The Australian Croatian Club in Turner was established in 1969 as a social club for the local Croatian community. The club has recently begun a series of renovations to transform the club into a space for all Canberrans to enjoy.
New club President Dom Polegubic explained that while the club has a long history within the Croatian community, there is potential for the space to become available to more people.
“We want to open it up to more of the broader Canberra community,” he told Region.
“It’s time for a change.”
One significant change in recent weeks has been the addition of a food truck run by the Melted Toasted Sandwich Emporium in the beer garden out the front of the club.
This is the first food truck for the Fyshwick-based business and they’re excited to bring their creative toasties to the inner city. Patrons of the club can have their drinks in the beer garden next to the food truck or have their toasties inside.
The contract for Domovina Bistro inside the club has recently been taken over by Kinley Tenzin, formerly of legendary Croatian BBQ business Spit Shack, who has extended kitchen hours to five days a week.
Wednesdays are Schnitzel night (or šnicel, to be precise) and just $20 will get you a generous serving of chicken schnitzel with gravy, chips and salad and a Croatian beer from the bar, which also stocks imported wines and spirits.
Croatian food is varied and takes inspiration from nearby countries: German influences are seen in dishes like schnitzel and cevapi, a skinless sausage similar to a Turkish-style kofta. Croatia’s long coastline means that seafood is a big part of the cuisine, and this is reflected in menu items like fried calamari, lignje (BBQ squid), and the popular whole char-grilled baby snapper.
Mr Polegubic explained that a couple of community members who are fantastic cooks are volunteering in the kitchen to make sure authentic recipes are being followed, and they might also occasionally whip up a traditional dish for the specials board.
With some notice, the club can cater special events with a peka feast. A steel bell covers a pot of mixed meats and vegetables, which are slow-cooked over an open fire in a style that harks back to the Roman Empire.
A second function space with a bar is currently being installed upstairs in what were formerly offices and classrooms for the Croatian language school, which has relocated to the Alliance Française next door.
The second function space will allow more people to use the club. Committee members are excited about the possibilities of dart tournaments, live-streamed sporting matches and, taking inspiration from their neighbours at the Polish Club, a stage for live music.
Funds raised through the bar and events support the club’s activities, like traditional Croatian dancing, language school and the many teams of the O’Connor Knights Soccer club.
More neighbourly collaboration is on the cards: the Alliance Française and Polish Club also joined a European multicultural festival earlier this year, and a shared bocci (bowls-style game) lane has been installed between the French and Croatian clubs. Mr Polegubic said they’re hoping to work together and host more events in the future.
The Australian Croatian Club is on the corner of McCaughey and David streets in Turner, opposite the O’Connor shops.
Domovina Bistro is open Wednesday – Sunday for lunch and dinner, and the club bar is open until late.
The Melted Toasties food van is open from 7 am to 2:30 pm Wednesday and Thursday, 7 am to 8 pm Friday, 8 am to 8 pm Saturday, and 8 am to 2:30 pm Sunday.
For more details and booking enquiries, head to the Croatian Club website.