The Verity Lane stalls are here to spice up your life – this week at least – with extra hot special dishes that will leave you red-faced and sweating (in the most delicious ways).
I visited with a spice-loving friend to see if we could stand the heat.
“Everybody wants a bit of spice in their life and chilli week is the ultimate excuse to get spicy,” said Verity Lane operations manager Ben Answerth.
“We’re on the brink of winter in Canberra and enjoying the last few weeks of warmth in the city, so we thought this would be the perfect time to heat things up in our kitchens and on our plates too.”
All of the food vendors are offering various spice-infused specials for chilli week, which runs until Saturday, 25 March. Even the bar is getting in on the fun with its spicy habanero margarita made with chilli-infused agave. The spice levels on this one are fairly moderate: I’d say it had more of a smokey pepper flavour rather than intense capsaicin heat.
My friend opts for the chilli chicken Ayam Rarang from Rasa Rosa, a stall selling authentic Indonesian food cooked by Rosa Djapa. Rosa’s home island of Lombok is so renowned for its spicy food the name actually comes from the local word for chilli.
Posting on social media ahead of chilli week, she asked: “Is 5 types of chilli too much chilli? [Asking] for a friend …”
It’s definitely a lot! But mixing the chilli oil and sauce of the chicken with the accompanying rice and fresh vegetables dilutes the heat a little and the crispy soya beans and salted duck egg are also excellent. We enjoy that the meat is bone-on and beautifully moist.
Sister venue Pizza and Pasta Artigiana is also turning up the heat and offering customers a choice of which chillies will adorn their meals.
I like chilli as much as the next person, but I must admit I get nervous when Scoville units measure the menu, so it was with some trepidation that I ordered my Penne all’Arrabbiata with habanero chilli: heat level four out of five (I was not emotionally prepared for the level five Carolina reaper). ‘Arrabbiata’ literally translates as ‘angry’, and the pasta certainly had a fiery temper!
I am assured that there are glasses of milk available for those who need it, but I was determined to take a few very deep breaths, put on a brave (and very red) face and power through unassisted.
We also shared the Dan Dan loaded fries from Superbao, which come topped with delicious mince, spring onion and Szechuan chillies. The chilli flavour permeates through the whole bowl of crispy fries, but there’s a good amount of mayo for contrast.
All the dishes are definitely very spicy, but the spice has purpose and flavour. It’s there to taste good: it’s not just there as a gimmick or an excuse to look tough.
Despite the red faces and sweaty brows, we didn’t disgrace ourselves (too badly) and definitely walked away feeling the effects of a chilli high!
Verity Lane is located in the Sydney building, 50 Northbourne Ave, Canberra. Chilli Week runs until Saturday, 25 March; find out more on their website.