15 September 2023

Hospitality with a heart: five Canberra venues feeding the stomach and the soul

| Lucy Ridge
Four smiling women, two wearing headscarves, stand under a tree

Stepping Stone founders Hannah Costello (L) and Vanessa Brettell (R) with staff members Eman Ismail and Yasmin Azizi. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Canberra has a vibrant hospitality scene, with world-class restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars across the city. Local shops are becoming foodie hotspots, the city has a whole swathe of new venues, and suburban centres like Woden and Gungahlin are home to plenty of popular restaurants. We’re a city that loves to eat, but we’re also a city with a lot of heart, as proved by these feel-good foodies.

Meet some of the venues that are working to do good in the world while keeping us well fed.

Cafe Stepping Stone, Gininderry

Cafe Stepping Stone is a social enterprise located at the historic Strathnairn Homestead. The cafe dishes up a creative vegetarian brunch menu with a focus on local ingredients and sustainability. The mushrooms on toast are a delight, and they also run seasonal pizza evenings during warmer months.

Founders Vanessa Brettell and Hannah Costello have employed 32 culturally and linguistically diverse women since they opened in 2020. They say 70 per cent of their employees first came to Australia as refugees.

The team is hard at work preparing to open their second location in Dickson, so stay tuned!

Cafe Stepping Stone is located at the Strathnairn Arts Association, 90 Stockdill Drive, Holt. The cafe is open from 9 am to 4 pm Wednesday through Sunday. Follow Cafe Stepping Stone on Facebook or Instagram.

Nate Swift Cafe Luxton with donation counter

Little Luxton’s Nate Swift recently celebrated a milestone donation. Photo: Little Luxton.

Little Luxton, Gordon

“Coffee for Community” is the slogan at Little Luxton, a suburban cafe tucked in beside the Gordon Community Centre. The cafe donates $1 from every coffee sold back to the community centre, which partners with Anglicare and Lanyon Valley Anglican Church to run programs like an emergency relief food pantry, weekly playgroup, English classes for recent migrants and more.

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Owner Nate Swift told Region that he wanted to use the cafe as a way to bring people together and increase engagement at the community centre. The top-notch coffee, pastries from Three Mills Bakery and house-made toasties have proved popular with Lanyon Valley residents and Little Luxton has now raised over $27,000 since opening in late 2022.

Little Luxton is located at Gordon shops, 110 Lewis Luxton Avenue, Gordon. They are open Monday to Friday, 7 am to 2 pm. Follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

A man hands a customer a bowl of food.

The Canberra Food Co-op relies on the support of its members and volunteers. Photo: Supplied.

The Food Co-op, Acton

Since 1976, the Food Co-op has been working to provide Canberra’s community with food for people, not for profit. In fact, this is Australia’s oldest food co-op, and despite some recent financial problems following COVID-19, they’re still going strong.

Customers can shop for bulk, plastic-free groceries with a focus on local and organic suppliers. The co-op also serves an affordable and filling lunch every weekday, which has become hugely popular with students at the nearby ANU. The kitchen employs women from refugee and migrant backgrounds, and many of the co-op’s other roles are filled by a community of dedicated volunteers.

Customers also regularly donate ‘suspended’ meals, which are available to anyone who needs a free feed, no questions asked. The co-op runs regular events like their popular Thursday taco night, Acoustic Soup music nights and Saturday global feast lunches.

The Food Co-op store is open weekdays from 10 am to 7 pm, and from 10 am to 4 pm on weekends. The cafe is open from 12 pm to 2 pm on weekdays, Thursdays from 7 pm to 9 pm and Saturdays from midday to 2 pm. Follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

Interior Karuna Vegie house

Learn more about Buddhism and have a delicious meal at Karuna Vegie house. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Karuna Vegie House, Lyneham

Karuna Vegie House is a small restaurant tucked behind the Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre in Lyneham. The vegan menu is cooked and served by the Buddhist nuns and monks who live on-site, with some help from volunteers.

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The menu showcases the benefits of healthy, vegetarian food with a range of traditional Vietnamese dishes like bánh xèo (savoury crepe) and noodle soups. The restaurant is only open two nights a week but has become a favourite for locals, with bookings recommended to ensure you get a table. The annual Lunar New Year celebrations are another popular attraction for Canberra’s Vietnamese community and locals who come to eat traditional foods and watch the lion dance.

Money raised from the restaurant goes towards the ongoing construction of the temple and the activities of the Buddhist centre.

Karuna Vegie House is located at the back of the Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre, 32 Archibald St, Lyneham. They are open on Friday and Saturday from 5:30 pm to 9 pm. Follow them on Facebook.

Heartbeat Cafe, Whitlam

Heartbeat Cafe is a community hub for the new suburb of Whitlam. Photo: Liv Cameron.

Heartbeat Cafe, Whitlam

Run by Woden Community Service (WCS), Heartbeat Cafe is a simple coffee shop serving the burgeoning community in the brand-new suburb of Whitlam. The cafe acts as a training location, providing skills and experience in hospitality to young and vulnerable people.

The cafe is also a community hub for the new suburb and a focal point to bring people together. The Suburban Land Agency has been working with WCS at the cafe as part of their Mingle program which aims to create placemaking activities to activate the public spaces around the cafe and kickstart a sense of community for Whitlam’s new residents.

Heartbeat Cafe is located at 3 Klaus Moje Street, Whitlam. The cafe is open from 7 am to 3 pm Monday to Friday, 7 am to 4 pm on Saturday and 9 am to 4 pm on Sunday. Follow Heartbeat Cafe on Facebook.

Tell us about your favourite Canberra hospitality venues with heart in the comments.

Original Article published by Lucy Ridge on Riotact.

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