19 December 2023

A year in food: the best meals of 2023

| Lucy Ridge
Dish of thick noodles topped with an egg on white table at XO.

The Asian Bolognaise is one of XO’s signature dishes. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

2023 was a big year for Canberra’s hospitality scene. We farewelled XO and Pialligo Estate, but welcomed many more new restaurants, cafes, bars and entire foodie precincts to the scene. It seems like restaurants in Canberra are thriving, although cost of living and staffing crises continue to put pressure on everyone.

Here’s a rundown of some of my favourite places in 2023 and what I’m looking forward to in the new year.

Best fine dining experience

Peonee snuck onto the scene mid-year with an impressive set menu by Chef Alberto Ranalli. Featuring (actual) seasonal ingredients in technically brilliant dishes, the five-course meal was a joy to eat. A delayed liquor licence proved to be a blessing in disguise as it led to the development of one of the most creative non-alcoholic pairings I’ve seen. Read more about Peonee.
Honourable mention to Corella Bar for their native ingredient infused menu.

plates of food on terrazzo tile table

The snacks at Such and Such are great, whether they are the start of a meal or just accompanying a pre-theatre drink. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Best Newcomer

No prizes for guessing this one: it’s Such and Such in the city. Created by the multi-award-winning team behind fine dining sensation Pilot in Ainslie, Such and Such is a more casual affair. I had a brilliant birthday dinner here shortly after they opened, and I’ve since returned for bar snacks before the theatre and delightful events run by women in wine not-for-profit Venus Vinifera. The food is fun, the drinks list is unconventional and the service relaxed and friendly.
Honourable mention goes to Louis, headed by Ben Willis for the DOMA group.
Read more about Such and Such.

Mandarin trifle in small glass dish

The mandarin dessert at Louis. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Best Cheap Eats

This one is a three-way tie for me. I’m a big fan of Canteen, in Fyshwick, for their extremely good ramen and delicious snacks (dan dan scotch egg anyone?). Throw in some sake of an evening and you’re guaranteed a good time. Read more about Canteen.

Little Lanka in Franklin has become a favourite for delicious Sri Lankan food made by the Katale Gedara family. I always get a hopper pack with one of their amazing curries, but their kottu roti is also very good, and the coconut watalappan dessert is worth saving space for. Read more about Little Lanka.

READ ALSO Beltana Farm announces new restaurant at picturesque truffière

When I’m out in the city and need a quick feed my current go-to is Lim Peh’s Wan Tan Noodles in Verity Lane for their signature dish. It’s super comforting, inexpensive and the wan tan is crispy and delicious. Hot tip: grab some sambal chilli on the side for an extra hit of spice. If the line for noodles is too long, Rosa’s is another guaranteed home run. Read more about Lim Peh’s.

bowl of noodles with fried wonton, meat, mushrooms and greens. There are other dishes and glasses of beer in the background.

The wantan mee is the signature dish and very good value indeed. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Best Place for a Drink

I don’t often make it out to Paranormal Wines but I have a brilliant time whenever I do. I love the way their wine list expands my palate and introduces me to new winemakers. I love Chef Aidan’s bite size ‘things on toast’ menu and I love the atmosphere.
Honourable mentions go to Luna in the city (who also have a killer menu) and my home-away-from-home The Old Canberra Inn.
Read more about Paranormal Wines.

Three pieces of toast with different toppings on a plate. Two glasses of wine are also on the table.

‘Things on toast’ are a staple at Paranormal Wines. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Best Breakfast

The second location in Dickson of social enterprise Cafe Stepping Stone is a delightful spot for breakfast. The vegetarian menu is full of delicious options like cilbir (Turkish eggs) and Green Reuben Toastie. Leave room for the cardamom carrot cake and thank me later.
Honourable mention to newcomer Nicky’s, also in Dickson.
Read more about Cafe Stepping Stone Dickson.

Group of women in aprons smiling in front of cafe counter.

Cafe Stepping Stone Dickson offers employment and training to women facing barriers to employment. Photo: Stepping Stone Dickson.

Best Locally Made Product

We have so many brilliant brewers, bakers, distillers, and makers in the Capital, but my top pick this year goes to Big River Distilling Co for their absolutely incredible Syrah Gin. One tiny taste had me obsessed! Clyde Morton’s background in winemaking and science combines beautifully for this gorgeous award-winning gin.

READ ALSO Meet the Makers: A fruitful relationship between farmer and chef

Honourable mentions to Temporada’s house-made butter, and the award-winning pasta from Braidwood Food Company.
Read more about Big River.

Bottle of red syrah gin

The Big River Syrah Gin uses grapes from Wallaroo Estate wines. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

What I’m looking forward to in 2024

After overindulging on laksa to find the best bowl in Canberra, I’m planning to search for the finest Pho, Ramen and Yum Cha in the city (leave a comment with your favourites!)

Raku has hinted at a new location, Intra LSD has a new evening menu and I’m looking forward to trying the new restaurant at Beltana Farm. And it’s not just about what’s shiny and new: I’ll be returning to my steadfast favourites like Miss Van’s, Myanmar Corner and The Italian Place.

What was your best meal of 2023?

Original Article published by Lucy Ridge on Riotact.

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