialise in desserts, particularly gelato. Note to self: come back and try the nutella hot chocolate with marshmallows and the warm apple cider while they are still available.
Another great brekkie choice is Me and Mrs Jones, which is larger than the other two cafes, and serves as more of a restaurant/pub-style affair. The breakfast menu certainly will have a satisfying choice for anyone, and again, the atmosphere inside is great. For lunch here, you can try a salad or burger, or maybe order the delicious-looking mixed-cuisine choices such as lamb curry or duck risotto. Me and Mrs Jones has something for anyone, at any time of day.
Along the Kennedy Street strip, you also have Salotto Italian, Figaro Mediterranean, Saffron Mezze House, China Plate and Cisco Mexican. You can be sure to find something to suit your current disposition, particularly if you like Italian food. Salotto Italian is a good choice for pizza or pasta, and are really reasonably priced. Head to Figaro for a larger range of more authentic Italian dishes. (However do note that Figaro is open for lunch only on Thursday and Friday). Saffron is a Middle Eastern restaurant and offers a more fine-dining experience. For a bit of a twist, they host a belly dancer on Saturday nights. This café strip definitely has a great range of options to come back to and try out.
I’m calling Kennedy Street a solid café/restaurant strip on the basis of its quality rather than quantity. Whilst there aren’t countless options in Kennedy Street, I doubt you’ll leave disappointed. There are a couple more Asian and Italian restaurants and a café or two on adjacent streets, so you really are in a great location. There is quite a bit of street parking around the area, but it still can get slightly chaotic at peak times.
Bunda Street was our second option, which is right in the heart of Civic, leading from Canberra Centre. Again, there is good variety of cuisines and price-ranges available here. Bunda Street is longer than Kennedy and more populated, but I will say it is dispersed with quite few chain restaurants, so probably falls to the quantity, rather than solely quality, line of scale. That being said, some of my favourite restaurants can be found here.
Kinn Thai is one of these. If you feel overwhelmed by their vast menu, I recommend trying one of their set menus, you can then have a bit of everything. Pro tip: they also serve nice cocktails by the jug and a good selection of beer and wine.
Akiba, an Australian-Asian fusion tapas bar, is another great place to check out on Bunda St. Head in for a Japanese beer, or share some really interesting dishes with a group. Pricing is reasonable, but the dishes are quite small, so the cost can add up quickly.
On Bunda St you’ll also find Via Dolce, which is excellent for gelato, but is also a very nice restaurant. Woods and Coal Spit and Bar and Jamie’s Italian promise to provide a lovely atmospheric lunch or dinner. Other notable options include Soi noodles and Tongue and Groove bar.
Bunda Street has some great cafés as well, including the oldest café in Canberra, Gus’. Gus’ Café is open for breakfast and after work, so it’s always a contender on the where-to-go list. They serve great burgers and juices, among other things, and their outdoor heating is on point. Cream Café and Bar is a little more swanky and modern, and also offers breakfast, lunch and dinner/drinks. The huge windows are great to sit at and people-watch whilst you enjoy delicious food and maybe a cocktail.
Parking in the Canberra Centre is extremely close by to Bunda Street, however can sometimes be expensive. Bunda St is really easy to bus to, and has lots of bike-racks for the cycling-inclined.
After my exploration, I really like the variety and quality of both Kennedy Street and Bunda Street café strips. However they are very different. For an evening drink or meal, I choose bustling Bunda Street as the Best of Canberra. But, if brunch is your thing, definitely try the more chilled out Kennedy Street.