Canberra’s Captains Of Industry Show Us Their Favourite Eats, Beers, & Vinos

Canberra’s Captains Of Industry Show Us Their Favourite Eats, Beers, & Vinos

John McMahon
John McMahon


The New York Times called Canberra a hot destination in 2014 – ten years later, it’s evolved into the country’s trendy hipster suburb boasting boutique hotels, a pumping dining scene, lively breweries, and a halo of exceptional wineries on its periphery. As a world-class capital city, Canberra has been punching above its weight for some time, but can you ever truly know a place until you see it through the eyes of a local?

With the support of VisitCanberra, we hit the ground with three local captains of industry; each giving us their take on the capital’s food, wine, and beer scenes with invaluable perspectives on the Canberra they know and love.

Matt Witcombe for VisitCanberra

Australia’s most underrated dining destination

Canberra’s density of high-quality dining places it amongst (and arguably surpassing) Australia’s top food cities. With a diverse range of cuisines, cultures and concepts, it’s safe to say the Canberra culinary scene is extraordinarily layered. This is least surprising to Louis Couttoupes, owner and head chef of Onzieme – ACT’s ‘Restaurant of the Year’ for 2023.

After almost a decade in the grind as a public servant living in the capital, the passionate food lover packed it all in for a stab at a classically Parisian dining concept – bistronomy (high-quality gastronomic cuisine meets the casual, comfortable atmosphere you’d find in a French bistro).

Onzieme’s Louis Couttoupes.

Onzieme might be one of the hottest venues in the city right now, but Louis would be the first to give credit where credit is due; his all-star alumni including the likes of Bar Rochford, Pilot, and Such and Such, have done (and are still doing) plenty for Canberra’s humming dining scene. His support of local produce and hospitality venues even goes as far as sourcing key staples for his menu, like the sourdough perfected by the folks at Under Bakery on Mawson Place.

Under is also his top recommendation for a snack and a batch coffee to kick-start a day in the capital. “You want to get there when the Cinnamon buns come straight out of the oven. They’re delicious pillowy clouds and everything they make fresh daily is such a joy to eat.”

Understated and unsuspecting is the recurring theme in Canberra. Would you expect a top-class Japanese restaurant in a new-age industrial park on the city fringes? It’s called Canteen, and it’s Louis’ choice for both warm hospitality and an equally warming ramen on a cold winter’s day. “Keep an eye out for the popcorn shrooms, the Katsu sandwich, the ramen Scotch egg,” says Louis. “I’ve got a deep respect for these guys and their time-honoured precision for ramen.”

Finally, one can’t consider a visit to Canberra complete without the main culinary event itself, Louis’ award-winning Onzieme. Within two years of opening, the Kingston restaurant has become a cult favourite with locals and visitors alike, a testament to Louis’ direct hand in creating an approachable menu with an atmosphere to match.

The menu changes daily – a practice that Louis embraced from his time in Paris when the produce at the local market that morning would dictate the culinary run sheet for the evening. The self-proclaimed cook (not chef) pumps out unique takes on crowd favourites from a tiny kitchen and wood-fired oven. We were massive fans of the organic lamb skewers and the kingfish, the latter of which is dry-scaled to give the skin an almost pork-crackling texture.

If you’re not stuffed from Onzieme’s $85 pp ‘feed me’ menu, it’s worth ducking downstairs for a nightcap at 11e Cave. It’s Louis’ underground speakeasy found behind a red door inside an old bank vault, inspired by French cellars of the glory days. It’s worth the visit on its own accord, dinner upstairs or not. Regardless of where you dine in Canberra, the stratospheric rise in quality eats in recent years will ensure you’re treated to an experience that hits all the right notes, including the unexpected ones.

Surrounded by greatness grapeness

At the unique intersection of cool climate temperatures and rich regional terroir, you’ll find Canberra’s brimming wine scene. The “district”, which is roughly segmented into three key areas, covers an impressive range of elevation from 300-800 metres above sea level and is famous for its volcanic soil, and the fantastic juice it produces.

Since the first vines were planted way back in the 1840’s, Canberra has managed to harness a diverse lineup of wine styles across 140 vineyards and more than 40 wineries. Simply too much to cover in a single trip, right? Not quite.

Max Walker from Paranormal Wines sits down with Boss Hunting.

