Woden, meet your newest resident – The Alby – and it’s many personalities.
On the ground floor, it’s a smart-casual gastropub with airy spaces for big groups and quiet corners for couples.
Outside, it’s a beer garden where families gather for long lunches and colleagues meet for a cheeky Friday arvo cocktail.
The Basement is a sports bar where you can watch a game with your mates, and then unleash your competitive side at the duckpin bowling alleys.
Food and beverage director Thomas Craigie gave me a tour of the venue and explained that they were trying to offer something a little different for the Woden area.
“This side of the Parliamentary Triangle was lacking a drawcard for people to travel to as a destination,” he told Region Media.
“People will be traveling from all over Canberra, but we also wanted to appeal to the locals.”
The Alby is hoping to be the “new local” for the many people living in and around Woden; a number set to rise with plenty of new apartments being built in the area over the next few years.
As you walk inside, an impressive bar is the backdrop to a roomy dining space with a mix of high top tables, regular seating, and lounges. Large archways break up the room and provide an acoustic buffer to keep the noise at a reasonable level, allowing conversation to continue alongside live music and DJs.
The long brass bar has put me in the mood for a cocktail, and I have plenty of options. The tropical passionfruit vibes of the Great Passion are very tempting but I can’t go past a Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin Spritz, which Thomas tells me is available on tap: dangerous knowledge to have!
The menu has a gastro-pub vibe where some of the classics have been given a fancy twist and sit alongside healthy salad alternatives and grazing boards.
General Manager Mike Kadinski recommends the salmon crudo as a light entree. It’s a well thought-out dish with the creamy tang of yuzu mayo balancing out the natural oiliness of fresh salmon, with nori crackers adding some crunch. It’s not too filling, which is handy because when the spicy fried chicken burger arrives I have to stop and think about how I’m going to fit it in my mouth!
It’s a big burger that’s worth unhinging your jaw for: a satisfying crunch on the fried chicken, with the heat from the jalapenos softened by the buttermilk slaw.
I also try a slice of prosciutto, rucola and grana pizza (that’s fancy ham, rocket and parmesan to you) which is very tasty. The specialty pizza oven has given the thin base a lovely char, and the rocket on top makes it feel fresh. It’s a classic dish done well.
Once lunch is done I head to the Basement and make a beeline for the duckpin bowling lanes, which Thomas tells me are the first in Australia.
The lanes are much shorter than standard tenpin bowling and the ball is smaller, but the basics are the same. You can play a few frames of standard knock-em-down bowling, or try variations like ‘horse’ where you aim for specific pins in order to spell out a word and win points.
“There’s lots of different games within a game. The pins are lighter than typical bowling but that just opens up the game,” Thomas says.
“You don’t have to have bowled before to win a game.”
I was never good at bowling as a kid, and I can safely say that I have not improved as an adult. But it is still excellent fun, and I can tell this is going to be a hit (or should that be a strike?) with customers.
The Basement also hosts a couple of pool tables and a collection of pinball machines, which run on tokens that can be purchased at the bar. Each machine is themed: Avengers, Willy Wonka, Guardians of the Galaxy, and a Guns ‘N Roses machine that Thomas tells me is something of a collector’s item.
The menu downstairs shares a lot of the classic pub dishes from upstairs but also offers American-Mexican style dishes like nachos and tacos to fit the California sports bar theme.
I may be bowling straight into the gutter, but tacos and a margarita make an excellent consolation prize!
The Alby is at 45 Furzer st, Phillip, in the Albemarle building, open Wednesday through Sunday. Book a table now on their website.