Posts Tagged ‘coffee’

If etsy was a town, I’d move there

April 9, 2011

Because not only does it have all the most beautiful handmade things, it also has vintage. If you’ve been reading for a while you may have picked up that my love of vintage predates (and surpasses) even my love of craft and handmade.

A couple of weeks ago I bought this beautiful vintage coffee jug and creamer set. I just adore the smoky silver accents and the chemist’s-laboratory look they have. Definitely using these at my next dinner party.


A bite to eat (a drink as well)

July 30, 2010

A bite to eat, tucked away in the residential southside suburb of Chifley, has an alternative vibe that’s otherwise difficult to find in Canberra. But it’s not just the atmosphere that keeps the regulars coming back. The food and drink are also top notch, a fact confirmed by the cafe being twice voted ACT’s best cafe in the delicious. magazine cafe awards.

No matter what the time of day, A bite to eat’s fare is fresh, tasty and inventive. The seasonally changing menu has an emphasis on vegetarian cooking, with influences widely varied: English, Asian, Middle Eastern and Italian to name a few. Whether you enjoy a lazy breakfast, a working lunch or just pop in for an exceptional coffee and a slice of freshly baked lemon and rosemary cake, the food is sure to satisfy. Open every day except Tuesday, breakfast is served all day on weekends and until noon on weekdays. Dinner is available Wednesday – Friday, and the cafe is fully licensed so diners can enjoy a quiet drink at any time of day. Bookings are usually a good idea.

While you’re waiting for your order to arrive, take the opportunity to absorb the cafe’s eclectic decor. From the first step inside the door, it’s clear that this cafe is unlike any other in the city. Think retro furniture, mismatched vintage crockery, touches of modern design, and a collection of old snow domes. A large pinboard adorns one wall, sporting postcards, comics, thankyou letters and photos. My favourite parts are the huge front window with its collection of comfy-looking cushions, and the many different lampshades. But alternative though it may be, A bite to eat is not reserved just for hippies and art students—on any day customers can include young families, besuited executives, elderly couples and groups of bright young things. I’ve been there with my husband, with my best friend, and with my parents; I’ve even attended a baby shower there. Though upbeat, the cafe is as welcoming as your nanna’s kitchen, with the added bonus of much superior coffee.

On a bright Saturday morning in May, Phil and I visited for a much-anticipated breakfast. There are many aficionados who’d say A bite to eat makes one of the best, if not the very best, breakfasts in Canberra. I would definitely agree. On this morning the menu included sourdough fruit toast, banana pizza, and a smoked salmon and potato creation. While the choice was difficult, we had plenty of time to mull over our selections whilst standing in the long line waiting to order. Weekend breakfasts are popular here.

Coffee was definitely going to feature, and our flat whites were perfectly made.

At peak times the wait on food can be as much as half an hour, but this doesn’t seem unreasonable given the cafe’s huge capacity (a large L-shaped room inside, a courtyard out the back, and tables on the footpath). In any case the drinks are usually fairly prompt. And between admiring the interior, the conversation of your companion, people-watching, examining your vintage cutlery and deciding which of the condiments to use when your food arrives, there is plenty to keep you occupied.

On this morning I’d ordered roasted mushrooms on sourdough with spinach, cheese and broccoli pesto, which was absolutely divine. Although I’m not a vegetarian I just can’t stomach meat at breakfast time; my idea of a good breakfast cafe is one that offers vegetarian options beyond pancakes. A bite to eat definitely fits this bill. Phil opted for bubble and squeak with poached eggs and harissa tomatoes and a side of home-baked beans. Delicious, fresh, and definitely different.

If you only try one cafe in Canberra, my recommendation is A bite to eat. It ticks all the boxes, with food that is both fantastic and surprising, great coffee, a funky interior and a convenient location (only ten minutes’ walk from Woden plaza). A bite to eat is open from 8am Wednesday to Monday, closing late Wednesday to Friday only. Food is freshly cooked and of very good quality. Prices reflect this but both breakfast and lunch menus include cheaper options. We paid just under $40 for two hearty breakfasts, a side dish and two coffees. Special options include vegetarian, vegan and gluten free meals. Restrooms are available onsite and there is free time-limited offstreet parking around the Chifley shops complex. A bite to eat is located at Shop 8, Eggleston Crescent, Chifley ACT.

Rating: 5 cups.

Silo bakery

April 28, 2010

Silo is something of a mecca for food and coffee lovers in the Canberra region, and its pastries have acquired cult status. Tucked away between restaurants and real estate agents at the Kingston Shops, the small bakery/cafe/cheese room does a bustling breakfast, lunch and coffee trade.

The unassuming frontage is easy to miss, with its discreet signage and small collection of footpath tables. No large partitions advertising coffee to hem the patrons in, instead Silo’s alfresco diners mix happily with passers-by, frequently calling out to passing friends, and enjoying the sun in front of the tiled facade and large window.

At most times of the day, the first thing to greet you when you push open Silo’s glass door is a hubbub of noise. Be prepared to stroll around the block or sit at the counter while you wait for a table to become free; I’ve even been turned away altogether. If you’re heading there for lunch a booking is a good idea, but according to their website they don’t take breakfast bookings, so be willing to try your luck. At the very least you can get a takeaway coffee and pastry.

Silo’s bakers and pastry chefs make a range of breads, pastries and tarts which daily sell out, so if you’re after a particular treat, get in early. Also available are takeaway rolls and sandwiches, an inventive breakfast menu and a European-inspired lunch menu, both of which change seasonally. As far as liquids go, Silo provides a full range of cafe beverages including coffee by local roasters Cosmorex, and has a small but carefully selected wine list. The cafe also boasts a walk-in cheese room stocked with a range of local and overseas varieties; samples can be found on the menu and they also supply other restaurants in the area.

