Blended words give me the heebie-jeebies. Listicle. Frenemy. Chillax. Bromance. And what the hell is a skort when it’s at home? As for Kimye and Brangelina … the less said about those, the better.
But brunch? Brunch is a whole different ballgame.
Whoever thought of combining the two best meals of the day into one stunningly convenient dining option is, for want of a better portmanteau, a total brainiac.
Despite my absolute conviction that weekend brunch is the best meal of the week, my husband and I go through the same, slightly infuriating, ritual every Saturday morning: Wake up. Lie around in bed reading the news or the sports results. Make a commitment that we’ll get up and do some exercise. Decide we’re bloody hungry, and perhaps we should go out for brunch instead.
That’s when the mad online searching begins. Despite the plethora of excellent breakfast (and lunch!) spots in Canberra, we can never think of a place to go.
We’ve got a few tried and tested favourites that we return to fairly regularly. Others are one-offs that we check out and chalk up to experience. But sometimes we simply forget the gems that are right on our doorstep, such as Space Kitchen in Phillip.
Perhaps the uninviting location at the bottom of a multi-storey car park, next to a construction site and tucked in the shadow of the Health Department, is the reason this great little spot sometimes slips off the radar.
Or maybe it’s the feeling of being in a wind tunnel as you navigate the deserted surrounding streets to get to it once the workers have cleared off for the weekend.
But sure as eggs, once inside this welcoming cafe on Furzer Street, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a parallel universe.
As soon as we sit down and start looking at the menu, we ask ourselves why we don’t come here more often. The place is busy – there are families, groups of friends, tables of two like us, others coming in to grab a takeaway coffee or cake.
It’s easy to see why kids love it here. The glass display cabinet containing a Willy Wonka-ish collection of mad and colourful cakes and slices in the shapes of bombs, Golden Gaytimes, toadstools, and peaches is enough to send anybody hyper.
And the sweet treats don’t stop there. We watch a procession of plates featuring upside-down waffle cones, wisps of fairy-floss, custard and ice cream (it’s a dish called the Unicorn Waffle, I later discover) delivered from the open kitchen to surrounding tables.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that Space is simply for those looking for a sugar hit. The savoury dishes are equally as tempting, and we’re excited to see that things have been mixed up a bit.
While one of our old favourites, the breakfast fritters with couscous, poached eggs, beetroot hummus, dukkah and tahini yoghurt remains on the list, new arrivals with an Asian influence include an okonomiyaki pancake with smoked salmon, mushrooms, egg and spinach, and a prawn katsu sando.
The green eggs and ham, meanwhile, have morphed into Space Benedict, comprising maple glazed bacon, smoked hollandaise, parmesan polenta chips, poached eggs and creamed corn.
I order another new menu item, the French toast with strawberries, lemon curd, vanilla mascarpone, chai-spiced strawberry compote, caramelised white chocolate and meringue. It’s no surprise that it arrives looking like something Salvador Dali might have whipped up in the kitchen, the strip of meringue crowning a whimsical looking dish packed with colour and texture (and more than a few calories). Despite the impressive line-up of ingredients, it’s actually quite light, although there’s enough here to feed two, which is handy given I’m eyeing off my husband’s prawn katso sando.
With doorstop-sized slices of squidgy white bread encasing crumbed prawns, yuzu Kewpie mayo, shredded cos, and pickled cucumber, the prawn katso is pretty much the perfect sandwich, and I reckon it needs to stay on the menu.
We’ve each ordered a batch brew coffee, which sounded intriguing with a flavour profile described as “peach qualities and marmalade-like sweetness which has a juicy and long-lasting mouth feel”. It’s served in a glass and I like it – it feels a bit like drinking a cross between coffee and tea.
There’s a confronting array of drinks to choose from – hot chocolates flavoured with Nutella and topped with marshmallows or a salted caramel version topped with caramel popcorn. There are juices with names such as Ginger Ninja and Cloudy With a Chance of Apple.
It would be rude not to try something from that display cabinet before we leave. We ask what’s new and are presented with the Psychedelic Mushroom … apparently based on the owner’s love of the old Super Mario Bros games and the super mushrooms that made a regular appearance.
Strawberry mousse, lychee gel, lemon curd and white chocolate have all gone into constructing this fabulously lifelike representation – the mushroom’s vibrant red hood sitting on a stalk that has been brushed with white chocolate to reflect the variance in colour and texture you see on the real thing.
It seems a shame to cut into what looks like a work of art, but needs must, and I slice it into neat halves – revealing the fluffy mousse flecked with lychee gel inside. It’s delicious, but we’re defeated halfway through.
Space is firmly back on our brunch radar, and we’ll definitely be back to try a few more cake cabinet curiosities, as well as those enticing savoury dishes. I just need to find a roomier pair of jeggings before the next trip.
Space Kitchen is at 12 Furzer Street, Phillip and is open from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm Monday to Friday, and 8:00 am to 3:00 pm on Saturday.