Current Top Ten – highly recommended

Lunch Specials @CityCafe Garema Place

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@ city cafe a frame

Located just a few metres from King O’Malleys (near Mort Street on City Walk)@CityCafe is one of the many hidden Asian gems that are dotted all over the ACT. It isn’t glamorous, and it isn’t pretending to be something its not. It’s fresh, authentic and healthy home-style Thai cooking that’s served quickly and politely to Canberra City’s working men and women.

This restaurant’s façade is unpretentious. In fact the whole place is unpretentious. I was greeted with a smile and ordered 2 curries and rice over the front counter. The $10 lunchtime deal includes a free can of soft-drink.

@ city cafe outside

If you’re lucky you can grab a seat at the bar facing the large windows and watch the parade of interesting people walk past you while you eat. It’s just across the way from maccas, so there are a lot of interesting people to observe.

The food was served quickly and the portions were generous. I chose a chilli pork and green curry chicken and was not disappointed. It tasted great. I’ve been here a few times before for soup as well and can highly recommend it and will definitely be back.

a city cafe curries

@CityCafe score Three #Canberra Beanies!

@CityCafe doesn’t seem to be on Urban Spoon, so now I have to drop by again in the next few days to grab their phone number (one of the requirements of adding a new entry to Urban Spoon). But I’ll try and add it soon!

OK, their phone number is 0401 029 869. I spoke with the delightful Evey at the restaurant and have applied to have it added to Urban Spoon.

City Cafe on Urbanspoon

ZenYai Thai Grill Noodle Cuisine

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Today I had a delicious Tom Yum style chicken noodle soup at a Thai Restaurant on London circuit called Zen Yai. It’s located between East Row and Verity lane and after eating there today I’m very surprised its not packed out every day.

The large bowl of noodle soup was delicious! The photo below shows that there was lots of chicken and a generous topping of onions and nuts. The soup was divine and very filling. in fact I’ll happily say this was the BEST Tom Yum chicken I’ve had in a long time. I can’t wait to go back and try the prawn version.


You can see from the A-frame specials board outside that there are lots of delicious $10 lunch options to choose at ZenYai Thai Grill Noodle Cuisine.


As the printed lunch menu also reveals, there are a few dishes to choose from, but I’ve got my eyes (and stomach) set on the prawn Tom Yum on my next visit!


Zen Yai is highly recommended and deserves Three #Canberra Beanies!

Zen Yai Thai on Urbanspoon

Sir searches for Schnitzels in the city

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Sir and M’Lady search for Schnitzels

Came across this interesting blog recently. One of the reviews is for one of my favourite lunch spots in Civic, the City Labor Club.

I think the price may have gone up slightly since this review was written a couple of years ago. That said, they’re still hard to beat for value and taste.

I’ll have to go back and find the photo of my last schnitzel there 🙂


Laksa at Noodle Cafe in Garema Place

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Enjoyed a delicious spicy $10 Combination Laksa at the Noodle Cafe for late lunch in today.

This place is highly recommended. I recently rediscovered it after a recommendation from Eileen (@TheFoodAvenue).

What’s hard to believe is the friendly and quick service one receives for the $10 lunch specials (complimentary prawn crackers, cup with ice for your drink, table service).

Cans of drink are $2.50.

Despite the fact that I’ve blogged about this place already and awarded it two #Canberra Beanies already, I think I’ll be back on a regular basis and slowly work my way through their specials menu!

noodle cafe laksa

Noodle Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tak Kee Roast Inn in Dickson

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After weeks of prodding from fellow foodie and sympathetic fellow-dad Sir Bungle aka @ I finally dropped into Tak Kee Roast Inn in Dickson for some Gow Gee.

Tak Kee Roast Inn

Now those of you who have been paying attention to the ACT Department of Health notices  (or the Canberra times or RiotACT) over the past few years may remember a story regarding some health notices and warnings about food storage and preparation practices at Tak Kee in the past. I’m assured by my friend John, who eats there regularly, that he has never had anything to complain about and the fact the place is regularly packed with people at lunch and dinner leads me to believe they have learnt from their past mistakes and fines.

