Canberra is without doubt the most progressive city in Australia. Our unique exposure to politics, national institutions, international embassies and the best public education system in Australia means we not only abhor bigotry and intolerance, but we know how to recognise and congratulate those taking the piss out of it as well. We quickly understood and embraced the poetic hilarity and irony of the Halal Snack Pack craze sweeping kebab shops across Australia, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. Those of you who enjoy food and humour (who doesn’t) and have yet to join the Facebook Group “The Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society” (HSPAP) need to sort yourselves out.
When I first joined the HSPAP around March I spent several hours admiring the THOUSANDS of posts of reviews and pictures of HSPs and halal-related cheekiness from around Australia, some of which were absolutely hilarious. The HSPAS quickly becomes a media phenomenon and has now grown to over 175,000 members. It is impossible to keep up with all the posts, let alone all the alerts every single time a friend likes or shares something HSP-related. I’ve learnt the best way to keep up with Canberra-specific HSP posts is to use the search field and look for anything that mentions Canberra. Which brings me to my next point. Upon sharing our HSPAS discoveries and joys my friend Dan and I decided to try and find one in Canberra. There had been a few suggestions thrown about and a few of Canberra’s more enterprising kebab shops had already jumped on the bandwagon. We decided though, like all aspiring HSP connoisseurs, that our local favourite kebab shop would have to be our first point of call. Now, Turkish Halal Pide House in Yarralumla already had a pretty awesome reputation for pide and kebabs – surely they would be serving HSPs now, along with what seemed to be most kebab shops in Australia? We were very pessimistic when we arrived one afternoon and saw clearly that it wasn’t on the menu. I asked them “excuse me, do you sell Halal Snack packs?” The response was a loud laugh “sure mate, have a seat and we’ll put one together for you”. So Dan and I both enjoyed our first Canberra HSP. And it was good. Very good.
For the purposes of this story, I have returned to what is, in my humble opinion, the best kebab shop in Canberra, to see how their HSP sales are progressing. I spoke with owner and chef Ugur Kocuk, seen below masterfully shaving off kebab meet from his lamb rotisserie.
Ugur explained HSPs sales were still growing since we first visited him in March and he was constantly amazed at how popular this particular meal had become. And now HSP’s are definitely listed on the menu in the shop!
Since it began trading in 2003 Ugur’s Turkish Restaurant prided itself on many aspects of the food they produced, and the same professional desire for excellence showed in the way he prepared the humble HSP. And the regular custom and word of mouth did the rest. The line into this shop is often out the door at lunchtime and during the evening dinner rush. They open seven days a week from 9am until about 8pm and there is a constant trade, including many people who do not live in the local area but know how good it is and make the journey for the food.
Apart from HSPs, Ugur’s business is growing to meet the increasing demand for offsite (i.e. delivered) catering. I asked him how far he would cater and he explained how he had provided all the food for two recent weddings in Bungendore! His online menu is here and you can order over the phone as well!
And you can see from the tweet below he has many fans in and out of Canberra!
I asked Ugur to explain some of the reasons why his HSPs tasted better than those at other kebab shops in Canberra. I was particularly impressed when he explained how he sometimes used TWO layers of cheese (one above the chips and another between the layers of meat). He also explained how he bought the best quality chips and meat for his rotisserie and that a few other establishments cut corners on this front to save a few dollars but the taste was very different. But the killer punch that makes his HSP far superior to so many others is the home-made (with a secret recipe) garlic sauce. All Ugur would reveal to me was that it contained mint, garlic and yoghurt! His team also constantly bake their own bread, including their own kebab bread, which they made by hand each day.
Anyway – no HSP review would be complete without following the standard explanation in accordance with the HSPAP rules, so here goes:
Greeting 10/10 – a loud and proud “hello brother, what can I get for you?”
Halal signage 10/10 – the place is called Turkish Halal Pide House!
Meat 10/10 Beautiful lamb and chicken, eaten together, like Allah (the word for God in Arabic) intended.
Sauce 10/10 – the holy trinity (bbq/chilli/garlic sauces) is even holier with home-made garlic sauce.
