- The ‘Griffith Shops’ pack a lot of punch into one small block in Barker Street. This unassuming surburban strip is overflowing with alternate therapy practitioners, organic foodstores and fantastic places to eat.
Not all that long ago, Griffith was somewhat overshadowed by its flashier sisters, nearby Manuka and Kingston…but these days it has become a destination in its own right.
I’m lucky enough to call it my ‘local’…here’s my take on its hotspots and hidden treasures.
AN ORGANIC CORNUCOPIA
Stepping through the doors of Organic Energy is like being transported back to the days of the good old greengrocer. When produce was selected by hand and displayed in wicker baskets around the store.
The fruit and veg you buy here is top notch – always bursting with flavour. Yes, it’s a little more expensive than buying at one of the big supermarket chains, but the quality is worth the extra dollars.
And best of all? Organic Energy offers packing and home delivery services each Tuesday. You can order online or over the phone and can also order goods from Mountain Creek Wholefoods and the Griffith Butchery & Bakery. What a fantastic neighbourly approach!
Organic food and lifestyle store, Mountain Creek Wholefoods, has been part of the Barker Street strip for over 30 years and it just keeps getting bigger and better.
It offers a wonderfully broad range of alternative lifestyle necessities ranging from gluten-free breads to vegetable-based cosmetics and toiletries to goat and sheep milk dairy to household cleaning products to organic baby necessities and adult clothing. Phew!
At the back of the store, the Organic Kitchen offers takeaway delights such as sandwiches, wraps, juices, vege lasagne and curried cashew rice balls. Simply delicious (and good for you!)
Established in 1989, this is a butchery with an environmental conscience and a passion for quality. Owner Richard Odell boasts that “every cut of meat can be traced back directly to our local breeders and producers”. He deals directly with carefully selected growers who share his passion for the well being of the livestock and the environment,
The extra care really shows in the end product…the meat is fantastically flavoursome and tender. We swear by the butterflied leg of lamb marinated in garlic, rosemary and herbs – amazing on the BBQ and served with a greek salad and natural yoghurt.
Griffith Butchery & Bakery offers a full range of organic and biodynamic meats and poultry, and in the last five years has expanded to include a wide variety of baked breads, sweets and savouries made from organic flour on the premises. All worth checking out…as is their Saturday sausage sizzle!
DINE IN STYLE
It was just weeks ago that veteran food critic, Terry Durack, proclaimed Aubergine’s owner and Head Chef, Ben Willis, the ‘best chef in Canberra’. A big call, but not one that I’d dispute…he’s hugely talented.
Aubergine offers one of the best value fine dining experiences in Canberra, where you can choose between either a two course ($60) or a three course ($70) prix fixe menu. The food is always innovative and just plain delicious (the chocolate fondant with praline parfait is to die for!) One of my alltime Canberra faves.
Rubicon is the perfect restaurant for a romantic night out or an intimate dinner with friends. All soft lighting, white tablecloths and cosy elegance, the food matches the atmosphere to a tee.
We’ve been eating at Rubicon for years and some items never leave the menu – apparently regulars just won’t have it! Chefs Owen Kenyon and Evan Speed do well to balance old favourites with new additions at this SMH Good Food Guide regular.
The service at Rubicon is among the best in Canberra – informed, friendly and professional. And the wine list? Spectacular.
TASTES OF ASIA
Griffith Vietnamese Restaurant
You don’t go to Griffith Vietnamese for the ambience. We’re talking formica tables and harsh lighting. But the food is wonderfully tasty (we LOVE the Peanut Beef), the service friendly and efficient, and the meals cheap. Almost ridiculously so…
It’s a lively spot that’s always full to the brim with a diverse clientele: everyone from families with young kids to retirees to Parliamentary staffers.. Take a squiz at the walls and you’ll find a collection of signatures from pollies, journalists and celebrities worthy of a museum. The truth is, Griffith Vietnamese is a Canberra institution, and it’s likely to remain that way for years to come.
Soi VIII Thai
Its name references Bangkok’s bustling nightlife and dining precinct, yet this stylish little Thai eatery fits in well to the neighbourhood feel of the Griffith Shops.
You can find all the usual suspects on the Soi VIII menu (curries, larb, tom yum goong), as well as more innovative dishes like angel prawns served flaming in a mild red curry with wild ginger.
