Hidden in plain sight and easy to mistake as just an ordinary café, lies one of Canberra’s best boutique restaurants, On Flinders, at Manuka Shops. It’s not just the coffee or exquisite dishes that make On Flinders so exceptional, it’s their authentic culture as a warm place that brings people together.
Oktay Irmak, the owner of this amazing establishment is himself a lover of people with a philosophy of exuding warmth and kindness onto everyone he meets. It’s no surprise that this concept filters through the staff and the food and into the restaurant ambience and onto its customers. Watching Oktay interact with customers makes you realise that he sees them more as good friends rather than just customers. The delicious food and service maintain its approximate 98% repeat customer base. It’s become a community of raving fan customers who make friends at the establishment and love hanging out at the restaurant, have dates there and sometimes even meet outside of it.
On Flinders is a reincarnation of the former establishment, Kismet, which had been in Canberra for about 25 years. With a speciality interest in coffee and pizza, Oktay bought Kismet as an ongoing business in 2004. About a decade later (or 3.5 years ago), came the birth of On Flinders. Kismet customers were initially apprehensive about this transition. Oktay received threats from customers advising him to leave Canberra if the ever-popular lamb & chicken skewers, lentils and bean salad were not included in the On Flinders’ menu. Needless to say, these dishes are still on the menu to this day.
For the last 3 years, On Flinders has been awarded ‘Top Café’ by Beanhunter for its addictive coffee. An award based on votes from the public. The first time was a complete surprise to Oktay and the staff because they didn’t even know they were nominated amongst hundreds of coffee places across the ACT.
Oktay feels fortunate to have such amazing staff like Italian Head Chef, Frederico, his Sous Chef and incredibly talented baristas whom he has a close relationship with. His yardstick for hiring is someone who smiles a lot, enjoys their work and knows that customers come first. Chef Frederico makes some of their pasta and gnocchi from scratch which are often a staple in their $10/$12 daily specials, lunch specials and takeaway with soups.
On Oktay’s recommendation of the most loved dishes, Oktay says Chef Frederico’s Linguine with crab is to die for. It’s got blue swimmer crab, linguine, truss tomatoes, chilli, zucchini, olive oil and white wine sauce!
Customers go crazy over On Flinders’ pizzas. In fact, the restaurant claims to have some of the best tasting pizzas this side of Italy. They strive to have Canberra’s most authentic tasting Italian pizzas.
The crispy skin salmon fillet with twice cooked rosemary potatoes and salsa verde is another beloved dish that customers pine for.
I wanted to know Oktay’s choice for comfort food on a cold, winter evening. He recommends warming yourself with a starter of the Suppli Romano which is the twice slow cooked beef ragu and mozzarella centred rice balls with rocket. Follow up the appetiser with a nice pasta or risotto like the Linguine arrabiata as something warm and spicy.
Their breakfast/brunch menu is also packed full of options that start your day with a nice feeling that lasts throughout the day. They make their own Turkish bread and I love their pancakes.
All their ingredients are freshly acquired every day and they prep food once or twice a day to ensure the food stays fresh always. There are lots of gluten-free options for most dishes.
On Flinders does home deliveries after 5 pm Monday – Saturday, mainly for the inner South – Manuka to Yarralumla, Red Hill, Griffith, Narrabundah, Kingston, Fyshwick, etc. No delivery on Sundays and public holidays.
For the month of July, On Flinders is offering RiotACT readers a $5 price for one serving of the Suppli Romano (worth $11) with one order of Linguine with crab or one pizza order. Simply quote ‘RiotACT’ when ordering.
On Flinders is open: Mon – Sat (8 am – 9 pm), Sun (9 am – 2 pm).