Highgate Kitchen and Bar definitely wins the award for poshest restaurant name in Canberra, but the ‘upmarket pub style’ food is pretty swish too.
With all the buzz around the Kingston Foreshore precinct, it’s easy to forget just how much ‘old Kingston’ has to offer. But there’s a real buzz when I pull up on – what I expected to be – a quiet Tuesday evening.
This was just before our current cold weather set in, so there were plenty of people out enjoying their favourite bars and restaurants.
If you haven’t been along to check out Highgate Kitchen and Bar (until recently, known as Highgate House), now is the time, as the venue has just celebrated its first birthday with a fab event earlier this month.
Named for Highgate Lane, which runs along behind the venue, you’ll find Highgate occupying the space that previously housed Little Brooklyn (and before that, Holy Grail).
Look out front for majestic arched windows decorated with tropical ferns – a hint of the bright, breezy Hamptons-style theme of the interior, which might be just the antidote to these dark Canberra winter days and nights.
In fact, star cocktail ‘The Blazed Underground’ – served warm – is definitely unusual but ideal for these cooler winter nights. If you order one, make sure you’re by the bar to watch as the concoction is created, set on fire, and thrown between a set of copper pots no less than EIGHT times.
It’s then poured steaming-hot into a glass to serve, with a twist of burnt orange peel. Expect intriguing caramel citrus flavours, thanks to the locally-produced Underground Spirits Caramel Vodka, as well as citrus-and-vanilla Tuaca Italian brandy liqueur and a bitter edge from the Italian Amaro Averna liqueur.
To contrast, we also tried The Go-To, a more typical chilled-and-fruity cocktail. Served in a tall glass and topped off with kiwifruit and melon, it’s very easy to drink.
If cocktails aren’t your thing, the bar at Highgate offers a wide selection of local wines (as well as other Australian and imported varieties). Over the course of our meal, for example, we tried the much-loved Nick O’Leary Riesling and the Eden Road Syrah.
It would be very easy to sit awhile without straying from the Highgate drinks menu. But responsible consumption prevails, and we move to a comfy booth for our meal.
Matthew Ouwerkerk is incredibly busy as both Chef and General Manager of the restaurant, and he comes with an impressive Australian and international background as well as a mission to make good, seasonal food more accessible.
True to its claims, the menu offers a wide range of options, from pub staples like steak, schnitzel, wood-fired pizzas and fish and chips, to more exotic offerings like the Yuzu Cured Salmon and Smoked Brisket Bao-gers that we order for our starters.
For our main course, the Lamb Loin with Pumpkin, Black Olive, Basil and Harissa Yoghurt is a predictably winning combination and looks like a work of art on the plate. From the sides menu, we choose Broccolini with the unusual addition of Fermented Chilli and Smoked Almonds, and which is at once smoky, sweet and delicious!
Of course, we can’t leave Kingston’s newest upmarket pub without sampling their ‘schnitty’. The Crumbed Chicken Breast with Creamed Potato and Gravy features on the autumn menu, and it’s a dish that’s kept deliberately simple, both in taste and presentation.
With a dollop of creamy mashed potato and a swirl of rich gravy, it’s traditionally garnished with just a wedge of lemon.
If you have room for dessert, it’ll be a tough choice between the Matcha Crème Brulee with Coconut-Crusted Almonds and the Baked Chocolate Pudding with Rum and Raisin Ice Cream.
It’s hard to go past the rich, oozy chocolate pudding for a cold-weather indulgence, and the house-made ice-cream is the perfect accompaniment. You might want to make sure you have someone to share this with you.
But if you need a reminder of just how good a proper crème brulee can be, this matcha offering is a great choice – even with its uncharacteristic green tint. The coconut-crusted almonds are a revelation and lift the dish to a whole new level. Yum!
The marketing for Highgate Kitchen and Bar encourages you to ‘live the Highgate life’. Based on our visit, that means a keen focus on perfectly matching food and drinks, including a combination of simple but reliable staples, frequent specials, regular changes, and a few fun surprises thrown in.
While the décor is ideal for summer, it’s warm and cosy enough to enjoy for Friday night drinks or a lingering dinner throughout these cooler months as well.
If you’re looking for a new local in the Kingston area, you shouldn’t need to look much further.
* Jane enjoyed this meal as a guest of Highgate Kitchen and Bar.
Highgate Kitchen and Bar
Where: 44 Jardine Street, Kingston 2640
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday: 12pm ’til late, Sunday: 12pm – 9pm