Canberra has bid a sad farewell to the city’s first fried chicken shop and a landmark institution for those who’ve enjoyed chips and gravy or chicken burgers after a night out at the city’s clubs and bars.
The iconic Chicken Gourmet takeaway next to King O’Malley’s Irish Pub in Civic opened its doors for the last time on Melbourne Cup Day and is in the process of being gutted and refurbished in time to open as a new sit-down eatery before Christmas or soon afterwards.
Owner and manager Gerry Sanfrancesco took over the takeaway 35 years ago and has made a lot of burgers and deep-fried a lot of chips in that time – as well as meeting generations of the city’s late-night revellers.
Mr Sanfrancesco said he has been “blown away” by people’s attachment to Chicken Gourmet and felt very sad about the change but he needed to move with the times.
“I think the Canberra market has changed,” Mr Sanfrancesco said.
“Generations change and I think we need change with them.”
Mr Sanfrancesco said that while offering takeaway food still works well on Friday and Saturday nights, people aren’t tending to stay out as late and during the week they seem to be looking for somewhere to sit down to have a meal.
He said the City Gourmet in Marcus Clarke Street, City West, will close down completely in a couple of weeks, while the Civic takeaway is being completely revamped.
The details of the new eatery are being kept under wraps but Mr Sanfrancesco said it will specialise in pizza, pasta and burgers along with fresh juices, iced teas and organic-style drinks.
While Chicken Gourmet used to stay open to 6 o’clock in the morning on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the new restaurant will open at 7 am for breakfast and normally close by midnight.
Chicken Gourmet first opened in 1970 and Mr Sanfrancesco said it was the first fried chicken shop in Canberra. He bought the business in 1982 and spent many years serving Canberrans at all hours of the night.
“There’d be hard nights and fights but they’d come back days later and apologise for their misbehaviour,” Mr Sanfrancesco recalled.
On other occasions, people would come in without any money and Mr Sanfrancesco said they would be given a “free feed” but would always fix him up the next time.
He’s enjoyed serving generations of Canberrans over those 35 years and said that wherever he goes people remember going to Chicken Gourmet.
Mr Sanfrancesco said that Chicken Gourmet in Crace will continue while the Bonner place is under different ownership.
Do you have memories of buying food from the landmark takeaway?