‘It all starts with the name’ for this family run restaurant recently opened in the heart of the hustle and bustle of industrial Phillip on Botany Street. “‘Manolo’s’, that was my father’s name,” says owner Alex Piris.
No stranger to running successful cafes, he and his wife Nicole make up the dynamic team behind beloved suburban gem ‘Fox & Bow’. After being open for three and a half years, the colourful outdoor space with its graffiti walls has become iconic and the cafe is responsible for enlivening the strip of shops at Farrer which it calls home.
As local south side residents themselves, Alex, Nicole and eldest son Jack, eagerly took up the vacant space which Manolo’s now calls home when it was offered to them. They took on the challenge of bringing good food, coffee and warmth in amongst the car yards, tyre shops and hardware outlets of Phillip. The area is traditionally more known as a pit stop for tradies stocking up on their commercial needs, not for its gastronomic delights but Manolo’s is set to change that.
Walking into Manolo’s for the first time, I am immediately engulfed by the light, bright space Nicole was responsible for creating. A simple pallet of floor to ceiling windows set the scene. Along one side is a sit up wooden bar along with my favourite detail – a distressed brick feature wall, which if you look very carefully, bares the etched names of the couple’s three children and adds a nice emotion and feeling to the space. The opposite side houses the large service counter with its coffee machine and the changing daily display of ready to go assorted pastries, house-made gourmet sausage rolls, pies and freshly cooked rotisserie organic chickens. Plus for those too busy to linger, the display cabinet also boasts ready to go sandwiches and rolls filled with tempting options of pastrami, meatballs, pork belly, chilli crab omelette and zucchini fritters.
Alex explains, the aim of Manolo’s is to have “different options, a big display cabinet for tradies and busy office workers plus the cafe menu for those with a bit more time – but the principle behind it all at Manolo’s is to provide comfort food that is tasty and simple.”
As a chef by trade, Alex is enjoying a renaissance with his cooking, saying “I try to use good products, I try to use ethical suppliers, quality suppliers – like the eggs that we use from Hilltops. They are fantastic free range eggs. When you have good ingredients you don’t really have to do much to it.” With a Spanish background, he continued to say, “Spanish food is a lot like that, you don’t have to do a lot to it. The taste is in the product, if you have good seafood, you don’t have to do a lot to it.”
Currently open for breakfast and lunch, Monday to Friday, the cafe menu features longtime Canberra favourites of ‘Smashed Avo’ and the like but delve further and you can find gems like ‘Huevos Picante’, a dish full of flavour with chilli fried eggs, chorizo, avocado with toast, and ‘Fabadas’, a Spanish cocido of white beans, chorizo, morcilla, pork spare ribs served with fried eggs and toast. For true winter comfort, there will be a changing array of fresh pasta and soups. The day I was there, Alex had just cooked a batch of ’Seafood Chowder’, featuring a soul-warming combination of prawns, butter and cream. I was also tempted by the “Italian Sausage Pasta’ full of hearty flavours shielding the cold chill outside.
From the freshly squeezed juices, five senses coffee, Sonoma pastries and a plethora of house-made gourmet delights, along with Alex and Nicole’s ability to create a place of warmth where everyone feels welcome, Manolo’s is set to be as treasured and revered as it’s sibling property Fox & Bow.
Manolo’s is located at 17 Botany St, Phillip and is open Monday – Friday 6.30am – 3.30pm.
*Sophia enjoyed her visit to Manolo’s a guest of the restaurant.