Anyhoo… I arrived a bit early and unlike my other recent lunchtime reviews, had a toddler in tow. So the challenge was to get some affordable food for both of us. I decided to take Sir Bungle’s advice and order a Gow Gee soup.

gow gee

My Gow Gee arrived very quickly and I realised I had failed to follow Mr Bungle’s strict advice and had mistakenly omitted the beef brisket form my order. Never mind, my Gow Gee sans beef brisket was very delicious, particularly on a wet autumn day. To feed the ankle-biter I also ordered a small combination fried rice, knowing she liked rice, ham, peas and egg, which I expected in the dish.

fried rice

It looked great and was bigger than expected. I tasted it (always check for temperature with kids and they don’t like things that are too spicey). It was delicious. I assumed she would love it and put it in front of her. But she tasted a spoonful and decided she didn’t like it. Bloody hell! This may have had something to do with the fact we were surrounded by people ordering all sorts of dishes and I suspect now (wisdom of hindsight) she thought she could be a bit pickey and choosey as well. Oh well, looks like dad was eating rice too!

I had another quick look at the menu, and asked her in my nicest voice “Bubba, would you like some spring rolls?! They are very yummy and you like eating spring rolls!” … which wasn’t as patronising as it sounds because I’ve seen her devour the things repeatedly. She nodded! I ordered a serving of two spring rolls.

By now Sir Bungle had arrived and (not surprisingly for a regular) seemed to make his order through osmosis. It went something like this: “G’day ladies!’ – “Hello Mr, how are you?” – “Good thanks, bit cold today. How are you?” – “We good Mr. You want usual?” – “Yes please! and I’ll have a couple of your pork spring rolls too”. Within a few minutes Sir Bungle had his regular fix.

beef brisket gow gee

Sadly for me, the arrival of yet another soup seemed to convince Ms 1.9 that she also needed soup. The spring rolls looked and tasted awesome and no matter how much I coaxed her they were instead enjoyed by dad and Sir Bungle.

spring rolls tak kee

Unsurprisingly, Ms 1.9 did end up eating a lot… of my soup. And those tea cups double as perfectly-sized noodle soup bowls for a toddler aspiring to be a food critic.

ms 1.9 noodle critic

My experience at Tak Kee was very good. I can see why Mr Bungle raves on about it and why so many people I know have been regulars for so many years. I think the episode with ACT inspectors is well and truly in the past and I’ll happily recommend it as a place to eat affordable and tasty authentic Chinese food.  I’ll give it 3 Beanies for value & taste.

Goes without saying, the prices for the Beef Brisket Gow Gee soup and other tasty dishes at Tak Kee are VERY good.

tak kee prices

Tak Kee Roast Inn on Urbanspoon


Noodle Cafe Garema Place

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I recently had the pleasure of joining another Canberra Foodie (Eileen, better known as @TheFoodAvenue) at her favourite inner-city affordable eatery – Noodle Café in Garema Place.

Noodle Café is located right next to HonkyTonks, so makes a convenient pre-party dinner venue as well as a great place to meet friends for a cheaper and satisfying lunch for as little as $10.

The $10 lunch specials are varied and the main menu has plenty of other affordable options as well.

noodle cafe specials menu

I chose to ask if I could have an authentic beef Pho that included tripe, a delicious dish I grew to love at authentic Vietnamese restaurants around Australia. The friendly waitress obliged, even though this dish wasn’t on their usual menu. It cost a few dollars more than the lunch special pho but was well worth it.

Pho Noodle Cafe

My lunch partner Eileen chose her favourite dish, a delicious combination chow mein with perfectly cooked noodles (the two beautiful photos below are hers). We also shared a couple of fresh and perfectly cooked vegetarian spring roles and a couple of tea pots of chinese green tea, all for the extremely reasonable price of $33. Considering the excellent table service (with complimentary prawn crackers) and the freshness and taste and large portions I was extremely impressed.

combination Chow mein vege spring rolls

The flavours of the food were amazing. If the food is not exactly to your liking, there is the usual plastic container of chilli and flavouring sauces that anyone who frequents authentic Asian restaurants would be familiar with.

sauce and chilli condiments basket

Noodle Café gets 3 #Canberra Beanies and joins our list of top ten affordable eateries in Canberra.

If you’re not sure where to find this place, have a look behind the big screen in Garema Place or next door to Honky Tonks. Or if you prefer Google maps, just look up 5 Garema Place.

noodle cafe behind the big screen

Noodle Cafe on Urbanspoon


My current top ten

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A typically tasty burger from Gaby's

There are far too many affordable and tasty meals in Canberra for a person to enjoy in one lifetime (however I’m trying)!

Here’s my current top ten venues for affordable (mostly lunchtime) meals in Canberra.

