As a former happy resident of Ainslie, I enjoyed and made the most of all the suburb had to offer.
Being able to walk to the shops along those fabulous leafy tree-lined streets that changed colour with the seasons while admiring the gorgeous heritage-listed homes was one of my favourite weekend rituals. Whether I was popping in to pick up breakfast items from the exceptional IGA or having a leisurely drink and a meal at Edgar’s, I felt like I was living the Canberra suburban dream of having one of the best local shops with great amenities and a spirited community vibe at my doorstep.
But, alas, it has been a while between drinks at Edgar’s. Not only did I move out of the suburb, but I moved to Southside, making my visits less infrequent.
But between visits, Ainslie just keeps getting better and better.
From the highly revered Pilot restaurant serving up its ever-changing degustation menu from its small 22-seater location to the ever-expanding options from the team behind Edgar’s, which now includes a pizza place called Mama Dough, their iconic corner pub and two new upstairs venues, The Inn and the soon to be opened Wakefield’s Bar & Wine, Ainslie has cemented its reputation as a great dining destination.
I am here on a Saturday night for dinner at The Inn. Located between the ground floor venues of Edgar’s and Mama Dough, an elegant-looking door with a smart lightbox above bearing the name of the restaurant marks the way inside. We climb the stairs to be met with a wood-lined bar, raw concrete walls, brass embellishments and upholstered furniture.
While owner Frank Condi describes the sister venue Edgar’s as the casual lounge room, The Inn is the intimate dining room. The interior has a European bistro feel with smaller tables and a dark, moody atmosphere enhanced with soft flickering candles and music.
The service is just as intimate as the décor. There is an explanation of both the food and wine menu, and we are even offered a taste of orange wine when I spot it as an option and confess I have never tried the variety before (turns out it is not for me, but I appreciated the opportunity to try it).
The majority of the food at The Inn is cooked over an Asado grill. The focus is on high-quality produce with minimal intervention. The menu has been designed to share with a range of small and large plates to pick from and pair with sides. There is a good selection of meat, seafood and vegetarian dishes.
Never one to pass up the opportunity to eat carbs, we start the meal with house-made focaccia and perfectly warm and delightfully briny olives. Not to be dramatic about a piece of bread and some olives, but it perfectly set the tone for the rest of the meal: simple, wholesome ingredients executed well with one common element, the beautiful smell, and char from the star of the kitchen, the Asado grill.
Next was Stracciatella, the gooey, creamy, fatty heart that you would find in the popular starter burrata was topped with grilled persimmon and hazelnut. We were glad to have not scoffed all our focaccia at that point as the smoky persimmon was just the right note of sweet to couple with the Stracciatella smothered onto it.
The other highlights included a serve of tender grilled prawns with beer and miso and a warming, comforting plate of the Riverine beef short rib with sticky soy caramel and smoked mash. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender, rich in taste, but my favourite element on the plate was the mash. It is the mash of my dreams: comforting, silky in texture with an intoxicating smoky aroma and taste.
The Inn is yet another reason to visit and keep revisiting the Ainslie shops. I’m starting to wonder why I ever moved!
The Inn is located on Level 1, Edgar Street Ainslie, and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 5:30 pm.