In my humble opinion, there are only a handful of bars and eateries in Canberra that ooze charm and character. Parlour is one of them. Fittingly located in the historic and innovative NewActon Precinct, Parlour is a bar and restaurant that serves an impressive selection of wine, tapas, cocktails and larger plates of modern Australia food in an art deco dining room.
There’s a menu dedicated to vegan and gluten-free dishes and a summer gin and tonic menu with seven creations to choose from. If you go for lunch (12:00 noon to 3:00 pm) from Tuesday to Saturday, you can select one of their mains and enjoy a glass of white, red or sparkling wine for $2 or a house lager for $4.
I visit at about 1:00 pm on a cold and rainy Friday so the expansive outdoor area you’ll find if you enter via Kendall Lane is off-limits. I can imagine it being the perfect spot to enjoy a drink or two and a bit to eat when the sun is shining but I head inside instead.
As I open the door, I’m hit with a warm and inviting atmosphere and the sound of energetic lunch chatter. Tables of couples, work colleagues and groups of friends are spread throughout the large dining room filled with plush lounge chairs, table seating with mismatched furniture and high chairs around the bar.
My friendly waitress takes me through the menu and a word comes to mind as she discusses the range of vegan and gluten-free option: versatile.
I’m told the vegetarian options can be made vegan, they have gluten-free pasta and if someone doesn’t like the style of house wine they are offering with their lunch specials, they will happily find something more suitable.
I’m at Parlour to try their lunch specials but I can’t resist tasting some of their tapas. It’s a hard choice because I want one of everything, but I start with the olive braised octopus pinchos, black garlic aioli and Kipfler on bread and the confit pork belly with port and red currant reduction and chicharron.
The octopus is tender and the crunchy grain bread it’s served on adds a nice texture to the soft octopus. The layers of creamy aioli, the slice of potato and a flavoured oil all work nicely together and I devour each one in three bites.
It doesn’t take long for the pork belly to arrive and I realise this is a plate that could easily be shared between 2 to 4 people. The pieces of pork belly are very generous and the sauce is sweet and tart – it’s the perfect accompaniment to cut through the richness of the pork.
I’m impressed with the blanket of crunchy chicharron covering the pork. It’s huge, and pork crackle is one of my favourite naughty snacks. It’s salty and crunchy, and I’m now glad I’m dining alone because I don’t want to share this. I wonder if the diners on the table closest to me can hear the crunch as I take another bite.
I sneak a look at the chicken burger as it’s delivered to my neighbour’s table and while I’m happy with my choice of seafood spaghetti, I’ll definitely return for a burger. The beef burger with speck, cheese, gherkins, caramelised onion and aioli sounds delicious but so does the pulled mushroom burger with chilli, tomato jam and slaw.
My seafood spaghetti with chilli and garlic prawns, squid and black mussels arrives and it’s a generous plate of food. I went with the house white wine to accompany my pasta. On this occasion it’s a fresh and zesty Semillon.
Cheese and seafood is a little controversial, but I’m impressed when I see a small bowl of cheese on the side. The pasta is cooked well, and each strand of spaghetti is nicely coated in a flavoursome olive oil sauce with pops of chilli and garlic. Pieces of perfectly cooked seafood are scattered throughout the bed of pasta and the addition of fresh basil is a nice touch. It’s a simple but tasty dish and it’s incredible value for $18 (or $20 with a glass of wine).
The chatter and energy have subsided and there are only a few tables of diners remaining when I leave with a full tummy at about 2:30 pm.
I can see why Parlour is a popular venue for weddings and events. The generous outdoor space, combined with the charming indoor area allows you to create a very special event in a charming location with a selection of great food and drinks.
It’s ideal for a regular visit to catch up with friends, a casual meeting with colleagues, date night, or a special family get together. I’ll be back for a burger and more of their tapas, but I’ll return with a group so we can work out way through the menu. Hopefully, the sun will be out and we can make the most of that beautiful outdoor area before it starts to cool down.
Parlour is located at 16 Kendall Lane in NewActon. It’s open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch from 12:00 noon to 3:00 pm, and Thursday to Saturday from 5:00 pm to late. For bookings, call 6257 7325 or visit Parlour.
Amelia Bidgood is a Canberra food lover and writer. You can find her at EatCanberra, where she explores the Capital region’s food and wine world with gusto.