IF it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s the motto of Canberra’s Charcoal Restaurant, celebrating an impressive 50 years in business in November.
Nothing much has changed over the years and why should it? Fans don’t flock to The Charcoal for a pretentious fit-out, or strange foams or soils on their food. They want tradition and comfort.
One thing that has changed is the ownership, but that was 21 years ago when David Ramage and his late wife Karen took over with Dee Kahlon (many remember Karen’s special touch). Also around for yonks is head chef Tim Burden.
The Charcoal is one of Australia’s best-known steakhouses. No doubt about it.
It’s heaven for meat lovers with juicy, tender steaks cooked exactly to order. The 350-gram eye fillet is called the “jumbo” ($40.70), although I don’t know why when sizzling cuts go up to a whopping 1000 grams ($57.20). The Charcoal should have a special badge for everyone who consumes that amount of protein in one sitting.
Many specialty dishes evoke memories of yesteryear, such as Steak Dianne ($37.40), carpet bag steak (eye fillet with a pocket of oysters, $40.70) and reef and beef ($44).
Prices are fantastic considering what many ordinary restaurants charge for the smallest piece of steak these days. Only top-quality, Australian prime beef – carefully sourced by the restaurant’s specialist butcher – is dished up at The Charcoal.
If red meat makes you gag, focus on the fish, chicken, omelettes or meal-sized salads.
But let’s work backwards to the entrees. The silky-smooth housemade chicken pate with green peppercorns is out of this world. I indulged the first time I ate at The Charcoal and remember every mouthful. Or how about deep-fried Camembert with redcurrant jelly ($18.70)? Worshippers of jewels from the sea will find the classic seafood crepe ($20.90) a great catch, or the spaghetti marinara, both made daily.
On my recent visit, I opted for fillet mignon, which I cut with a fork. We were a large table and there wasn’t a complaint made.
The Charcoal’s extensive, nine-page wine list is impressive. The cellar master’s section is a must-read – spend as much as you like, up to more than $1000 for a Penfolds Grange Hermitage 1990.
Desserts (made daily) are marvellous, and I still dream of the decadent chocolate mousse – perfect with coffee sourced from the Atherton Tablelands (chemical free).
Over the years The Charcoal has entertained local, interstate and overseas guests. Many dear friends and wonderful memories have been made.
“When the British Lions football team played here,” says David. “The male choir accompanying the team arrived in their blazers and after dinner pulled out their song books and began to sing. I could have stayed and listened to them ‘til dawn.”
The Charcoal Restaurant, 61 London Circuit, Civic, call 6248 8015. Open for lunch, Monday-Friday, noon-2.30pm, and dinner, Monday-Saturday, 6pm-10pm.