Saturday, August 18, 2007

One Week in Canberra

OK, this will be a slightly less smutty story than the one you may have heard about Paris. And it wasn't really a whole week - only a working week. Buckle in though, it's going to be a long post :-)

Some may or may not know, but for a few years I called Canberra my home. So I suffer mixed feelings whenever I have to head back there for work. Usually I manage to stay in a serviced apartment so I have a kitchen and don't have to eat out for three meals each day. Not so lucky this week: with Parliament sitting accommodation was scarce. I ended up staying at the Canberra Rex hotel, somewhere I've never stayed before and, frankly, have always looked down my nose at... largely due to it being smack bang in between council flats and one of the ANU residences. But really, I can't complain. And if I was spending my own money then 3.5 stars would be quite adequate. The Rex has an air of faded gentility. OK, that might be going a bit overboard, but the rooms are clean, and a good size.

MONDAY 13 August

Checked in after a loooong day at the office. I decided to go the easy route and have dinner at Millie's Bar and Restaurant, at the hotel. In the way of most hotel restaurants that I know, the food was a touch over-priced, but my LORD, it was good.

Tonight I had the fresh oven baked canneloni stuffed with basil, pumpkin and ricotta, then smothered in a rich tomato sauce with two slices of sourdough bread covered with melted cheese. I am KICKING myself that I don't have a camera with me. It was fantastic. I followed it up with the lemon meringue pie and ice cream. That was also good: the meringue was so creamy. It was accompanied by the biggest strawberry I've seen in a while. The lemon was really nice, but I prefer my lemon to tart that a mouthful explodes my salivary glands into action and makes me wince. And this was lemony, but the tartness wasn't there.

TUESDAY 14 August

Y'know, there are a few things about Canberra that I like: the crisp winter mornings, the magpies singing in Garema Place, the view of the Brindy's from the office window, with their smattering of white on top. They're all familiar, even after an absence of two years, and comforting.

Years ago, when I first moved here and lived on-campus at ANU, the Rasa Sayang was a favourite dining experience for me and my then-boyfriend. The food was consistently great, and the prices weren't so high that a couple of uni students couldn't afford a night out now and then. So tonight I walked on up to Dickson to partake of some memories.

When I got there I had a momentary twinge of doubt: every other place I'd passed was at least half-full, but the Rasa had only two tables taken. I should have slapped myself for my lack of faith: by the time I'd finished my entree it was filling up quick.

Aahh, the entree... vegie spring rolls with a hoisin and sweet chilli dipping sauce (have I mentioned how much I love entrees?). Bliss. Delicious. Just gimme a plate of these and I'll be happy. Instead I chose a main of Ayam Siob, with steamed rice. Good choice. The menu states that it is "crisp-skin chicken marinated with tamarind fruit juice, ginger, onions and coriander and then baked and served with a mild tamarind sauce. Oh. My. Goodness. The food was better than I remember. Prices have of course increased in the last five or so years since the last time I ate there, but that's only to be expected. Kicking myself again about my lack of photographic evidence.


Last night on my way to RS I passed a heap of new restaurants (I use the term "new" loosely, meaning they weren't there the last time I spent any time in Dickson). One in particular caught my interest: Fekerte's Ehtiopian Cuisine. Ever since I first tried Ethiopian food a few years ago at the Canberra International Food Festival I've been a fan. I did actually manage to take pictures of this meal, so will detail it in another post.

THURSDAY 16 August

My last night here. Home tomorrow - yay! Another long and tiring day in the office, but the day wasn't without its highlights, such as picking up a new perfume for $11 less than the price at the first place I saw it... and a free bottle with the purchase!

Tonight I decided on the hotel restaurant again. After my positive experience on Monday I figured it couldn't hurt. Something light tonight - the chilli beef salad. The menu differed slightly to what I was served, but the beef was achingly tender, with just the right amount of chilli. Slices were laid across a bed of tomato wedges, strips of cucumber and rocket tossed with a tangy raita. A bit much raita for my taste, and I'm not a fan of rocket without other salad leaves mixed in, but yummy all the same. Washed down with a very palatable Four Sisters merlot (the house red). I thought I had grabbed pictures of this, but it appears I hadn't. Tsk tsk.

FRIDAY 17 August

Mere hours until I grab a Dash-8 and head south. But no trip to Canberra would be complete without a decent breakfast. A great place to go for that is the Blue Olive (unless of course you can get out to the Central Cafe in Queanbeyan). Again, I had a camera for that, so will blog it later.

There, see, told you: not smutty at all!

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