Who is Andy Day? I’m the owner/operator of Rizla wine bar and restaurant on the corner of Lonsdale and Elouera streets in Braddon.
Best recent dining experience: The Boat House, by the lake. I think it’s the most underrated fine-diner in Canberra, and if I could set up a camp-cot in there and work my way through the excellent wine list over a few days I certainly would. There’s rarely a stand-out dish because they’re all awesome.
Most embarrassing pantry item: Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce. Probably the most trashy thing in there and it’s technically confectionary, not a condiment.
Must-buy ingredient: Good olive oil makes most things better.
Next big thing: Small venues are the next big thing in Canberra, and in terms of cuisine trends I think Mediterranean is due for a renaissance; good Spanish and Greek in particular.
Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: I recently went to Morning Glory in NewActon and the gnocchi with fried egg, chorizo and manchego was bonkers. Service was quick and friendly, the coffee good, enough said.
My Canberra food secret: Streat Toast on Strickland Crescent in Deakin has the best coffee in town, no doubt. The baked goodies they sell from Home Slice are also damned good. Wouldn’t call it a secret though, they are super busy!
Biggest culinary influence: Reading Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table is the single greatest investment a front-of-house person can make. It’s been a massive influence on me and reading it again is like hitting the reset button any time I wonder why I do what I do.
Favourite cookbook: Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion. It’s an absolute everyday classic.
Who I admire on the Canberra food and wine scene: I’d say it’s all the guys and girls out there getting stuck in – jumping in the trenches, so to speak, and working in their own businesses. The variety that hundreds of owner/operators have brought to the Canberra hospo scene can’t be overstated and for me they stand out because the owner is there most of the time and you can always feel that love. I have a lot of time for all the Canberra region wineries too; farming is a tough gig at the best of times, let alone growing a fragile fruit in the fire/drought/hail/global pandemic sandwich that was 2020.
What’s on the menu this week: Canberra Riesling, would you believe it? I am absolutely loving the stocks of the excellent 2019 vintage CBR Rieslings that we’re getting at the moment, and the high quality of the lesser-knowns like Sholto and Sapling Yard are just making people happy. That paired with tuna tartare or fresh oysters from the Clyde make for a good time.
Where I’m going next: There’s a long list that has Rebel Rebel and Pilot at the top. I just need to align the babysitter night-off stars!
Death row meal: Steak frites and a bottle of a ridiculous red thanks.
My COVID response: Rizla had only been open six months when we had to shut the doors to dine-in. It was either do takeaway and stem the financial bleeding or close the doors and cross your fingers for a quick reopen. We moved quickly to a takeaway menu that we knew would travel well; some established crowd pleasers that we’d done already and some comfort food we knew we could nail, got an online ordering system up almost instantly, partnered with Canberra Eats for delivery and started doing our own deliveries as well. We also brought our wines down to retail prices to practically compete with bottlos. The key for us was to move quickly, make good decisions (and call it if it was a stinker), and show as much love to our regulars as we could for them to spread the word.
My really simple recipe tip: Keeping a bottle of aged Riesling in the fridge at all times is a good idea, but if they must eat I’ll do up a quick Panzanella salad and hopefully sit outside in the sun for a chin wag and drink wine. You’ll need about 15 minutes and plenty of ripe tomatoes (a mix of cherry and vine tomatoes is a good idea – work on three medium tomatoes per person), half a ciabatta loaf, half a jar of small capers, one or two anchovies per person, half a bunch of basil, plenty of olive oil to dress, salt, pepper and fennel seeds.
Rip up the ciabatta and toss it around in a baking tray with lots of olive oil, salt, pepper and fennel seeds. Bake at 180 degrees until crusty and crunchy. Chop the tomatoes and finely chop the anchovies. Put them in a salad bowl with the capers, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix that around. Once the bread is crunchy take it out, let it cool briefly, then dump onto the tomatoes. Press it all down, mix it through, chuck the basil in and we’re done here.
Rizla is at 22 Lonsdale Street, Braddon, and is open for lunch from midday Friday to Sunday, and dinner from 6 pm Tuesday to Sunday.