A city built for politics doesn’t sound like the catchiest hook for a holiday brochure. Located diplomatically between Australia’s largest rival cities, Sydney and Melbourne, Canberra plays host to a bunch of government departments and agencies, including Parliament House. And as the only Australian city that was entirely planned, it’s earned the reputation of being a little sterile, a little dull. But the last decade has seen our nation's capital burgeon with fresh energy and innovation. Young restauraunteurs, artists, and creatives have begun flocking to Canberra, the appeal being the lower cost of living and doing business while still being within day-trip distance of major cities. With all of this new buzz Canberra is fast becoming the ultimate weekender for Sydney-siders and Melbournians. RUSSH heads down from our Sydney HQ to find out why, and pick our favourites for the ultimate Canberran over-nighter.
NGA – Winter Film Series 2015
The James Turrell retrospective – a major draw card for Canberra tourism – has sadly seen its final days (for now), but that’s no reason to scratch the culture component from your Canberra weekend. Throughout June/July the National Gallery of Australia will be hosting a winter film series curated by film critic Dr. Simon Weaving. The arts and culture centric line-up includes Australian premier international documentaries, followed by Q&As with directors, professors and industry professionals. And yes, there will be snacks.
Who doesn’t want to sink their teeth into the best BBQ chicken and slaw in the universe while krumping along to Tupac and Biggie in their chair? Eighty Six is legendary in this town – the kids love it, yes, but so do the grown ups, cab drivers, shop keepers and whoever else you ask for a restaurant recommendation along the way. The food is a blend of Asio-American modern Australian, if you know what I mean. Dishes like “ghetto beef” sail out of the same kitchen as fried chicken with Sriracha sauce and Chinese ‘risotto’. Somehow it works, everything’s delicious and the portions are as substantial as the noise level. At only three years old Eightysix hasn’t quite reached institution status, yet, but if this keeps up it will earn that tag in no time.
Bacaro at Italian & Sons
Sometimes you just need cheese, wine, and a fireplace. Canberra stalwart Italian and Sons has recently opened a wine bar out the back for these essential purposes. The cheese selection is the feature of a small menu of share plates and includes a variety from regional Italy. The wine is amazing. Bacaro could be a pre/post dinner stop for a snack and a glass, but with the fire crackling and the restaurant standard food, could easily be the evening's best and only destination.
Walking into Hotel Hotel I understand what designer Charles Eames meant when he said, “The details are not the details. They make the design.” The place is a wild aesthetic pastiche – a blend of textures, tones and artistic features, all purposeful and deeply considered. Every aspect – from the moody-as-hell lighting to the textured walls to the carefully selected vintage furniture – feels significant, interconnected, creating a flow effect that makes you feel like you’ve entered some kind of abstract cinematic narrative.
Hotel Hotel is the brainchild of the Molonglo Group, namely directors Nectar and Johnathan Efkarpidis, whose vision was to create “a place of collaborative craftsmanship made by artists, makers, designers and fantasists.” They did, and it works. Everywhere you look there’s something unique, intriguing, bespoke, handcrafted and original. Artists and artisans from all over have contributed something all their own to Hotel Hotel. Even the library is constantly rotating its reading material to keep things fresh for regular guests.
But unlike so many contemporary design-focused spaces, all that artiness doesn’t come at the cost of comfortability, warmth and ease. The lobby rolls into the casual dining area that rolls into the ‘formal’ dining area that rolls into the kitchen … and so on. It somehow has the energy of bustling public space with the intimacy and calm of a luxury hotel. There is something deeply satisfying about immersing yourself high design that isn’t at all pretentious. It makes you feel like you’re experiencing something truly special without having to dress for it.