The Institutions: Charcoal Restaurant has been grilling steaks in the heart of Canberra since 1962

Amelia Bidgood 23 July 2021 32
Steak at Charcoal Restaurant

The steak at Charcoal Restaurant is perfectly cooked and extremely tender. Photo: Amelia Bidgood.

Many restaurants have come and gone in Canberra over the years. But in an ever-changing world, there has been one constant for almost 60 years – Charcoal Restaurant.

Even with the increasing demand for vegetarian and vegan options, this popular steak house still delivers high-quality steaks cooked to perfection for meat lovers.

It’s one of Canberra’s longest-running restaurants, located in the historic Melbourne Building, and it claims to be the first separate titled tenancy to be built in the building.

Charcoal Canberra

The Melbourne Building has been a feature of Civic for almost a century. And for most of that time, so has Charcoal Restaurant. Photo: Supplied.

Modern, trendy bars and fusion restaurants with the latest foodie offerings surround it, but Charcoal Restaurant is a far cry from most of its neighbours in the Melbourne Building. It’s an old-fashioned restaurant, so don’t expect to find any emerging food trends on the menu and if you’re vegetarian or vegan, cross this one off your ‘to eat’ list.

You’d be forgiven if you thought you’d stepped back in time when you enter the restaurant. The menu, interior and style have remained pretty much the same since it opened in 1962.

Admittedly, we weren’t planning on dinner at Charcoal Restaurant. But we stopped in front of the restaurant and contemplated treating ourselves to a juicy steak. Originally intending to spend $50 for our Tuesday night dinner, we decided we didn’t want to fork out $150 and we continued walking. But when nothing jumped out at us, we figured we’d treat ourselves. We returned to Charcoal Restaurant to try our luck securing a table without a reservation.

Thankfully they could accommodate us and we were pleased to see a free table at the far end of the restaurant. For a Tuesday night, I’m surprised to walk into a near-full restaurant, but it’s not just suited professionals meeting and discussing business over a steak and a glass of wine. It’s couples and groups of friends of all ages who are happily chatting and escaping the cold weather to enjoy a cozy dinner in a restaurant with authentic character.

READ ALSO: The best steakhouses in Canberra

The restaurant is small and narrow with a long mirrored wall, textured ceiling, hanging lamps, padded seats and dark wooden features. Photographs of its history are displayed throughout the restaurant.

Interior at Charcoal Restaurant

The interior of Charcoal Restaurant is almost the same as it was when the restaurant opened in 1962. Photo: Supplied.

The menu features various sizzling and classic steaks from Oakley Angus Reserve and a range of traditional mains, entrees and desserts. The steaks are reasonably priced, starting at $36. The most expensive is $68.

We keep it simple with some garlic bread to start. A basket with two pieces of lightly toasted bread with a subtle garlic flavour arrives quickly, as does our glass of red wine.

Selection of sides and entrees

Steak for dinner? You have to start with garlic bread. Photo: Amelia Bidgood.

We regret not ordering the sizzling 500-gram prime rib, but we can’t complain about our steak Dianne and pepper steak.

The 250-gram eye fillets are everything you would expect from a restaurant that specialises in steak. There’s a perfect char on the outside; it’s juicy, tender and cooked perfectly medium rare with no resistance when I cut through the meat. Both steaks are generously covered in our sauce of choice and are served with a selection of steamed vegetables and a jacket potato. The waitress brings over a condiment rack with bowls of sour cream, parmesan cheese and chives for the potatoes … we both choose all three options.

Sizzling and classic steaks

Choose from a selection of sizzling and classic steaks at Charcoal Restaurant. Photo: Amelia Bidgood.

We have room for dessert so we order a crème brûlée and a sticky date pudding. The crème brûlée is flavoured with vanilla, and it’s the perfect consistency with a thin coating of sugar on top, producing a soft crack when I dig my spoon into it. The sticky date pudding is one of the best I’ve had in some time. The pudding is soft and light and the sauce is divine.

Sticky date pudding

There’s a reason why sticky date pudding is on so many dessert menus. The one from Charcoal Restaurant was delicious. Photo: Amelia Bidgood.

You’ll find nothing that comes close to sides of truffle fries with manchego or a burrata salad with micro herbs and edible flowers on the menu. But if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, I would suggest you try the fried Camembert with cranberry jelly and a carpet steak – an eye fillet filled with oysters.

The restaurant is an easy walk from Canberra’s legal precinct, so you can imagine the conversations and deals that would have taken place here over the years. If the walls could talk, they would have some fascinating stories to tell.

Crème brûlée

The crème brûlée from Charcoal Restaurant was creamy and flavoured with a hint of vanilla. Photo: Amelia Bidgood.

