7 July 2017

Feel the glow: some favourite fireplaces in Canberra and the region

| Maryann Mussared
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Strathnairn Homestead fireplace. Photo by Maryann Mussared.

It is fast approaching mid-winter! There are many who love the added benefit of the direct heat and ambiance of a fireplace when they venture out around Canberra and the region. A number of excellent lists have already been produced this winter by Visit Canberra and the Canberra Times’ Good Food magazine, but here are a few more fireplaces to add to your ‘must-do’ list this winter.

Strathnairn Homestead has a simple and very well used brick fireplace that burns wood from the property. It dates from 1932 when the original four-roomed Homestead was extended by the Baird family, formerly of Bombala and Melbourne. The family lived here from 1928 to 1974, extending to take advantage of the northern side of the Homestead to plans drawn up by architect Ken Oliphant. This fireplace warmed a small drawing room that could sensibly be closed off from the rest of the house. I have had descriptions of the property and this room from people who visited before Strathnairn was rather acrimoniously resumed in 1974. There was a framed print of Constable’s ubiquitous “The Hay Wain” over the fireplace, books and comfortable sofas and rugs on the wooden floor. These days visitors can enjoy the contemporary artworks created by members of Strathnairn Arts, who use the Homestead as a Gallery and retail outlet, as well as coffee, cake and light meals.

Hyatt Hotel – Speaker’s Corner Bar fireplace. Photo by Maryann Mussared.

If fireplaces could speak! This impressive fireplace is hidden away in the Speaker’s Corner Bar, a quiet corner of the Hyatt Hotel. The gracious art deco Hyatt Hotel was originally built to house politicians after they moved from Melbourne in 1927. Imaginatively it was known as Hostel No 1 (relatives of mine lived in Sewer Camp No 4 at the same time!), before being renamed Hotel Canberra in 1927. I just wonder who has sat in front of that fireplace and what they discussed? I remember this bar when you could smoke cigars and smokers lounged around blowing their smoke up the chimney. These days it is a quiet and more intimate space than the main lounge; many have expressed surprised when I told them it even existed! There are probably a few former Speakers we would rather avoid, or would we?

Fifty minutes from Civic, Clementine Restaurant in central Yass has worked its way swiftly up the approval ratings. A favourable national restaurant review means Clementine has become a popular lunch fixture for many who travel the Sydney-Melbourne route as well as many converts from Canberra. The day I was there the restaurant was booked out, and despite the cool weather, the terrace was sunny and inviting. The interior of the building, a renovated 1950s weatherboard cottage, has been opened up and means the warmth from the fireplace circulates well. The floorboards and fireplace speak of a different era and even viewed from my table on the terrace, I enjoyed the ambiance of the flames.

Cooradigbee Homestead fireplace

Cooradigbee Homestead fireplace. Photo by Maryann Mussared.

Cooradigbee Homestead, Wee Jasper dates from 1911 and is set in gardens that border the edge of the Burrinjuck Dam. The homestead is constructed of reinforced rammed earth (pise), and the lovely mellow floors are made from cypress pine. The building houses the Duck’n’Fishes Cafe and even on the coldest of days, the dining rooms are warm and inviting. There are two well-sized fireplaces and both were lit, providing a gentle glow to the dining areas overlooking the lawns.

Mercure Canberra fireplace

Mercure Canberra fireplace. Photo by Maryann Mussared.

Mercure Canberra is known to many as the former Olim’s and prior to that the Ainslie Hotel. In the days when hotels and serviced accommodation were in short supply, this hotel often ended up being home to diplomats and military personnel for extended periods while they searched for accommodation. The wonderful thing about this fireplace is its setting adjacent to the restaurant and bar. It is a casual seating area where you can order a pot of tea, and the bar next door is worthwhile visiting to see the old radio, typewriters, and cabinet of silver.

Poachers Pantry fireplace

Poachers Pantry fireplace. Photo by Susan Bruce.

Poachers Pantry underwent a major renovation a few years ago. The original fireplace was in the middle of the restaurant and a much-prized location for diners on particularly cold days. Now the new bright airy dining room features an attractive raised fireplace set into a feature stone wall. It has the capacity to take large logs and the well-designed protective grate means families can sit nearby at the much-coveted fireside tables and enjoy the warmth.

Kingston Hotel fireplace

Kingston Hotel fireplace. Photo by Susan Bruce.

The good old Kingo, formally known as the Kingston Hotel, has three fireplaces. At some stage, the original fireplace in the pool room has sensibly been converted to a gas fire – a very good gas fire, and the other two more recent fireplaces are also gas. This was another venue that was a haunt of politicians for many years. When I first walked in after a very long absence, I could have sworn the first fireplace in Maddie’s restaurant was real. I honestly had to examine it very closely. It is gas and it is a very good gas fireplace. In the bar is a second gas fireplace, again extremely effective and difficult to pick as not being real!

Monster fireplace adjacent to Hotel Hotel Reception

Monster fireplace adjacent to Hotel Hotel Reception. Photo Maryann Mussared.

I have included the Monster fireplace adjacent to Hotel Hotel Reception simply because it is welcoming and accessible to anyone passing through. For me, it was love at first sight when Hotel Hotel first opened. The fireplace was going all day and there were plenty of cozy nooks, as well as cushions on the raised hearth. For a while this was my favourite “Piccadilly Circus”, a great place to watch people and I could make a cappuccino last a long time. The later addition of the wonderful circular fireplace in the restaurant area is also a great Canberra destination, with the view at sunset and a pinot noir an experience not to be missed.

So I hope those who feel the cold feel less likely to complain. There are lots of warm spots to enjoy and if I have missed anywhere you particularly like, please share in the comments below.

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