Since opening its shabby chic doors in Kingston, Penny University has been a beloved mainstay of the breakfast and brunch crowd in the Southside. Offering up an all-day menu featuring a mashup of interesting breakfast options such as the Banoffee Coffee Croissant French Toast and Sweet Pumpkin and Cardamon Fritter along with Asian-inspired lunch dishes like the Miso Salmon Tortilla and Penny’s Not Quite Chicken Katsu Burger.
The establishment was modelled on the first coffeehouses that originated in London in the 17th century called ‘Penny Universities’, where people would pay a penny to enter and once inside had access to coffee, the company of others, newspapers, bulletins and the latest news and gossip.
Since it only cost a penny to enter, Penny Universities attracted an eclectic group of people, from all social and economic classes. It created a unique environment for the sharing of ideas and conversation.
The Canberra Penny University very much follows that ethos, where everyone is welcome and they want you to come in, feel at home, and leave with enlightened taste buds. They are extending their philosophy to a curated dinner series of local produce and the casual Penny fare you know and love, with a fine-dining twist.
Nights at Penny will be hosted on a monthly basis, taking the form of a four-course dinner, with each course paired with matched alcoholic beverages. Penny University co-owner, Ellie Raymond, wants to show the cafe in a different light while providing entertainment and delicious food for the Canberra community.
“At Penny’s, our philosophy has always been that no matter who you are, you’re always welcome here and that we consistently provide a great experience. The same goes for our new dinner series. We want our customers to experience a multi-course culinary adventure of the highest calibre, but without the pressure of a fine-dining location,” Raymond explains.
“We’re keeping the casual, local essence of Penny University Cafe, and using it to give Canberra a new and alternative way to enjoy a night out.”
Head Chef, Alexander Siu (formally of Malamay, Belluci’s Manuka, and Café Della Piazza) is excited to showcase the team’s gastronomic skills in a new setting.
“We wanted to put a fresh twist on traditional dishes, highlighting the versatility of our rich local produce and demonstrating techniques that we wouldn’t be able to sustain for lunches. This menu is for those who want to try something full of flavour that excites,” says Siu.
“Nights at Penny will have a local focus with suppliers like Pialligo Estate and Three Mills Bakery providing ingredients for the menu. We’re proud to use Nights at Penny to present the best the region has to offer,” says Raymond.
The first in the Nights at Penny series took place on Friday 12 April with each course paired with locally-made wines from award-winning Mount Majura Vineyard. Fergus McGhie from the vineyard was on hand during the evening to explain the pairings and talk all things wine.
The first course was beautiful autumn coloured Smoked Beetroot Panna Cotta with dutch carrots and puffed organic black rice dish paired with the velvety Lime Kiln Red. Followed by a surprising combination of Cauliflower and Ricotta tortellini with Pialligo smoked Murray cod, Yuzu butter, almonds, and asparagus paired with Mount Majura’s award-winning Riesling.
The third course was the highlight of the meal, a superb, cooked-to-perfection Berbere Spiced Roast spatchcock, turmeric and pumpkin hummus, broccolini and lime complemented by a zesty 2017 Chardonnay. To finish, a Miso Caramel Gelato, compressed pear, pistachio crumb and orange caramel.
The future calendar of dinner events is still in the planning phase but we hear the next one might have a Japanese twist with Sake pairings instead of wine.
Penny University – 15 Kennedy Street, Kingston. Open seven days from 7 am to 3:30 pm.
For bookings and further information on upcoming dinners visit pennyuniversitycafe.com.