It’s the place to go if you want to enjoy a classic steak and a nice glass of wine with service that is friendly yet slightly reserved, leaving you to enjoy your meal with limited interruptions.

Charcoal Restaurant is located at 61 London Circuit, Canberra City. The kitchen is open from 12:00 pm to 2:30 pm from Tuesday to Friday for lunch, and 6:00 pm to 9:30 pm from Tuesday to Saturday for dinner.

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32 Responses to The Institutions: Charcoal Restaurant has been grilling steaks in the heart of Canberra since 1962
Marilynn Andrews Marilynn Andrews 5:26 pm 09 Jul 21

Has always been a top place!

TimboinOz TimboinOz 12:37 pm 09 Jul 21

The Charcoal Restaurant was
i) the first place I took my now wife when we were beginning
ii) the place that taught me how to cook chops and steaks properly – that is? – rare to medium rare
iii) well-done? why bother?!

Kayla Potter Kayla Potter 10:02 pm 08 Jul 21

Michael Mckean Kristal Williams Probs better than old mates bbq Christian D'Ambrosio

    Michael Mckean Michael Mckean 7:52 am 09 Jul 21

    Kayla Potter maybe we should check it out one Thursday or Saturday before poker - Andrew Lemmon

    Kayla Potter Kayla Potter 7:52 am 09 Jul 21

    Michael Mckean this is an appropriate Saturday venue - no babies haha

    Andrew Lemmon Andrew Lemmon 8:05 am 09 Jul 21

    Michael Mckean best steaks ive ever eaten at this place. It's amazing

    Grant Allison-Young Grant Allison-Young 3:27 pm 09 Jul 21

    Andrew Lemmon you guys must have too much cash

Luke Johnson Luke Johnson 7:16 pm 08 Jul 21

Jacob Hanson Tremaine Currie-Richardson bit much for you two

    Jacob Hanson Jacob Hanson 9:11 pm 08 Jul 21

    Luke Johnson should try meat and wine co next

Rebeka Katalinic Rebeka Katalinic 4:46 pm 08 Jul 21

Mark Katalinic Yum 😋 we need to go here again

Jo-anne Garratt Jo-anne Garratt 7:19 pm 07 Jul 21

I first went here around 30 years ago - it's where I learnt to appreciate meat and port 😁

Jo Collis Jo Collis 5:28 pm 07 Jul 21

Kate Gilmore the people have spoken

    Kate Gilmore Kate Gilmore 7:37 am 08 Jul 21

    Jo Collis who doesn’t want to step back in time to enjoy a classic steak with a nice wine?

Marcus Cataldo Marcus Cataldo 5:22 pm 07 Jul 21

Consti Nikias still need to go eat at THE table

    Consti Nikias Consti Nikias 5:24 pm 07 Jul 21

    Marcus Cataldo done. Let’s organise with Michael Cataldo and Michael Maiuto

Jean Teh Jean Teh 5:05 pm 07 Jul 21

Reservations for 2022

Elysia Teh Elysia Teh 3:51 pm 07 Jul 21

Ian Teh the restaurant we were talking about

Adrian Siu Adrian Siu 3:09 pm 07 Jul 21

Angel Tsoi Matt Siu Sai Sribuala

How convenient

David Mahl David Mahl 12:16 pm 07 Jul 21

great steaks . great service - top notch

Jean Townsend Jean Townsend 8:30 am 07 Jul 21

Favourite place in the 70s, when I first lived in Canberra.

Robyne Mitchell Robyne Mitchell 7:43 am 07 Jul 21

I used to work there in the 1960s.

Greg Butwell Greg Butwell 10:04 pm 06 Jul 21

As it should be Dave!! Well done my friend!!

Jay Annabel Jay Annabel 10:04 pm 06 Jul 21

looks nice and cozy on the inside, but ew meat.

Way-de Garrett Way-de Garrett 9:12 pm 06 Jul 21

James when u taking me?

Jason Newham Jason Newham 9:01 pm 06 Jul 21

Best steak in Canberra!!! Stavro Dascarolis Ned Scanlan Steve Whybrow James Sabharwal Craig Hall

Jason Bachmann Jason Bachmann 8:56 pm 06 Jul 21

David Batterham,happy with that write up mate😃

    David Batterham David Batterham 9:56 pm 06 Jul 21

    Jason Bachmann yep that will do me, was worried I may have lost the touch but seems not, had a lot of feed back since I started. After a 30 odd year break. Thanks for showing me the review.

    Jason Bachmann Jason Bachmann 8:57 am 07 Jul 21

    David Batterham never lost it mate, just left a little more of it on the floor🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

    David Batterham David Batterham 3:12 pm 07 Jul 21

    Haha thats still the same, flamboyant as ever

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