On Lake Cafe, Canberra’s only lakeside cafe: come for the coffee, stay for the loukoumades

Michelle Taylor 8 October 2020 65
On Lake Cafe

On Lake Cafe’s deck with views across Lake Burley Griffin. Photos: Michelle Taylor.

The grass is damp underfoot as John begins unfolding tables and setting chairs out, readying for the day ahead at On Lake Cafe. The crisp spring morning dawns cautiously after yesterday’s battering of storms and gloom. Then the sun peeks out through the clouds and John declares: “Sunshine means people will be out walking. It’s going to be a good day.”

The antithesis of every polished, social media-savvy, millennial cafe owner in his neck of the woods, John wears his 76 years like a badge. His battle to make the lakeside cafe a reality has been arduous, exhausting him emotionally and financially. The stress of the past few years has embedded itself deep into the lines of his face.

Back in 2016, John sold up the successful coffee cart he ran on weekends, happily anticipating a few months’ holiday before he began his new café adventure. What followed were frustrating years, years spent navigating a maze of red tape. Even when he eventually received the green light to begin construction, new obstacles presented themselves. A dodgy builder saw the three-month job stretch beyond 18 months, forcing John to take over the building himself to get the job done.

Greek shortbread

Delicious Greek shortbread.

When COVID-19 struck, John just added it to the list of bumps in the road – albeit one he could navigate.

“COVID probably helped me,” he says. “At the beginning, everything was closed while places regrouped. People had nowhere to go. But our food was already takeaway-friendly and we were ready to serve.”

On Lake Cafe now welcomes dine-in customers to enjoy coffee and Greek street food with lakeside views. Set in Bowen Park, not far from where Brodburger’s original food van once operated, On Lake Cafe’s deck looks out across Lake Burley Griffin and the mountains beyond. Sip your coffee and watch life on the lake unfold. The location is a great meeting point after a walk. There is plenty of parking, toilets are close by and pets are welcome!

Yanni Pounartzis, who’s responsible for the On Lake Cafe branding, says “it’s the first cafe on the lake and something Canberrans have been craving for decades”.

“The area is perfect for dog lovers to enjoy a coffee with their best friends. It’s not just people who enjoy visiting On Lake Cafe; dogs enjoy it too. The array of breeds who visit have provided an opportunity to feature them in an online campaign on FB and Instagram. This is not only a fun campaign for dog lovers, but it also communicates that dogs are welcome. Our campaign features each dog posing proudly, along with their names and breed.”

The chalked menu offers authentic Greek street food, sweet and savoury, along with some Aussie cafe staples. Of course, gyros are front and centre!

“The gyros is so versatile,” John says.” You can turn it into so many meals. We make open gyros too, plus spanakopita and gozleme. We also serve chicken schnitzel, and a popular bacon and egg roll.”

John plans to add Greek-style fish to the menu: generous fish portions that are double-floured, then fried.

“It is healthier than battered fish and delicious.”

I order a gyros for breakfast, with a plate of loukoumades on the side.


My tasty open gyros.

My open lamb gyros plate has seven pieces of pita bread, along with fresh salad, cheese, juicy marinated lamb, tzatziki and hummus. The wide crunchy chips send my healthy diet into disarray by being so irresistible. The open gyros is tasty and photogenic, I would recommend ordering a regular rolled up gyros to get all those delicious flavours in one mouthful.

This is my first experience of loukoumades and these are fresh and hot. They’re golden-fried puffs of sweet dough, dense with cinnamon-scented syrup and topped with walnuts bits. I take a bite, and the syrup that has soaked into it fills my mouth with a sweet fragrance. Scrumdiddlyumptious!


My plate of fresh loukoumades.

On Lake Cafe is located at Bowen Park in Barton. It is open seven days a week from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Come for some Greek goodies and have your pooch featured on On Lake’s Instagram and Facebook pages.