Max Walker from Paranormal Wines has established himself as the unofficial ambassador for the region at the heart of the capital. His wine store/wine bar hybrid venue is a glorious celebration of the Canberra region’s organic and natural grapes, as well as highlights from farther afield.

As gatekeeper to the proverbial watering hole (which is a local favourite for a Friday afternoon vino), what does the owner of Paranormal Wines think are the trending drops you need to look out for right now? In his eyes, three home-grown wines are putting the Canberra region on the map – outside the likes of Clonakilla, of course.

The first is a Mallaluka Chenin Blanc from Yass ($36), just over the border in NSW. “It’s crisp and zippy, with a delicious selection of fruit from Gundagai.” Ripe for drinking with friends in the summer sun? “Absolutely.”

Next up is a Pinot Gris from Ravensworth ($32) in Murrumbateman, NSW. “Don’t be fooled by the colour from the skin contact, this isn’t a rosé, but rather a slightly reddish twist on the classic white grape.” It tastes light and fresh on the palate but with a little grit. Max adds some further thought – “There’s a nice amount of perfume coming through too, no? A slight hint of underripe strawberries. It’s great with food.”

Finally, Max caps off his recommendations with the 2021 Mr Natural Shiraz from Yarrh Wines ($30) in Murrumbateman. “This is what a really exciting and delicious version of what a new-school Canberra Shiraz can look like.” However, unlike the aforementioned wines, Yarrh has a cellar door just a short drive out of the city. Max suggested we venture out there ourselves to drink it at the source, enjoy the scenery between the vines, and pick up a few for the wine rack back home.

Brews & burgs

If you’re feeling full just from reading this article (before you’ve even taken a sip or a bite), you’re likely not alone. The capital’s food and wine scene is strong, that much is clear by now. But what if you want to dust off the cobwebs the next day or earn your drinks before an afternoon in the beer garden?

Capital Brewing Company’s Co-founder and Managing Director, Laurence Kain.

Laurence Kain, co-founder and managing director of Capital Brewing Co., proves you can enjoy some of the country’s best outdoor adventures, just minutes from Canberra’s CBD, before finding the bottom of a pint glass. His pick is the University of Canberra’s Stromlo Forest Park, a freely accessible labyrinth of mountain biking trails 15 minutes west of the city centre. We joined him at the top of his favourite line for a solid dose of adrenaline before a visit to the brewery.

Not into mountain biking? A kayak across glassy Lake Burley Griffin at sunrise is a cracking alternative if you’re keen to get moving, and the city’s friendly (and relatively flat) design is perfect for a bike ride, jog to stroll, taking in some of the country’s most iconic landmarks.

Capital and their impressive brewpub, have helped transform Fyshwick’s Dairy Road Precinct into a bustling suburb dotted with great coffee, excellent eateries, and plenty of entrepreneurial spirit. Capital Brewing Co. itself has ridden the craft beer wave expertly, with millions of cans now rolling off the production line each year, and the locals love it.

When in Rome, look out for two newcomers to the Capital tap lineup, like the blackberry hard lemonade and delicious ginger beer that were poured for us by Laurence himself. Fancy a bite? Brodburger is something of an institution in Canberra, and you’ll be pleased to know they have a permanent food truck within the walls of Capital Brewing Co.’s brewery. With a palatial front yard, and seating for hundreds, it is the perfect spot for a Friday lunch or early Saturday dinner with the family.

If a burger isn’t on the menu, Fyshwick Fresh Food Market has an abundance of food offerings, alongside quality produce, bread, coffee, deli items and plonk – we love the pizza from Colluseum Italian Street Food. On your way back into town pop by BentSpoke in Braddon for a fresh Crankshaft or delicious Freewheeler if you’re on driving duties. Finally, cap the evening off with a showcase of the state’s brewing talent at Brew Nation or climb the stairs to Bar Rochford for small bites and a glass of Beaujolais.

If this glimpse of the capital hasn’t already confirmed it – the call of Canberra is real. What was once perceived as a colossal country town, Canberra is now a determined travel destination offering foodies some of the country’s best drinking and dining, and outdoor enthusiasts plenty of reasons to plan a weekend sojourn.

This article is presented in partnership with VisitCanberra. Thank you for supporting the brands who support Boss Hunting.

John McMahon
John McMahon is a founding member of the Boss Hunting team who honed his craft by managing content across website and social. Now, he's the publication's General Manager and specialises in bringing brands to life on the platform.



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