Packaging 10/10 – solid styrofoam. None of that hippy recyclable cardboard that is creeping into the HSP universe (just being cheeky here, cardboard is ok, bloody hippies).
Chips 10/10 – now that they make them regularly, they do it well.
Cheese 10/10 – it’s optional, so I optionally ordered extra. Two layers is best. Trust me.
Overall rating 10/10 – best in Canberra. And I should know. I’ve had a few!
I should also explain that much of the credit for fostering and promoting the HSP phenomenon across Australia (and now, increasingly, across the world) was the early adoption of Senator Sam Dastyari as the informal patron of HSPs, or “minister for HSPs” as he is occasionally referred to on the HSPAS pages. Sam not only famously spoke about HSPs in parliament but also appears in numerous videos explaining what they are and how they are made and how to avoid being called a “Haram Dingo“. Most recently, following a public controversy over a declared gift from a Chinese donor, Sam resigned from the front bench of the Labor Party and was immediately memorialised by his HSP fans, including this author with the now famous “Put Out Your <insert appropriate silly object>” meme all over social media.
Recently I was near Woden for a lunchtime appointment so decided to check out Black Rock Turkish in Weston Creek. Couldn’t resist jumping on the #PutOutYourHSPs bandwagon at the same time.
OK, I know not everyone will agree with my praise for Yarralumla and its Turkish food. Also, some people don’t like waiting in lines. You can reduce your waiting time for kebab orders by calling in your order before you arrive, or even using the clever “fill in your kebab order and name here” instructions to the right of the ordering counter.
I also enjoy the Pide shop in Charnwood on a regular basis, as it’s much closer to home! In fact, Kebab shops are a bit like local grocers, butchers or local mechanics – people are so happy to have one that they always think their local one is better than all the others. Now, you may think your local kebab shop does better HSPs? tell us why and show us a picture, and don’t be afraid to share it on the HSPAS facebook page as well!
Of course it is Jolene!
Elias (aka CBRfoodie) Recommends: try to avoid the obvious lunch and dinner rushes and enjoy taking your time eating and watching the serious variety of people coming and going and sharing delicious Turkish food.
Elias Hallaj (aka CBRfoodie) is a part-time food blogger and full-time political staffer who has joined RiotACT as a regular contributor. All opinions are his own. If you have any tips or feedback you can find him on Twitter @CBRfoodie.
3 Canberra Beanies!
I have to admit that most of my past reviews have been about lunchtime specials. I will try and include more affordable Canberra dinner options in future, starting with this one!
Locals would be aware that the club was destroyed in a fire in 2014 but has since been rebuilt through a big community fundraising effort and it’s well-regarded restaurant has re-opened.
The Polish Club has a Facebook page, which regularly reminds followers about specials and special events.
I dropped in and wandered up to the window between the restaurant and kitchen to place my order with the friendly staff.
I chose the pork dumplings from the menu of Wednesday night specials.
When you order the special you get a small voucher to exchange for an authentic polish beer at the bar. You have three beers to choose from.
The service was quick and I had just enough time to take a few photos, scribble some notes about the menus on the wall and drink some wheatbeer before my buzzer started buzzing.
The dumplings were cooked to perfection.
I will be back and intend to sample more from the extensive menu.
AS well as great food the club also hosts regular community events and is a regular gig for the Canberra Musicians Club. More info on events at the Polish Club can be found on the website “events section”.
Highly recommended for value and taste! – Three Canberra Beanies!
