14 October 2022

Five minutes with Carol and Sandra Julian, Bentham Street Bar 'n' Pizza

| Evelyn Karatzas
Two women in restaurant

Sandra and Carol, owners of Bentham Street Bar & Pizza at Yarralumla. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Who are Carol and Sandra Julian: We are sisters and co-owners of Bentham Street Bar’ n’ Pizza. We became co-owners after Sandra’s husband and business partner Ezio retired. Ezio Fiorenza (previously of II Galletto, La Capanna, Valentini, Dolce Vita and Figaro in Canberra) started the business in 2004, focusing on Sicilian-style pizzas.

Best recent dining experience: We were recently in Sydney and dined at Shorties in Lane Cove and had the best lamb ragu gnocchi, and kingfish ceviche.

It wasn’t just the food. It was a good vibe, comfortable environment and attentive service. We loved it because it’s a great example of a venue taking care of the whole experience – good food, good ambience and good service. We will definitely go back next time we are in Sydney.

Lamb ragu gnocchi

Carol and Sandra say they had the best lamb ragu gnocchi at Shorties in Lane Cove. Photo: Shorties Lane Cove, Facebook.

Favourite cuisine: Spanish, of course! It’s also so varied and accommodates all eating preferences.

Most embarrassing pantry item: We don’t really have anything too embarrassing. Do baked beans count?

What ingredient can I not live without: We couldn’t live without the staples: extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and anchovies because they are so versatile you can eat them as is or add them to dishes to add flavour.

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Next big thing in the Canberra food scene: We’d probably say the concept of tapeando (tapas) – serving small dishes to accompany drinks rather than just drinking will continue to develop in Canberra. We can see this influencing many eating venues.

Hand in hand with this trend are more intimate after-dinner venues offering food with drinks, tapas with beer and wine, cheese boards, and coffee with dessert and liqueurs later in the evening. Flexibility is another trend that is becoming more important for eating venues where patron’s preferences and needs can be met outside the fixed menu while still providing good and appealing food.

Who I admire in the Canberra food and wine scene: There are many people we admire in the Canberra food and wine scene. Andrew and Dan from Oak Barrel Wines and Australian Wine Archives come to mind.

Their broad understanding of our business and what we want to achieve has resulted in a strong, quality wine list that complements our food menu. We respect and trust their approach of purely concentrating on wine quality and the value the wine represents at whatever price it sits. We also appreciate their accessibility.

The Kingston Hotel

Carol and Sandra say they love going to the Kingston Hotel. Photo: Michael Weaver.

Favourite place for lunch in the ACT: Our mother’s house, which is a daily affair. At 96 years of age, she can still cook a delicious lunch.

We consider the Kingston Hotel our local. It’s fresh (recently renovated), comfortable and easy, and you can get good honest food and never walk away feeling hungry. Their wine offering is also good and complemented by their bottle shop.

My go-to coffee spot in Canberra: Sandra’s kitchen – you can’t beat the coffee from her vintage Unico coffee machine.

Food from Bentham Street

Sizzling chorizo, garlic and chilli prawns, and Caprese salad with a side of crunchy bread at Bentham Street Bar and Pizza. Photo: Bentham Street Bar ‘n’ Pizza, Facebook.

A must-try on our menu: All our tapas and pizzas, but everyone who tries them says our gambas al ajillo (garlic and chilli prawns) are a must. They are fresh and have plenty of flavours that satisfy the senses and palate.

Biggest culinary influence: Our Spanish mother, without a doubt. Growing up, every meal at our home was a restaurant experience. We were taught that every meal together was special: table set, entrée, mains and dessert accompanied by wine. Our friends would say, ‘every day is Sunday lunch at your house’.

BBQ king prawns

Try the BBQ king prawns. Photo: Bentham Street Bar ‘n’ Pizza.

Favourite cookbook: For our mother’s 90th birthday, we documented all her recipes in a cookbook for family and close friends. Every family member, including grandchildren, has a copy so her recipes can be passed down through the generations. We consult the cookbook regularly.

What’s the special of the week at Bentham Street?: Our special of the week, which turned into the winter special by customer demand, is our porcini, pancetta and truffle oil pizza.

Where am I travelling to next: We are planning on travelling to Spain as we haven’t been since 2019, just before the pandemic started. In particular, we are looking forward to exploring the food and wine scene in the north of Spain-Vizcaya, Guipozca, including Donostia San Sebastian.

Bentham Street Bar and Pizza

Bentham Street Bar’ n’ Pizza is known for its bar, tapas, salads, pizzas and desserts. Photo: Bentham Street Bar ‘n’ Pizza, Facebook.

Death row meal: Mmmm, comfort food would be the go in this scenario, so definitely – a sopa de ajo (garlic soup) with a tortilla francesa with chorizo – a chunk of crusty bread and a glass of red (or maybe a bottle in this situation!)

My least favourite food: All commercial fast food. It’s not necessary and often disappointing. If you need something fast, grab some bread, jamón (ham) or a piece of cheese – you can’t go wrong.

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COVID-19 response: It was challenging for many of us, and we admire how many businesses in our industry were able to adapt their service models to meet the changed environment. We were fortunate to have a well-established takeaway service that could continue operating, and employ our small team. We have a very loyal customer base that generously supported us throughout, for which we are very grateful.

Our three recipe tips:

  1. Start with quality ingredients
  2. Don’t mess with them too much
  3. Keep it simple – let the food speak for itself.

Bentham Street Bar’ n’ Pizza is open Tuesday to Sunday from 5.30 pm. It is located at 2/29 Bentham Street Yarralumla.

Original Article published by Evelyn Karatzas on Riotact.

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