First Look: First Edition

Serina Bird Huang (aka Ms Frugal Ears) 7 August 2017

There is a change in the air in Canberra. No longer do we have to compete with Sydney and Melbourne, trying to be better on the food scene. Now we are coming into our own.

First Edition is a new bar and restaurant at the Novotel that opened on 27 July. Yes, the Novotel. That place above Benchmark and the bus station that is in such a great strategic location, with views into the heritage East Row buildings. It is slightly hidden and you might not think of heading up the stairs to this venue, it is a new secret that will not remain a secret for much longer.

The space has now been completely refurbished into a 180 seater space and bar area. It has an old-world masculine feel, as if you had been invited into the private study in a grand manor. And indeed, there are books dotted around for people to sit and read and enjoy. Not the latest bestseller fix-yourself-quick and lead a perfect life type, either, but rather odd, quirky books that add a sense of timelessness and intentional living. The bar would be a great place for an impressive first date or a venue for informal business discussions, as the combination of class, style and understatement create a chilled out yet high class feel.

What I love about First Edition’s concept is how it is embracing local food and produce. Yes, I know a lot of Canberra places are starting to do that and at some restaurants you can even get some decent local wines. But First Edition takes it one step further, making it a signature of its brand. Federer Grove olives, Blue Frog Truffles, Tilba Dairy cheeses, Balzanelli’s Cured Meats, Jasper + Myrtle chocolate, and Yarra Valley caviar, all feature on the menu. For drinks try the signature First Edition gin made especially by Tim Reardon from The Canberra Distillery. The lime passionfruit cocktail I tried had just the right blend of being adult and sophisticated yet fun – order one and sit back on one of the chesterfields and luxuriate in the moment. Local wines featured include Lerida Estate and Mt Majura. If you want something less racy, First Edition also has its own range of four Canberra teas produced by Tea Garden Co. They also promise good coffee.

Executive Chief Jennie Tressler has drawn on her childhood memories to create a menu that is both homely and upmarket. She has not tried to be fancy at the expense of good, honest food. At the launch I enjoyed tasters from her menu, including inviting Balzanelli meat and Tilba cheese platters, Mini steak frites and truffle butter to her family recipe for American Sugar Pie (tarted up with double whipped cream and gold coated whole fresh strawberries).

I want to come back and taste more of her vibrant salads, and comfort style dishes such as the Peppercorn Beef Pie.

What: First Edition, Novotel
Where: 65 Northbourne Ave, Canberra (above the bus terminal)

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