8 July 2023

Rebel Rebel takes it to the next level level

| Lucy Ridge
dish of grilled cabbage with herbs

The cabbage was the dish of the night. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

It’s safe to say that Sean McConnell has nailed the New Acton vibe. In fact, he helped create it first with Mocan and Green Grout, then Monster and now Rebel Rebel, which he opened in 2019.

The corner block restaurant was recently ‘hatted’ in the Good Food Guide, and despite barely having time to hit their stride pre-COVID, they’re now going from strength to strength.

They made the call earlier this year to finish up breakfast service, instead focusing on dinner seven days a week. While some were dismayed to lose their cult-favourite breakfast shawarma, the sleep-in seems to be doing their chefs a world of good.

I dropped in with friends for a casual Saturday dinner. We were able to get walk-in seats at one of the long communal tables, with the caveat that there was a later booking.

Restaurant interior

There’s lots of communal seating and long tables at Rebel Rebel. Photo: Rebel Rebel.

Our friendly server let us know which items on the menu catered for the dietary requirements on the table (gluten and dairy free), and there were only a handful of dishes that couldn’t be altered to suit.

The menu is deliberately low-key, arrayed roughly from small to large plates with separate sections for sides and desserts. There’s a $90 ‘all in’ menu for those who don’t fancy choosing, but we just picked a few things to share.

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The wine list, by contrast, is a little intimidating.

I consider myself fairly well educated when it comes to wine, but I guess I have to read up on my German varietals as Hirsch Hirschvergnügen was a new one to me. But after another chat with our server, I settled on a rather lovely French Chablis. I also appreciated that the list of beers was varied and interesting and focused mainly on Australian craft brewers. I’d return to taste some of their house cocktails, and they also have a couple of thoughtfully crafted mocktail options.

plate of eggplant with cucumber

The eggplant was a well-balanced dish. Photo: Rebel Rebel.

Our food arrives promptly. Dishes came out regularly, but not so we were overwhelmed all at once. We started with the sugarloaf cabbage served with tahini and harissa. Cabbage is an often mistreated vegetable, but handled well. It’s one of my favourites. And this was a triumph of a dish: perfectly tender leaves with good colouring and flavour. The tahini and harissa together bring a nice contrast of richly nutty with a bit of sweet heat.

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Next, we had the eggplant with ‘nduja (soft, spicy, salami), cucumber and almonds. The eggplant is silky smooth, but the almonds bring the crunch. The ‘nduja brings the heat, and the cucumber cuts through it. It’s a very well-thought-out dish but worth noting that it was perhaps the only dish that featured out-of-season ingredients, while the rest of the menu was firmly rooted in the best of autumn and winter produce.

Dish of duck

The confit duck was served with chestnuts and the jus was divine. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

The kitchen kindly made the confit duck gluten-free for our table. It’s served with chestnuts and cavolo nero in a sticky and delicious jus. It was the kind of dish that prompted involuntary ‘mmm’ noises from all at the table, which is always a good sign. The side of Brussels sprouts – another troublesome vegetable – was also treated just right.

We’d ordered a side of chips, partly because we figured they would likely be spectacular if they were serving chips at a hatted restaurant. And they were pretty good on their own, but our server prompted us to dunk them into the leftover jus from the duck, which was wickedly good.

We were out the door in plenty of time for their next booking without once feeling rushed or hurried. The nice thing about dining at Rebel Rebel is that whether you’re having a casual meal or a big night out, you can trust that you are in good hands, even if you don’t understand the wine list.

Rebel Rebel is located at 21-23 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra. They are open from 5 pm until late Monday to Wednesday, and from midday until late Thursday to Sunday. Visit their website, or follow Rebel Rebel on Instagram or Facebook.

Original Article published by Lucy Ridge on Riotact.

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