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65 Responses to On Lake Cafe, Canberra’s only lakeside cafe: come for the coffee, stay for the loukoumades
Jessica Cariño-Schmidt Jessica Cariño-Schmidt 11:01 pm 24 Oct 20

Minos Nikolaidis this is the place I was talking about

Kayla Capiendo Kayla Capiendo 12:50 am 10 Oct 20

Omg can we go lol Dohei

Tracy Mc Beath Johnston Tracy Mc Beath Johnston 6:05 pm 09 Oct 20

This looks good Janine McBeath

    Janine McBeath Janine McBeath 8:45 pm 09 Oct 20

    Tracy Mc Beath Johnston omg Greek food... amazing

Vivienne Higgins Vivienne Higgins 1:49 am 09 Oct 20

Jessica Higgins-Anau we have to try this place

    Jessica Higgins-Anau Jessica Higgins-Anau 11:00 am 09 Oct 20

    Vivienne Higgins oh yes for sure!!

Reese Peckham Reese Peckham 4:57 pm 08 Oct 20

Brodie SalmonTyrell Enriquez should go

Rebecca Scully Rebecca Scully 7:40 pm 07 Oct 20

Caity Naumann Sarah Davis Sabrina Maack Emily Rozyn we would walk here from work!

Emily Bernardi Emily Bernardi 6:56 pm 07 Oct 20

Tanya Ghenossis could be good! 😘

Em Dub Em Dub 2:11 pm 07 Oct 20

Caz Heni take the puppies for your lake walk too!

Gabriella Eva Gabriella Eva 1:39 pm 07 Oct 20

Bianca Constance loukoumades

    Bianca Ashcroft Bianca Ashcroft 2:19 pm 07 Oct 20

    Gabriella Eva we can go on one of my 7 weekends 😂

Acton Acton 12:49 pm 07 Oct 20

I’ve spoken to John the owner and heard about the obstacles the government put in place to discourage a restaurant in the park catering for families. This place has good food, picnic seating and a relaxed friendly ambience. Canberra needs more places like this on the lake, not more apartments.

Olivia Withers Olivia Withers 11:44 am 07 Oct 20

Amelia Booth Kat Hoy Tessa Fallows we should go here!

Daniella Abel Daniella Abel 11:25 am 07 Oct 20

sounds yum

Leeanne Birch Leeanne Birch 11:23 am 07 Oct 20

Great place for a coffee!

Sue Jen Sue Jen 10:59 am 07 Oct 20

Great coffee too. My dog automatically heads for it now 🤣

Jacinta Chen Jacinta Chen 10:58 am 07 Oct 20

Helen Sun r u thinking what I’m thinking Margaret

    Helen Sun Helen Sun 3:27 pm 07 Oct 20

    yeah book asap for your 30th, cannot wait to brighten my day with some pets, a lakeside view and become #social ☺️😯

    Jacinta Chen Jacinta Chen 3:51 pm 07 Oct 20

    Helen Sun all booked in. should I bring Robb? he’s out of sorts and could use some cheering up ☺️ something about a losing hand of poker at Macau

    Helen Sun Helen Sun 4:17 pm 07 Oct 20

    Jacinta Chen i don't usually third wheel these days, but I'll do it for you considering everything you've been through lately. Of course you should, unfortunate that he's outta sorts but you should really get yourself out there - after all you still got it 😘

Julie Flood Julie Flood 9:28 am 07 Oct 20

Are their gluten free menu options please ?

Fotini Tzavalas Fotini Tzavalas 9:13 am 07 Oct 20

Georgia Tzavalas Olivia Tzavalas loukoumades omg

Lisa Shiels Lisa Shiels 8:23 am 07 Oct 20

Beverley Nicholson need to take doggos here

Dean Pyke Dean Pyke 8:20 am 07 Oct 20

Natalie Fearon a Booz outing this weekend

Sandra Neilson Sandra Neilson 8:10 am 07 Oct 20

Maria Koukides Woodland should have stopped here. Greek Street food 😊

    Maria Koukides Woodland Maria Koukides Woodland 8:15 am 07 Oct 20

    Sandra Neilson next time for sure

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