Absolutely Jas @absolutelyjas
A Kitchen Cat Natasha (aka A Kitchen Cat) was a contestant on the 2014 Master Chef TV series! here’s a link to the story in the Canberra Times including the cheeky tweet from Rachi Perera which revealed the news 🙂
Bake Bike Blog @bakebikeblog
You Berra believe it @LindaSoo
Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things @bizzylizzycooks
Blithe Moments @LisaRobey
Café Cat @the_cafeCat
Canberra Gastronome @CanGastronome
Canberra Times Food and Wine (Choose your “location=Canberra”) Current and previous Editors: @NatashaRudraCT and @kirstenlawsonCT
Capital Food Journal @capfoodjournal
Capital Gourmand (Tom moved to London last year but his blog is still excellent) @FreeHugsTommy
Cara Phillips @_caraphillips_
Charinya’s Kitchen @CharinyaR
Dreaming of Almonds (and a nicer world) @Almond_Dreams
Emiko Davies @emikodavies
Food Wine Travel @ChristineSalins
Freak Biscuit “gluten-free vegequarian”
Good Food Week @GoodFoodWeek
Green Foodie @greenfoodie
Her Canberra @HerCanberra
In The Taratory @InTheTaratory
The Intolerant Chef (not active on Twitter)
Kate Freeman Nutrition @KFNutrition
Kiriels Kitchen Medieval and Renaissance cooking
Le Bon Vivant @Rachiperera
Love at Every Bite @loveateverybite
Makeitbakeitsnapit @kirsty__young (previously known as ‘In the Kitchen with Kirsty’)
Miss K Licious As Anna (@Eatnik) explained, MissKlicious is Sydney-based but reviews many CBR restaurants and deserves an honourable mention 🙂 she’s on twitter too @missklicious
mnfdblog – maybe about food, maybe not @neildoody
Mouthless Mutters @ezzbez
My Canberra Table @girl_who_cooks
My Nutritious Journey @KaseyBateup
Nutrition In Action @Eucale_Stanes
One Hungry Hen Heidi lives in Cooma, just south of Canberra but spends a lot of time here and blogs and tweets regularly about Canberra food and happenings @onehungryhen
The Canberran @TheCanberran
The Food Avenue @thefoodavenue
The Girl Has Sparke @girlhassparke
The Macadames @themacadames
The Martini Whisperer @martiniwhisper1
The Merrymaker sisters @fithealthymade
Woodkitchen by Lucy email@example.com
Yummy Lummy @garydlum
Tucked away downstairs under the Magpies City Club in Canberra is Vietnamese Down Under. This place has had a few different incarnations, most recently as “The Underground”. It’s easy to miss it unless you’re a Garema Place regular and/or you notice the bright red A-frames in Bunda Street (next to Gus’s cafe) or in Garema Place near the Magpies Club Entrance.
If like me you’re normally staring at your phone while you walk, you could be forgiven for walking straight past and not noticing the front door.
Come on inside! Don’t be put of by the 70s-style club decor of the majestic stair case. Think how much easier it is to clean after a big Saturday night!
Personally I think there are more attractive community club venues in Civic (The City Labor Club in City Walk and Hellenic Club on Mort St for example, both of which also have awesome lunch specials) but variety is the spice of life! And how many other tasty and affordable Vietnamese restaurants in Canberra also serve schooners of beer at club prices? None!
The menu on the wall reveals a large array of Vietnamese favourites at affordable prices.
I have been here a few times and can attest that the $10 pho soup is quite good. Particularly on cold wintery Canberra days when you want a warmer and quieter lunch venue well away from the wind!
The service is good and fast and I will be back for more. For taste and value the Vietnamese Down Under gets Three Canberra Beanies!
A few months ago observant food lovers in Civic noticed that the French-Morrocan restaurant Ardeche sadly closed its doors in Anislie Place (just near the Canberra Times fountain and main city-side entrance to the Canberra Centre. The mourning didn’t last long however when it was revealed that the replacement would be a re-incarnation of Little Saigon. Lovers of Vietnamese food would remember the earlier version of Little Saigon which once traded on Northbourne Avenue. The same family has regrouped and put their experience and love of Vietnamese food to good use with a new establishment. As well as the sit-down restaurant which serves Vietnamese favourites such as Pho Noodle Soup and Rice Paper Rolls they also operate a window for delicious Banh Mi (Pork rolls) which they sell for $6.
The Banh Mi is full of tasty ingredients.
The service is fast and friendly.
The Vietnamese menu is extensive.
I’ll come back to this post and add more pictures of a couple of other meals I have enjoyed here, including the Vietnamese classic Pho Noodle Soup.
This place is great and a welcome addition to the Canberra City Restaurant scene. Three #Canberra Beanies!
I’ve been using a busy job and lots of noisy kids to rationalise my lack of blogging recently. I know what the uber bloggers are thinking, pretty lame right?
