27 January 2021

Five minutes with Lincoln Fairleigh, Lava cafes

| Michelle Rowe
Lava cafe Kingston

Lava owners Lincoln Fairleigh and Ikay Ensomo in the new Kingston cafe. Photo: Anne Stroud.

Who is Lincoln Fairleigh? I’m the owner of Lava cafes in Weston, Phillip and Kingston.

Best recent dining experience: I recently went to Kokomo’s in Bunda Street, Civic for their Krakatoa Asian barbecue pop-up. The highlight was the wood-fired duck curry with chicken fat rice. It’s always a fun dining experience at Kokomo’s, but the Krakatoa menu really went to a whole new level of quality. [Popular items from the Krakatoa menu are still being served at Kokomo’s, although the pop-up ended in December].


Prawns sizzle on the barbecue during Kokomo’s Krakatoa pop up. Photo: Supplied.

Most embarrassing pantry item: My girlfriend Ikay recently introduced me to Magic Sarap. It’s a Filipino seasoning that is literally just MSG, but it makes everything tasty.

Must-buy ingredient: Chicken. It’s my go-to for most meals. Or Szechuan peppercorns – not something I personally cook with a lot, but very much enjoy. The real ones are hot, but also numbing and cold at the same time – a very interesting experience!

Next big thing: Low-intervention wine has been around for a while, but is really picking up speed recently. I’m keen to visit Paranormal Wines wine shop and bar which has just opened in Campbell.

Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: The local from where I grew up, Common Grounds in Gowrie. They nail the community feel and importantly have some great food. Their Korean fried chicken burger is my go-to every time I’m there.

Chicken burger, Common Grounds

The Korean fried chicken burger from Common Grounds, Gowrie.

My Canberra food secret: Iori Japanese restaurant in Civic. Hands down the freshest and best-prepared sashimi in Canberra.

Biggest culinary influence: Jamie Oliver. I love his no-nonsense approach to cooking high-quality food easily. He also invests heavily in community and social projects.

Favourite cookbook: The Commonsense Cookery Book – an essential item in every cook’s home. It has all the basics.

Who I admire on the Canberra food and wine scene: Louis Couttoupes. I first met him when he was head chef at Bar Rochford, where I dined frequently (and ordered takeaway during COVID even more frequently). Then he ran his pop-up, Kiosk, in Kingston for a few months. He uses great produce and is creating the most delicious and interesting food in Canberra, especially his vegetable dishes – the cabbage and anchovy dish at the pop-up was a particular highlight.


One of Louis Couttoupes’ delectable dishes from Kiosk.

What’s on the menu this week: We’ve recently been pouring an amazing coffee from Guatemala, called La Senda. This coffee is unusual in its processing style – it’s dried like a normal natural for three days, before being rehydrated with certain strains of yeast and allowed to dry for a further 20 days. This results in a super-complex, sweet, a little weird and very delicious brew.

Where I’m going next: The Armada Outdoor Bar at The Boathouse to enjoy some nice cocktails and snacks beside Lake Burley Griffin.

Death row meal: Food for me is more about sharing it with others, so I would be happy with literally anything, as long as my friends and family were all there. Or a chicken burger. I really, really love chicken burgers.


Armada Outdoor Bar offers a unique opportunity to enjoy lazy afternoons and evenings by the water. Photo: Supplied.

My COVID-19 response: We doubled down on our marketing efforts, doing giveaways for customers who continued to visit. We launched a delivery service for those who couldn’t. We also launched a website called cbrstillopen.com to help all the great food and drink places continue to thrive. Above all, we kept smiling and making coffee because that’s what we love to do.

Cook like a professional … with a really simple recipe: Chop some broccolini into 1 cm pieces, place it in a hot frying pan with a little oil and salt, allow to char a little, drop the heat and add some chopped garlic. Once ready, remove from the heat and squeeze a lemon over the top.

Lava recently opened its third outlet, in the new Eyre Street Market precinct in Kingston.

Original Article published by Michelle Rowe on The RiotACT.

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