Inside, it becomes clear that Silo’s background noise level is produced not only by the number of patrons crowded in at little tables, but also by the lack of soft furnishings. Expect polished concrete floors and cushionless chairs, but in some respects these add to the atmosphere, along with the old-fashioned light shades, and the stainless steel and marble fittings. The high ceilings of the cafe and its narrow footprint (the back section is little more than a corridor) lend it the sort of vintage charm that’s often missing in Canberra, with its post-1960s buildings.

On Saturday we were lucky enough to get a table only minutes after we’d taken a seat at the counter. While the quality of the service is a bit variable, this time we scored a friendly and attentive waitress, and water was brought to the table before we could even asked for it.

Our visit was just for a hot drink and a treat, so we abandoned the menus placed before us to stand in front of the glass-fronted marble patisserie counter, weighing our options carefully. With all the beautifully made offerings spread out before you, it’s difficult to limit yourself to just one.

Eventually I settled on a plain, buttery brioche; delicate of crumb and crisp of crust. Phil gave his order for a passionfruit and mascarpone tart, but as often happens when there’s only one or two of a particular item left, it was gone by the time he ordered. Our waitress suggested the substitution of a berry and almond tart, which I gather went down very nicely.

Not being in the mood for coffee, but feeling the need of something warm and sweet to ward off the outside chill, I ordered a hot chocolate; my first from Silo, and it was delicious—chocolatey, sweet, creamy, not too rich and with none of that terrible gritty brown powder lurking at the bottom. I discovered the new taste sensation of brioche dipped in hot chocolate, and I can strongly recommend you try it. Phil ordered a ‘large latte’ which I’m told was a little stronger than anticipated, but which was definitely quite large. Both food and drinks arrived in a timely manner and the drinks were beautifully presented.

Whether you like sourdough, pain au chocolat, pear and caramel tart, or brioche, you can’t do better than Silo in the bakery/patisserie stakes. Past experience and present popularity is proof of the quality of more substantial meals as well, and they are a dab hand with the espresso machine. Go early because the best is guaranteed to sell out. Silo is open from 10am to 4pm Tuesday to Saturday, and prices are very reasonable for the quality of food presented—we paid about $14 for two pastries and two hot drinks. Special options include vegetarian meals. Restrooms are available onsite, and there is ample on-street parking around the whole Kingston Shops area, though be prepared to pay on weekdays and Saturday mornings. Silo is located at 36 Giles Street, Kingston ACT. Rating: 4 cups.

Strange things about America

June 6, 2009

In which our heroine discovers that she may not be in Kansas anymore, Toto.

1. Most of the coffee is drip-filter (or ‘dripolator’, as Mum likes to call it), not espresso-based. At breakfast at my hotel in Santa Fe, waiters would wander around with jugs of filter coffee instead of taking orders for lattes. Incidentally, most of this filter coffee is pretty terrible. My room in the hotel has a drip filter machine (!)

drip filter

but doesn’t have a kettle, so I can’t make tea. (I’ve just checked in to my hotel in Albuquerque and it’s the same—drip filter, no kettle. Yet they’ve given me teabags…)

2. All the light switches I’ve seen are either upside down or sideways.


Not a huge problem, just a slightly amusing spectacle for any hidden watchers, as it usually takes me a few moments to figure out why the light’s not turning on.

3. This one is probably peculiar to regions with a lot of Mexican food, but they seem to like chilli with everything. I went to a pizzeria for lunch on Sunday and managed to get a beautifully made, authentic Italian-style pizza

pizza with chilli

which was served with a shaker of chilli flakes, just in case I couldn’t handle the thought of food without chilli. I mean, chilli has its place, but it’s not often you find it in Italian food.

4. Tipping. How much am I supposed to tip? Can I refuse to tip if the service wasn’t up to scratch? Should I tip more at a fancy restaurant? Is it truly voluntary if restaurants enforce a tip for parties over 6 people? WHY don’t they just up the prices of the food, and pay their staff a fair wage???

5. There is almost no fruit or veg. I’m staying in a hotel in the middle of town, so I’m eating out for every meal. Most places don’t serve fruit or veg at all where I’m used to finding it (e.g. salad on the side when you buy quiche for lunch), and when you do get it, it’s often a tiny serve. Heavily processed or seasoned or dressed. And there are no supermarkets, grocers or convenience stores within walking distance, so I can’t even stock up on apples for snacks. By contrast, in the middle of Sydney and Melbourne, every corner has an IGA that at least stocks apples.

Mind you, I’m probably getting enough vitamin C from the lime juice in all those margaritas I’ve been drinking. No scurvy here. If it worked for Captain Cook, it can work for me!

6. Salad is served before the meal. In Australia, salad is served as a side dish to a meal. In Europe, salad is apparently served after the main course. Here, salad is your entree. I guess we all have our different ways.

7. Speaking of entrees…every restaurant I’ve been to here calls the first course ‘Appetizers’ and the main course ‘Entrees’. In Australia, we call the first course ‘Entrees’ and the second course ‘Mains’ (or something similar). During my first few days in the US I was involved in several conversations with waiters where we managed to just confuse each other about what size meal I wanted. I started to wonder who had the terminology right, but a handy francophone assured me that entree does indeed mean ‘entry’, as in, the start of the meal. A useful thing to know, but I don’t think I’m going to be arguing the case with any waiters—the less confusion the better!

I guess this is the joy of discovering a new country. There’s lots of wonderful things, lots of interesting things, and a few things that just seem strange. But as I said—it’s all part of the fun!