One of the three famous cooking McConnell brothers, Sean McConnell is an avid vegetable gardener and mushroom forager who prepares very seasonal menus, working directly with the producers of the ingredients he prepares. He's head chef, Monster Kitchen & Bar, Hotel Hotel. See hotel-hotel.com.au
SEXY SQUID, XO RESTAURANT
The boys over at XO in Narrabundah have a great thing going on. I particularly enjoy their "sexy squid". Crispy baby squid with chilli salt. The dish originated in Canberra's iconic Griffith Vietnamese Restaurant, the family run restaurant of one of XO's owners, Kent Nhan.
BROWN BUTTER ICE CREAM, AUBERGINE
Aubergine consistently produces the best food in the city and has been doing so ever since owner and Chef Ben Willis and his wife Andy took it over seven years ago. The menu changes regularly but the brown butter ice cream, hazelnut praline and frozen verbena milk is a stayer. The dish epitomises Ben's cooking, a perfect balance of flavour and texture.
DUMPLINGS, THE SCHOLAR
I have a four-year-old and a two-year-old so we don't often go out together as a family for meals ('cause my kids are pretty loose) but we do often head for yum cha at the Scholar in Dickson. The Scholar produces the best dumplings in town. We usually go for the siu mai, prawn dumplings, scallop and chive dumplings, steamed pork buns and XO radish cake.
(23 Woolley St, Dickson)
BUN BO HUE, BISTRO NGUYEN'S
As a chef, I rarely (if ever) have time for three meals a day. If I'm out and about and have a spare 15 minutes for a quick bite, I'll often duck into Bistro Nguyen on Northbourne avenue. Their pho is great but the bun bo hue (spicy beef noodle soup) is spot on.
(78-80 Alinga St, Canberra)
XO PIPPIES, LAZY-SU
Lazy-Su is new to the scene in Canberra. I've been a few times after work with my kitchen team. It's open until 1am on the weekend so it's not uncommon to see chefs from all over town tucking into some late-night snacks. I can't go past XO pippies whenever I see it on a menu and these folks do a particularly good version.
GREASY BURGER, GREASE MONKEY
I'm a sucker for a good burger and the greasy burger at Grease Monkeys is as good as it gets in Canberra. It's a super simple burger, as it should be: grilled burger bun, delicious burger patty, lettuce, tomato and pickles. Oh ... and the chips are seasoned with Old Bay for the win.
MOONLIGHT FLAT OYSTERS, BAR ROCHFORD
There's only a handful of restaurants in the ACT serving these oysters from Moonlight Flat, an oyster lease on the Clyde River, Batemans Bay, run by all-round- good-guy Steve Filetti. Bar Rochford also has a killer wine list.