It is winter and yes Canberra is incredibly cool. In fact, -4 degrees chilly this morning. But this is not the cool that strikes me hardest. It’s the hip, cool factor of Canberra that whacks me like a wet fish. Walking through Braddon I have faded memories of a New York neighbourhood. The Hamlet hums with hip creativity and when I look deep into a handmade terrarium, I realise folk are getting up to all sorts in Canberra. Little wonder the nation’s capital is sending waves of ‘cool’ as far as the New York Times. On that note, the waves aren’t too far from the roundabouts either.
MOXOM + WHITNEY
I don’t know about you, but when I see chairs hanging from the ceiling and flamingos strutting in terrariums I know there’s a hint of humour in the business model. I instantly like Moxom + Whitney even though I don’t know who they are. Mossy imagined worlds aside (and yes you can have one tailored with a meer cat centrepiece), this crew are serious florists. They do weddings with the same meticulous attention they serve up cupcakes and champagne at their Flower and Terrarium School. That’s right, in the nation’s capital you can pack your school bag and attend Terrarium class.
WHERE: 55/30 Lonsdale Street
Restauranteur Soc Kochinos grew up in Braddon. He knows its industrial past well- days of caryards, mechanics and the smell of oil. So it’s fitting he’s opened the doors of Grease Monkey in a former Repco car service workshop. Hobbling cars have been rolled out to make room for meaty patties between soft fluffy buns, of course served up with Grease Monkey ketchup and craft beers. Pull up a pew at the long pewter bar or take your chances in the beer garden outside – just ‘beware of the monkey.’
WHERE: 19 Lonsdale St
GROOMED ON LONSDALE
My nephew Jack is but five months old, and has a few tufts of fluff above big blue eyes. He’s a Canberra local and without doubt this is the place he must get his first haircut. Any man about town should consider this warmly-lit saloon a regular haunt. While Jack may not appreciate the finer details- antique switches, suave New York neck ties, shoe polishing and traditional straight blade shaves – he may fancy the chess board. But as his shoulders broaden, no doubt he’ll be back to this barbershop come gentlemen’s outfitter for further styling.
WHERE: 30 Lonsdale Street, Braddon
“You must have a cronut,” I’m told. It’s a cross between a donut and a croissant and created such a fuss when invented by Chef Dominique Ansel in New York there were limits on how many cronuts one could have. Somewhere between the flaky pastry insides, sugary dusting and injectable salty caramel, I began to understand why Ricardo Café’s heaving line held such anticipation. Wedged in a cronut crowds, devotees shift between toes to see today’s flavours, molten Nutella versus snickers or sweet salty caramel. Just don’t do what I did and shovel down more than one…
WHERE: Jamison Plaza, 1 Bowman Street, Macquarie
I look at a shipping pallet and all I see are potential splinters. Boyandgirlco look at the same pallet and see a piece of functional furniture in the making. This kind of upcycling genius has to be seen to be understood – from smooth lined coffee tables to elegant light stands – all crafted from timber pallets. This boy and girl (Anita and Carlo) are all for rehoming, repurposing and refurbishing. They’ll custom-design for you, lead you through a workshop with your own hammer (first one was free!) or, they’ll make a dream pallet cubby house for those little peeps in your life.
WHERE: 16 Lonsdale St, Braddon
What a freak show. When we arrive at Patissez, the line for a ‘freakshake’ is out the café, across the walkway and onto the grass. Why? Because these ridiculously indulgent milkshakes took the interweb by storm. Now, they have an overflow of real-life customers more generous than the Nutella spooned into their standard shake - that would be a third of a large jar! Just nine weeks young, don’t expect to waltz straight up for your pretzel-clad shake, as it turns out, social media has freaky powers. But for under a $10 note, the chocolate hit is worth it!
WHERE: 21 Bougainville St, Griffith
Owned by sister duo Ana and Diana, it’s uncertain which one trips and which one skips. I only met one, and I imagine the other is equally jovial. A functional and stylish mix of fashion and homewares, each piece feels a one-off that can stand alone with panache. The girls have hunted local and afar, evident in the men’s offerings as well. Walk in stylish or not and you’ll feel welcome….Skip out with a bag and you’re bound to be.
WHERE: Shop 63, 30 Lonsdale St, Braddon.
BENTSPOKE BREWING CO.
If you like bikes and beer, pedal your spokes this way. All the ciders and beers are made in house – on tap and ready for those Canberra locals who ride to and from the office. But you don’t have to be a cyclist to appreciate this microbrewery and the hearty pub menu. Dual-level bars appear a hit for all who feel they deserve an after work drink- whether freshly unpeeled from lycra or not.
