11 March 2022

Queenies dishes up food that's fit for royalty

| Lucy Ridge
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Queenies bar

The drinks menu at Queenies focuses on elegant cocktails and local wines. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Since opening in 2020, Queenies in Kingston has flown under the radar of many Canberra foodies.

But, as the hospitality scene in Canberra reaches some kind of new normal, the team at Queenies is hitting its stride with a great atmosphere and food that rivals some of the ACT’s best-known establishments in terms of creativity and flavour.

The bar at Queenies immediately draws the eye, with a striking mural in blue and gold. This colour scheme continues throughout the art deco furnishings and decorations, with blue velvet barstools and quirky train carriage seating.

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It’s a fun, femme aesthetic that is appropriate for a bar that has its sights set on a female clientele. Queenies also has mainly female staff, with Chef Adrianne Davo leading the kitchen team.

The cocktail list is another nod to the feminine side, with each cocktail named for a notable woman. Actresses like Anna May Wong and Grace Kelly get a mention, alongside musician Stevie Nicks and fictional character Daisy Buchanan.

I have a gin-based Marilyn Monroe, which achieves a perfect bittersweet balance. Garnished simply with a sprig of rosemary and served in a wide, shallow cocktail glass, it’s an elegant and delicious drink.

pink cocktail

A Marilyn Monroe cocktail is a great way to start your night at Queenies. Photo: Adrianne Davo.

The menu at Queenies is divided into share plates and a set menu. I visited early in the week with friends for a casual dinner of shared plates, and I liked it so much I went again on Friday for a date night and had the set menu.

Having sampled nearly every dish on the menu, I can confidently say that the food at Queenies is exceptional. Each dish is creative and draws inspiration from a range of different cuisines while making use of Australian native ingredients.

The result is dishes like the native Nasu Dengaku: half an eggplant grilled with a sticky miso glaze served with a colourful garnish of puffed grains, wattleseed, pickled onions and native herbs. The miso delivers an umami punch that is tempered by the sweet eggplant and sharp garnishes.

Another share menu highlight is the lilly-pilly glazed smoked pork butt, which apparently takes more than 20 hours to prepare. It’s worth it: flavoursome caramelised pork is topped with fresh melon and it’s so good that everyone at the table calls it the highlight of the meal.

Pork butt dish

The smoked pork butt takes over 20 hours to prepare but was eaten very quickly by my table! Photo: Adrianne Davo.

If you’re just in the mood for something fried and tasty, then Queenies has you covered there too. Bangkok popcorn fried chicken, super crispy eggplant chips with fermented chilli dipping sauce, and hand-cut chips with native togarashi seasoning all make an excellent accompaniment to after-work drinks. Or give the house-made tacos a try: there is smoked beef, fried mushroom and fish to choose from.

For a lush date-night, grab yourself a spot on a sofa and order the set menu. There’s a full vegetarian menu (with options for vegans) which is just as nuanced and creative as the regular menu: no uninspired mushroom risottos here!

The confit green tomatoes on homemade wattleseed sourdough is a standout dish, and the fried zucchini flowers are a triumph of seasonality and flavour. Meat-eaters can indulge in the lamb and pepperberry ragu served with house-made tripoline pasta and satisfyingly crisped rosemary leaves.

Vegetarian dishes

Vegetarians are well catered for with a dedicated tasting menu. Photo: Adrianne Davo.

Classic desserts are beautifully reimagined at Queenies, and they are worth saving space for.

The individual portion of pavlova is filled with yuzu cream and served with Davidson plum. A scoop of riberry cheesecake is served on a puddle of sticky miso caramel with a crisp wafer hat. I can’t quite finish the whole thing, but my partner intervenes before the plates are cleared and happily spoons up the last few mouthfuls.

pavlova

Adrianne Davo’s background as an art student results in beautifully plated dishes like this pretty-in-pink pavlova. Photo: Adrianne Davo.

There’s a mix of experienced wait staff and some who are still learning the ropes but the service is always attentive and friendly, and our food arrives promptly. The drinks list is full of excellent local wines and beers, as well as some thoughtful non-alcoholic options.

The menu changes regularly as the kitchen follows seasonal availability, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the team does next. Queenies is well on the way to becoming a crown jewel in Canberra’s hospitality scene.

Queenies Bar is at 26 Giles Street, Kingston, ACT. Click here to make a reservation.

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