Well today was one of those days that all bloggers will understand, when I stumbled upon a find that was so far up my alley that I immediately made plans to share it (and did on twitter and facebook) and spent a few minutes in the afternoon wondering if I would have time to add it to the blog later tonight. Well I am now doing exactly that (ie the kids are finally in bed!)
Today felt like a particularly cold day (even by Canberra standards) and I had a craving for soup!
I had noticed a few times in Manuka the Tosung Firewood BBQ Restaurant on the corner diagonally opposite Coles.
It’s a bit hard to miss the bright facade and the canvass banner advertising $10 lunch specials.
I was warmly greeted by the staff and invited to take a seat. Although it appeared there were no soups on the $10 specials menu I was keen to try their soups. I like Korean soup!
I ordered a bowl of spicy beef stock soup with potato noodles and waited patiently. A few minutes later I was surprised to be approached by a staff member carrying a very large tray. Not only did I get a piping hot freshly cooked soup but she also brought a bowl of rice, four small plates of condiments (including my favourite Korean side dish – kimchi!) as well as a large bottle of water.
The service is terrific for the price and beyond what I had expected. Safe to say my mind was blown by the value for money from a $15 order. the rice and condiments ensured I couldn’t finish the soup – a very unusual occurrence for me. The soup was hot and spicy and tasted divine.
I think I just found my new favourite cheap eat in Manuka and will definitely be back to try more of the menu, including the $10 lunch specials and some Korean BBQ!
Highly recommended – Three #Canberra Beanies!
It’s been a while since I added to the list of awesome Canberra Foodies who have graced this website over the past 12 months. It was a great adventure meeting them all last year so I’m determined to start again and hope to share at least one interview a month.
Today’s entertaining interview is with a rare man who as well as being an amazing husband ((I’m told) and musician, also publicly and proudly embraces a very long-standing passion for food and wine. Sorry ladies he’s already taken! I first met Paul through his lovely better half but unlike her his professional passions lie away from public communications. Paul Drake is the part-owner and Manager of the hidden Gem Plumb on Tennant (which I checked out for lunch last year in this earlier post). I’m not the only one who thinks this place is a hidden gem – check out Tara’s review here.
So Paul, who are you? I’m a long time Canberra boy who arrived here as a ten pound pom in 1967. My passion has always been food really, and good wine, but I’m a trained carpenter/ builder and can do most things hospitality related. I never really wanted to be anywhere but Canberra but I guess the clincher was when I met my wife Angie and we decided to make our lives here together. We now have two teenage boys and a spotty dog and my first foray into business was finding my business partner Rob and buying our first cafe Plumb on Tennant in Fyshwick back in 2011. Owning a cafe has been an interesting experience. I can’t say that we’ve done everything perfect but we put love and passion into what we do. It’s hard work and I can say that we’ve only just begun in cafe world, with many more ventures ahead of us I’m sure.
Age? 48, but don’t feel a day over 47!
Where do you live? Fadden
How long have you been blogging? I don’t. Well perhaps if I did blog, more people would know about our cafe. <That’s OK Paul, we’ll try and let them know!>
Other hobbies? I love ironing (my wife is editing this for me) I play bass in a band Kartel – probably my other serious passion, we have fun and play a few gigs every month or so.
Here is evidence of Paul’s musical talent!
Apple or Android? Apple
Car/bus/bike? Love to ride my bicycle but I’m petrified of magpies. It’s grown more irrational every year.
<You’re not alone on that front!>
Favourite TV show? There are many – Peaky Blinders is prob my fav right now.
Favourite devices? I’m old fashioned, still on an iPad but it’s the first ever edition so it’s kind of retro now (are they still trendy?)
Can we take a peek at your home screen?
Most-used app? the afl game score app, and Iview
Favourite social media? Facebook <Paul runs a small business so he is extremely busy, without much time for social media, but you can find Plumb on Tennant on Facebook here>
What’s the first thing online you check each morning? Facebook
What do you worry about at night? There is a lot at the moment – have been working on getting mum secured in a new aged care facility so she can be properly looked after and will Hawks win the grand final.
Most exciting recent news? We went on our first cruise at Christmas!
