It’s my first review back for 2021 and I’ve decided to mix it up a bit.
I’ll let our other reviewers, Kirsten Lawson and Natasha Shan, do the heavy lifting and find dinner at some of the best restaurants Canberra has to offer.
Granted, they do know a lot more about food than me. You may have guessed by now I’m masquerading somewhat in this job. I might be selling myself short, but for the most part I don’t know what something is meant to taste like; I know what it tastes like when I eat it, and I know whether I like it or not. In the end if I don’t know food, I do know how to eat.
Which I think is how most of us work.
A good night out at a restaurant is about the food and whether you enjoy eating it. Should I know, say, what a chocolate cake with almond croquant, chai tea anglaise and hibiscus granita caramelised white chocolate should taste like? I don’t, but I know I like chocolate cake and those other flavours intrigue me. Bring it on.
So instead I’m going to, dumb down is not the right phrase, that’s insulting to the places I’ll head to to review, it’s insulting to you the reader and I’m better than that. No, I’m just going on the search for good food and good vibes. I think it’s possible to find both in all sorts of places.
And it’s exactly what you’ll find at East Row Specialty Coffee. Situated on the corner of London Circuit and East Row, the space has been given new life in more ways than one. After London Burger and Beers moved out, the redevelopment concept was led by Unison Interiors in conjunction with Lekkier Hospitality Interiors. The end result is a fit out that is a touch industrial, with natural finishes and a drenching of natural light. It pays homage to the historic details of the Sydney Building (and isn’t this precinct having a new moment?) with arched shelves behind the service counter and windows which light flood in.
I’m here for brunch. (I’m going to mix up my time slots too, I’m happy to eat any time of day) And to be honest I’ve never really understood brunch. To me a late breakfast is more about a sleep in, perhaps a hangover back in the day, it’s never something I would have chosen to do, but the lure of avocado, bacon and eggs is hard to resist.
Indeed it’s interesting to see how many places offer all day breakfasts now and that’s the case here. From 7.30am til 4pm, there’s a good selection, lunch menu kicks in from 11am, so you’re spoilt for choices until closing time.
How can you go past the idea of donut French toast ($19)? When our waiter serves it up he calls it “a party on a plate” and he’s right. Two generous, somewhat flattened donuts given the French toast treatment. They’re full of flavour and have retained the texture of a good donut. On the plate the fun begins, so colourful, the berry compote and caramelised banana are done well; the lemon mousse and little splatters of blood orange gel help cut through the sweetness of it all.
And then there’s fairy floss. Fairy floss for breakfast – who would have thought?
The potato and cheese fritters ($18) were on my list too, as my eternal search for good fritter recipes continues. These are fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside. Chef Yokus Wu later tells me the secret is cooking them in plenty of butter. And we all know butter makes everything better. They’re served with two perfectly cooked poached eggs. Runny egg yolk makes everything better too. There’s some maple glazed bacon and chorizo and a charred corn salsa. Top it all off with a rich hollandaise and this dish is a clear winner.
The pork benedict ($22) is one we pick fresh off the menu. Kind of like a meaty take on “eggs benny”, there a slice of sourdough topped with a good serve of pulled pork shoulder, tender and juicy. Top it with a couple of poached eggs, hollandaise and a chickpea and paprika dukkah which adds an interesting texture. There’s a couple of slim slices of pickled cucumber on the side, and while it might sound out, they are right in place, a fresh bite to offset the richness of the meal.
It was a great way to start the day. Light flooding in, a bit of people watching in the city, food which exceeded expectations.
The coffee is supplied by ONA and, as the name might suggest, they take their coffee seriously. There’s a reserve coffee menu where a washed Ecuador La Papaya will set you back $20 but there are plenty of other offerings as well.
If coffee isn’t your thing, there are shakes and smoothies and teas and juices as well. The staff are knowledgeable, friendly and efficient.
Behind the counter there’s a range of cakes and slices and pastries as well as takeaway lunch options.
I don’t know why you’d want to takeaway; East Row Speciality Coffee is a place to linger, enjoy that coffee, order a meal, and watch the world go by.
I like this brunch thing.
East Row Specialty Coffee
Address: Corner of London Circuit and East Row, City
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 7am until 4pm
Owner: Michelle Xue
Chef: Yokus Wu
Vegetarian: Plenty of great options
Noise: No problem
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