WHERE: Cnr Mort & Elouera St, Braddon
TIP YOU'RE IT
I’m not sure if it was the swinging basinet, the ‘people snuggler’ jumpers or the owner’s big warm smile that appealed more. Whatever it was, this is the place to head for that little someone in your life. Find a personalised night light, a flat teddy cushion or melt with temptation for said swinging basinet. Oh, and expect service that is as warm as the blankies in milk carton.
WHERE: 5/18 Lonsdale St Braddon
ELK & PEA
Caribbean Jerk Chicken anyone – on a bed of almond puree with a crispy side crunch of taco salad? The Elk & Pea have a menu that works best shared with a gaggle of good friends in their birdcage. By design, the desserts have a Latin twist and are difficult to pass up….perhaps a doughnut that when served with tequila ‘gives it horns.’
WHERE: 21 Lonsdale St, Braddon
As mentioned- the waves are a short ride away. Kangaroos, waves, cheese factory and coastline are less than three hours from Parliament house.
Words & images: Alice Hansen (except Boyandgirlco via FB page)
Get your fill and give to the full in this fine town
Who doesn’t like being invited up dark stairs by someone wearing goggles? As wintery snow settles on your handbag, you know The Chalet is a different kind of special. Darlinghurst’s winter wonderland is the type of pop up where one cannot refuse a mulled wine from the handsome waiter, puffed to the 80s hilt in his ski vest.
Park yourself near licking flames of the eco-smart fire and you have the makings of a night engineered to feel like you’ve just come off the slopes. Warm chatter, toastier drinks, and a menu with chips so delicious you’ll demand to know the secret five spiced salts.
WHERE: 235 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst
LITTLE JACK HORNER
Where is Little Jack Horner? Of course, he’s on the Coogee corner. Jack Horner happens to have front row seats to Coggee Beach – and they’re not all modern wooden stools. Sink into a plump cushion along the window line for a lazy brunch. Even the salty-locked kitchen staff move at a cruisy pace, yet meals arrive swiftly. The beachy feel is well matched to a menu of soy and mustard glazed swordfish belly tacos and Tasmanian smoked salmon bruschetta. Peel yourself off the cushion for a beach walk, or settle in for live tunes through the afternoon.
WHERE: 270-274 Coogee Bay Rd, Coogee
They have a pig named Kevin Bacon. If that’s not reason enough to head to The Grounds in Alexandria, then perhaps the heirloom vegetables, boutique bakery or coffee crafters may do the trick. A transformed 1920s industrial precinct now hums with a coffee academy (go on, sign up for coffee class), farm animals (Kevin Bacon plus friends) and locals swarming to the produce-based menu picked straight from the market garden.
The Potting Shed doubles as a watering hole. Who doesn’t need a swinging seat and craft beer after a hard day in the garden?
WHERE: Building 7A, 2 Huntley Street, Alexandria
It is already the best hot chocolate in town courtesy of one sentence. “Dad, can you take these two hot chocolates over?” Next, an elderly man with a big smile comes over to our window, placing the delicate glasses down between us. With care, he then turns each handle to point in our direction. On farewell, he delivers one more smile.
From the rushed streets of inner Sydney, his gentle pace is contagious. Daughter and chef, Miga Aboulian is Lixie’s cocoa magician behind the tempering, the freeze-dried raspberries hidden in organic blocks and the embossed morsels housing salty caramel goodness. Lixie is petite and bite-sized deliciousness.
WHERE: 275 Crown St, Surry Hills
SORRY THANKS I LOVE YOU
Need to say something to someone you care muchly about? Head for Martin Place and deliver a sorry, thanks, or even a bold ‘I love you’ with a hand-crafted gift. In this pop-up expect exclusive pieces- the type that take months in the design and making.
Spoil that person of yours with a deer antler paring knife made by one of Tasmania’s most revered cutlers, Tom Hounslow. Thankfully it’s a place where you’ll find that one item he or she doesn’t have.
WHERE: Shop 2, Ground Floor, GPO Building, Martin Place, Sydney. Open until end of 2015
If you’re still in the giving mood, there’s more generosity to be shared in Martin Place. Look up the Footpath Library, founded by Sarah Garnett. One night Sarah noticed a homeless man reading a novel beneath the street light. He was waiting for a food van to arrive.
Today, the Footpath Library encourages literacy in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth by collecting donated books and sharing them with those who find books hard to access. Give out toasty milos in Martin Place or send a few dollars their way. It may be about books, but it’s not hard to see the social side brings the greatest warmth in winter.
WHERE: Martin Place, Sydney. Visit the Footpath Library.
Words and images: Alice Hansen