1. Burmese Curry Place, Alinga Street

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2. Indo Café, London Circuit OR Canberra Centre food court

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3. City Labor Club (especially Monday-Thursday Specials)

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4. Double Drummer, National Circuit Barton sml beaniesml beaniesml beanie

5. Global Café (Ethiopian), Northbourne Avenue sml beaniesml beaniesml beanie

6. i-Pho, Garema Place sml beaniesml beaniesml beanie

7. Tak Kee Roast Inn in Dickson sml beaniesml beaniesml beanie

8. Gaby’s, Barton sml beaniesml beaniesml beanie

9. Mon Thani, Garema Place sml beaniesml beaniesml beanie

10. Noodle Café Garema Place sml beaniesml beaniesml beanie

Canberra City Labor Club lunchtime specials

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The specials board outside the City Labor Club is always worth a read.

labor club a frame

The City Labor Club doesn’t have much competition from other community clubs in the civic area. There is an outpost of the Woden-based Hellenic Club and a Magpies Club but they are both smaller and less well-known and further away from the prime position next to the Merry Go Round in the centre of town at Garema Place. For the uninitiated, Canberra’s Community Clubs are unique in Australia. They have privileged access to gaming machines in return for community funding and not-for-profit constitutions. Their boards are elected by the members and all profits are in theory reinvested into the club or the community.

They are also well-regarded for affordable food and drinks. Most adult Canberrans are members of at least two of their local clubs. On this recent Monday I paid $9.90 for a chicken Parmy and $4.50 for a welcome cold schooner of VB. Both looked & tasted great. 3 #Canberra Beanies.


I go this club regularly for lunch and am rarely disappointed. At other times I’ve had $9 meat-lovers pizza. My friends have also ordered healthy $14 salmon and avocado salad.

clc pizza clc salad

But I tend to go back for the parmy. The hot one is particularly good.

hot schnitzy

Canberra Labor Club on Urbanspoon

i-Pho, Garema Place

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One of my favourite places for a quick, healthy and affordable lunch in Garema place is the Vietnamese café i-Pho. You order and pay at the counter and the standard Vietnamese fare is served hot and fresh to your table. The Pho is very good and large enough to leave you sated for the rest of the day. Recently we also tried and enjoyed Vietnamese-style rice paper rolls, which are sold for $5 for a pair, so for $10 you can enjoy four – a quick and healthy meal on their own.

ipho rice paper rolls

But our favourite dish is the combination Pho, which a perfect mixture of fresh ingredients, herbs and varied meats, including a small amount of offal, making it very authentic. I’ve also enjoyed the seafood noodle soup (pictured below) for $13.50.


It’s also worth checking the specials board as you walk in for tasty bargains. Unfortunately my Vietnamese is a bit rusty, but the friendly staff are always happy to translate.

ipho menu

i-Pho is highly recommened. 3 #Canberra Beanies.

IPho on Urbanspoon

Gaby’s van in Barton

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Thanks to inspiration from @In_The_Taratory I ventured into Barton’s back-lots to search for a fabled food van that served the best burgers in the inner south. This van was legend amongst public servants from the surrounding office blocks as far as DFAT, AGs and Treasury. Luckily I got there just before Christmas and the rumoured closure over much of January, when the parliamentary triangle drifts into a temporary slumber.

gaby closure

I was very impressed. After being greeted by Gaby through his small ordering window I was greeted by one of the waiting staff and wished a Merry Christmas, and given a chocolate treat to enjoy with my drink while the hamburger (with the lot) which I just ordered was cooked.

gaby card

Gaby’s is excellent value and the burger tastes just as good if not better than the many more upmarket (and more expensive) burger joints sprouting up all over Canberra. Gaby’s is a bit of a time capsule, reminding us how small family-run burger joints and take-aways should be.

gaby burger 1

Needless to say I was very impressed with my $8 burger with the lot + $2 drink. Should mention that Gaby’s only opens weekdays when those lucky public servants are around in large numbers. Gaby’s gets a predictable 3 #Canberra Beanies.

Update April 2014: Gaby’s is now under threat from a relocation order via the NCA. There is an online petition if you’d like to help and stories on the Canberra Times and Riot ACT websites. I also noticed recently that Gaby’s wasn’t featured in Urban Spoon so have remedied that (although how much longer they will be able to stay in their current location I do not know).

A typically tasty burger from Gaby's

Gaby's Takeaway on Urbanspoon