The Vietnamese Down Under (Magpies City Club Canberra)

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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.

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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.

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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!

downunder vietnamese staircase IMG_6880

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!

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The menu on the wall reveals a large array of Vietnamese favourites at affordable prices.

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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!

downunder vietnamese pho IMG_6884

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!


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Tasty soup spread at Tosung Firewood BBQ Manuka

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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.

Tosung facade

It’s a bit hard to miss the bright facade and the canvass banner advertising $10 lunch specials.

Tosung lunch special banner

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!

Tosung lunch specials   Tosung soup dishes

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.

Tosung sides

Tosung spread

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!

Tosung address and hours

Tosung Charcoal BBQ on Urbanspoon


Lunch specials at Debacle, Braddon

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I used to be a regular at Debacle in Canberra when I worked around the corner. The staff were friendly and I’ve made a few close friends from the regulars and staff. Debacle taught me that Canberra has the most sophisticated waiting staff in Australia. Many of the young adults working bars and waiting tables in and around civic are also struggling to make ends meet while they finish their university studies. Don’t be surprised in Canberra if your bartender or waiter is also doing a PhD!

Anyway, about three years ago our office moved to City Walk and I subsequently became a less-frequent customer but its still a place I like to visit for a drink or meal when time permits. Yesterday I was there to have a working lunch with an old friend so I offered to shout her from the specials board on the condition she let me photograph her meal. Who would say no to that?!

debacle lunch specials board

I ordered a soup and she ordered a pulled pork roll. I also bought us a couple of lemon, lime and bitters at the counter, grabbed our table number and sat down to chat.

The meals arrived in around 10 minutes. The portions were generous and I was completely full by the end. The soup came with LOTS of tasty pita bread and my friend couldn’t find the room to finish her chips. I was tempted but I left them alone (yep, still on that CSIRO diet folks!).

debacle soup  debacle pulled pork roll

I still like Debacle very much and if you stick to the specials board or come for the two-for-one pizza nights, it’s certainly in the affordable price range.

Highly recommended – Three Canberra Beanies!

Debacle 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