Zesty flavours, sleek spaces

Where to eat

At every level of dining, there are delights to discover, writes Julietta Jameson.

There's something about cities that require coats, hats and gloves in winter. They seem to dish up brilliant cuisine and cracking coffee.

Canberra does all that and more.

Italian & Sons gives Melbourne a run for its money when it comes to creating the authentic, zesty flavours of Italy served cleverly in casual, cool surrounds.

In this Lonsdale Street, Braddon, institution, happy customers of all ages enjoy wonderful hand-sliced prosciutto and cheeses, succulent olives and a glass of prosecco to start, followed by a house-special pizza, maybe a pasta and a fab Italian dessert, such as a wobbly panna cotta with a twist.

He loves the restaurant and makes sure clients do, too.

Service is cheery, authoritative and efficient and the wine suggestions are outstanding. It's the kind of place you will wish was in your home town. Lucky Canberrans. It is.

It's a different vibe but an equally delectably Italian experience at Dieci e Mezzo, on Bunda Street, where chef James Kidman has created a menu that many consider to be the best in the capital. The restaurant is sleek and Scando, with lots of blond wood and polished concrete. It takes up a corner of the foyer of a swank office building in Canberra's city centre.

The adjacent foyer space features a stunning light installation, by Canberra artist Robert Foster. Huge windows connect the space to the street. It's dazzlingly different.

And as for the food, it is seasonal, surprising, succulent, and prepared and served with fine attention to detail but without fussiness. The wine list is spectacular.

Front of house is caringly attended to by Michael Gray, formerly of Vue du Monde. He loves the restaurant and makes sure clients do, too.

The Chairman and Yip is a Canberra institution, and with good reason. Brilliant Asian-fusion cuisine with a Cantonese bent focuses on traditional Chinese ingredients. Highlights include the beef and scallop ground pepper hot pot and their famous duck pancakes. Try a lunch or dinner banquet and make like the Canberra powerbrokers.

For great views, few in Canberra beat Waters Edge, perfectly positioned on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin with uninterrupted eyelines across to the Australian War Memorial. James Mussillon's cuisine is outstanding. This is event dining. Delicate seafood, succulent game and perfectly handled seasonal ingredients keep the customers coming back. Inventive plating up will delight first timers. 

For quick lunches, Urban Food Store + Cafe , in Acton, serves hearty soups, burgers and salads. It hosts live music on weekends, is the kind of place people queue for breakfast and often has local beers and wines on special. If you're staying at Rydges Lakeside or the Diamant, it's a short walk away.

It could be confused with another local fave, Urban Pantry, in Manuka, so just go to both. Warm, welcoming and simply scrumptious, the Pantry is brilliant for risottos, succulent cutlets and wonderful ways with brekky. Both Urbans pull a great coffee. But in the city, those in the know head for Two Before Ten, in Civic, for their caffeine jolt. Beans are roasted on site and the baristas are serious about ensuring your two before 10 will set you right. It's the kind of place people cycle to and hang out in with laptops.

There's a bit of a coffee-roaster movement in Canberra and another leading light is Lonsdale Street Roasters, in Braddon. Zucchero Cafe and Patisserie, on the lawn at Bougainville Street, Manuka, will set the mid-morning or afternoon sweet tooth right.

Cheese lovers will adore Silo Bakery, with its walk-in cheese room stocking a magnificent range of hard, semi-hard, washed-rind, white-mould, goat, ewe's milk and buffalo cheeses. Australian dairies such as Tarago River, Meredith, Milawa, Pyengana and Heidi are featured, as are English, Italian and Spanish producers.

It's breakfast and lunch only, but breakfast is award-winning. Perhaps brunch, so partaking of the extensive wine list is guilt-free.

For lovers of old school, in the CBD lies the classic Gus' , the first alfresco coffee house in the capital, circa 1967.

And for a snack during shopping at the Canberra Centre, head to Dobinson's Bakery and Cafe.

Address book

Italian & Sons 7 Lonsdale Street, Braddon, (02) 6162 4888; italianandsons.com.au.
Dieci e Mezzo
Actew AGLBuilding, Corner Bunda and Mort streets, (02) 6248 3142; dieciemezzo.com.au.
The Chairman and Yip
108 Bunda Street, Civic, (02) 6248 7109; thechairmanandyip.com.
Waters Edge
40 Parkes Place, Parkes, (02) 6273 5066; courgette.com.au/watersedge.
Urban Food Store + Cafe
New Acton precinct, Corner Marcus Clarke and Edinburgh streets, Acton, (02) 6162 3440; urbanpantry.com.au.
Urban Pantry
5 Bougainville Street, Manuka; (02) 6162 3556; urban-pantry.com.au.
Two Before Ten
40 Marcus Clarke Street, Civic, (02) 6162 1260.
Lonsdale Street Roasters
3/7 Lonsdale Street, Braddon, (02) 6156 0975.
Zucchero Cafe & Patisserie
2/21 Bougainville Street, Griffith, (02) 6295 9272.
Silo Bakery
36 Giles Street, Kingston, (02) 6260 6060, silobakery.com.au.
8 Garema Place, (02) 6248 8118; guscafe.com.au.
Dobinson's Bakery Cafe
177 Bunda Street, (02) 6257 5966.

This article produced with support from Canberra Tourism.