Nip 20 metres or so down to the local ShopRite and pick up a BYO drop to wash it all down.
New Star Chinese Restaurant
Depending on who you talk to, this is either the best or the worst Chinese in town. It’s been around for years, and has the traditional chinese restarant décor to prove it, but apparently the food is good quality and the fried rice is a must have.
Rumour has it that there are plans to turn the site into an upmarket wine bar, which is meeting with mixed reaction from local residents. Watch this space!
If you’re not a local, you’d be forgiven for completely missing this (literal) little hole in the wall. From a pantry-sized kitchen, casual meals like sandwiches, salads and sweet treats are served up to a passing parade of mums and preschoolers and local workers.
The food won’t ever win awards, but it’s a great place to meet friends for a coffee. With a kids play corner and a sunny terrace where you can eat al fresco, it’s a welcoming spot perfect for a relaxing bite.
To be completely honest with you, I’m still mourning the demise of my favourite local, EU Café. My husband still sighs when he remembers their ‘Relatively Large Breakfast’ served with a bowl of café au lait. Still, it’s moved on, and so must we…
In its place is We Graze At Griffith, which bills itself as somewhere “to gather for a few drinks after work or before a night out, graze on tapas or dine in with mains.”
The mixed bar/tapas/dining format is a new one for the Griffith shops (as is the whole TV in a restaurant thing, which I have a few issues with) and I get the feeling Graze is still finding its feet. When we ate lunch there a month or so ago, we experienced our fair share of service issues…but the food wasn’t bad so I’m prepared to forgive and forget some teething problems.
Firmly targeted at the younger crowd, Graze has nightly $20 deals, ranging from mussels to eye fillet to pizza. You could do worse for a casual night out.
Hidden away mid-shopping strip, you wouldn’t know that up a narrow staircase lies one of the largest natural medicine dispensaries in Australia, with a range of homeopathic remedies, herbal extracts, herbal teas, flower essences, essential oils and tissue salts.
The Hierophant has been been providing homepoathic consultations for over 20 years, and their shop is brimming with wellbeing and natural therapy products. You can find everything from books on spirituality and metaphysics, astrology, and yoga; to crystals and jewellery; to tarot packs,incense and candles.
Pop in for all things alternative.
AN ALTERNATE THERAPY HUB
When it comes to Wellness (physical, mental, spiritual), Griffith shops really are a one stop shop.
Choose between Om Shanti College where, in addition to being able to enjoy a vast range of massage therapies and yoga classes, you can actually learn wellbeing therapies; InSync Institute which focusses on the whole person, offering everything from yoga to meditation to life coaching to leadership and management instruction; the Live Well Natural Wellness Centre, which boasts specialist massage, fertility & acupuncture practitioners and wellness programs; and Griffith Massage Centre, offering remedial, relaxation, pregnancy and sports massage, aromatherapy, reflexology and more.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
The little arcade that houses Antz Pantz is also home to three of Griffith’s beauty practitioners. Housed in the old “Beyond” headquarters, it’s a lovely little luxe corner.
Suez Geelan runs The Beauty Parlour and, for my money, is the best beauty therapist in Canberra. She uses Australian product, Skin Juice, which feels beautiful on your skin, and has created a really welcoming and peaceful atmosphere.
Keep an eye out for her occasional special packages – they’re great value!
Right next door is Lucy Micallef Hairdressing and just downstairs is Loop Hairdressing, the new venture of Phillip and Elyce, formally from Yarralumla. Both offer great style in a quiet, unpretentious neighbourhood setting.
Just down the street, above Graze, is Essence Salon and Spa. As well as the usual menu of beauty treatments, Essence specialises in improving problem skin through the use of microdermabrasion and peels. Book your appointment for a quiet time and you can probably sneak past shoppers unnoticed on your way out…
If you’re looking for home style, then you must check out Adorn Furnishings & Ideas. Griffith’s only interiors business, Adorn stocks the very wonderful range of Cloth products and fabric seen in many a chic residence. They also offer custom curtains, blinds and shutters, space and décor ideas, rugs, lampshades, cushions, fabrics and more.
Griffith also has all the little necessities – chemist, post office, newsagent and a supermarket which stocks some fantastic products and an impressive range of wines…and much, much more.
Honestly, you could get pretty much everything you need without ever venturing outside the suburb – and with all this at your fingertips, why would you want to?
This article was first published on HerCanberra.