Ideal career? Something involving early retirement and travelling a lot
Here is a picture of Paul as he is about to dine at la jules vern restaurant in Paris
Recent book you recommend? The adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
Recent online video you laughed at? ALS ice bucket challenge by Les Claypool http://youtu.be/Tjd_hLtaQxA
Favourite food 🙂 Bacon bits (from Pizza Hut of old are the best), grated cheese and thousand island dressing.
Do yourself a favour and try out Plumb on Tennant for breakfast or lunch (or brunch) next time you’re in Fyshwick – you won’t be disappointed!
Had the pleasure of attending the Canberra YWCA Frugal Feast Recipe Book Launch at the ANU Food Co-Op this evening. In attendance were some of the amazing women who keep the wheels of this important womens advocacy group turning, as well as a couple if special guests: ACT Minister Shane Rattenbury and Canberra Times Food Editor Natasha Rudra.
The crowd was also entertained with melodies from lovely Cheeky Violets.
This book and other special YWCA events from 17-24 Nov will raise money & food for their annual Christmas appeal. Contact the YECA for more info of to make a contribution.
*I’m doing this on an iPhone so will return later to add links 🙂
Some of you may be aware I was lucky enough to have been recently chosen amongst 101 Canberra bloggers and social media geeks to participate in the #Humanbrochure campaign run by the #VisitCanberra crew at Tourism ACT.
Here’s a recent picture of some of the “Human” gang during a wander around New Acton with various mobile recording devices.
In 2014 #Humanbrochure evolved from the award-winning 2013 exercise to focus more on locals sharing their experiences and knowledge of Canberra region with their friends, colleagues and other personal networks. The various activities culminated in a weekend in which each local “human” (i.e. moi) hosted a guest family from out of town at a local place or institution. There was a kind of lottery for the final places with each host and guest offered an experience based on their family/kids/ages etc. We ended up with a personal tour of the National Dinosaur Museum on a Friday night, when it was not normally open to the public.
This was a great option for us (my guest was my sister Dominique from Sydney and two of her children) as we’re long-time family members and our kids are all aspiring palaeontologists. I like dinosaurs too 🙂
I’m a firm believer in “a picture tells a thousand words”. Most of the photos below were taken by my nine year old daughter using a digital SLR and my iPhone as well as some taken by my sister.
If you haven’t been to the National Dinosaur Museum before you will be very impressed by their out-door display, which includes a couple of examples that you can get up close and personal with!
Inside the museum there are plenty of exhibits and attractions for kids and adults alike. You won’t have to try too hard to take some memorable photos of your kids or friends.
Before you worry about the expense of visiting this awesome institution I’ll let you in on a little secret that keeps us and our five kids very happy. Families can join “Friends of the Dinosaurs” for only $70 per year, which includes two adults and all their school-aged children. If you have a houseful of aspiring palaeontologists like we do that is great value. You’ll be able to visit THE BEST collection of dinosaur exhibits in Australia as many times as you like. You’ll also get great discounts for your friends and for kids parties and visits to sister institutions around Australia. We’ve been members for several years now and sometimes go more than once a month and always at least four times a year (which for a family of seven visiting four times a year works out at $2.50 per visit… hard to beat for any dinosaur museum or park anywhere in the world past or present). So here’s the form so you can join and encourage your kids to learn about science!
“Hang on – where is this awesome place?!” I hear you ask… you can find a map, google links, opening hours, prices and links to book and pay online here.
They are also on Facebook and it’s worth liking and following their page if you’re interested in occasional specials and auctions of second-hand exhibits and other dinosaur paraphernalia.
Palaeontologist Jess (who was an awesome tour guide btw) : “So who can tell me what sort of animal this is?”
Ms 5: “A crocodile!” Jess: “no”
Ms 6: “A lizard!” Jess: “no, not a lizard”
Ms 7: “Alligator?” Jess: “no, not an alligator”
Ms 9: “Its a giant frog!” Jess: “Correct!
Wow, I was impressed by this giant frog as well as the fact my nine year old daughter knew more about it than I did! Took a photo, but it didn’t turn out as good as Dom’s 🙂
Throughout this short visit I quickly learnt how much kids love this stuff and how much I wish I had paid attention during my previous visits with them. When Jess asked “Can anyone tell me when the dinosaurs lived?” My nine year old daughter casually put her hand up and answered “during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods”!!! I actually quickly worked out I had no hope of keeping up so just tried to tag along, enjoy the opportunity to take a few photos … and hoped none of the kids asked me any hard questions.
But the penny eventually dropped and I realised my sister was taking too many photos of me. I guessed she was hoping to get one of me picking my nose for Facebook. There was only one thing I could do to let her know two could play at this game.
One of the activities that kids never seem to tire of at this place is the puzzles they can put together in a room designed for kids activities. It’s pretty cool and we had to drag them away after a while.
In fact I think it’s fair to say there’s too much to see and do in a single trip to the National Dinosaur Museum. You have to make a few trips to really appreciate it. I’ve been a regular for a few years now and am yet to find it repetitive or uninteresting.
Oldest rock in the world (above) and the oldest poo in the world (below).
Megalodon never fails to impress. There is a life-size Megalodon jaw with a hand-painted backdrop behind it to give it a life-like appearance. We had the good fortune to meet the incredibly talented artist painting this and many other murals around the museum at a previous visit.
In case you’re not sure how much bigger Megalodon is compared to carcharodon carcharias (a Great White Shark). Here’s a picture I swiped from the interwebs.
And in case you don’t find that scary, here’s a picture of one of the many awesomely scary “humans” (the irrepressible Jemma Scarr) I had the pleasure of meeting during a recent #Humanbrochure “experience” at the National Dinosaur Museum. Notice the Megalodon jaw display still hadn’t been given the big colour backdrop when this photo was taken!
My kids were awes-struck at some of the newer displays they haven’t seen before and which have only recently been added.
Nothing to be afraid of though. She’s got this well under control.
The hands-on nature of the tour gave the kids a real appreciation of what they were learning and an insight into how dinosaurs lived.
Unsurprisingly, many dinosaurs were small and feathered… and probably tasted like chicken.
Poor old number six has seen better days!
Tiny the Mastodon
Our awesome hosts also served up some pizza and drinks for the kids during a meal break. This is definitely not part of the normal tour but it’s nice to be treated like a special guest occasionally! If you do visit and get hungry the local area has some terrific options for food and drinks, two of our regular favourites are Café Injoy and the George Harcourt Inn.
There’s a lot more to see and do if you make the trip. There’s a little bit more about the history of the museum here.
Last but not least, thanks to the Burbury Hotel in Barton for making my sister and her kids very welcome. They were shocked and pleasantly surprised to discover the hotel had borrowed two small plastic dinosaurs to decorate the hotel room and prepare them for their visit to the National Dinosaur Museum.
My sister really enjoyed the hotel room and hospitality. If you’re lucky enough to get a 6th floor room the views are quite impressive too!
My sister was also impressed with the pack of goodies I brought for her and her kids from Canberra Handmade (in a Canberra Handmade bag of course).
Finally thanks to the #Humanbrochure crew at #VisitCanberra who made this amazing experience possible for us as well as all the other #humans and guests!
So come and visit! we’re only a short drive down the Hume Highway from Sydney. You’ll know you’re close when you pass this amazing and beautiful sight (a collection of windmills collecting clean energy near Lake George).
The kids will love you for the fun and learning experience.
Where: National Dinosaur Museum
When: 10am – 5pm EVERY DAY except Christmas Day!
Why: a great educational experience for young and old.
How to get there: via google.
Last week I had the pleasure of enjoying the amazingly filling (and quite delicious) $18 Burrito Bowl (just the insides of a Burrito on a plate, without the carbs of the wrap) at Francisco’s Mexican Cantina in Manuka Village Canberra.
You can choose from a variety of filings. I chose beef and bean and loved it. In fact I would probably have been happy with a smaller size which was only $10 (the large plate is very large and filling and could easily feed two people).
But I persevered and began to feel the early stages of a food coma after returning to work 🙂
I will definitely return to try other variations as well as other items from the specials board.
They also serve a mean cup of coffee.
If you like Mexican food and affordable lunch specials, Francisco’s is a great option, particularly amongst the high-priced restaurant in and around Manuka.
Three #Canberra Beanies!