Dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON reveals her list of Canberra’s top five restaurants for 2017.
COFFEE Lab bills itself as a place where artistry meets science. The place has heaps of coffee paraphernalia to prove that it takes its coffee very, very seriously. Special brews. Special roasted blends of beans. A massive new coffee machine. You get the drill.
But Coffee Lab is much more than a place to get a caffeine hit. It’s a place to indulge in a little (or big) breakfast or lunch. The good news, if you’re hanging about Civic on the weekends, is that the Coffee Lab has new trading hours, which includes Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. And the kitchen is now dishing up dishes until 3pm.
I was up for breakfast, having wandered through Braddon and on my way to Civic (Coffee Lab is smack in the middle, on Narellan Place, opposite the large open-air car park).
The place was pumping and the outdoor seats, all covered in sunshine, packed out. So I found a spot at the huge wooden, communal table, grabbed a newspaper from the pile available for customers and settled in.
I was quick to be offered a coffee and enjoyed every sip. However, I had to concentrate on getting someone to take my breakfast order and then again to follow up on when it would be coming. Slow is the operative word here.
The breakfast menu, available all day, offers simple options such as fruit toast ($9) to hearty meals for folks with mighty hearty appetites.
I was intrigued by the “No Ragrets” ($17), partly attracted to the smoked Pialligo Estate bacon. The generous serve of bacon layers the bottom of the dish. It’s surrounded by kale. On top is a house-made, corn-meal hash brown and on top again two poached eggs smothered with a hollandaise-type sauce mixed with a barbecue-type sauce.
The eggs were cooked to perfection – not too hard, not too runny. The bacon was perfectly smoked (might be a bit too heavily smoked for some). The hash brown crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and the kale a healthy green element.
Despite my best effort, I couldn’t plough through the entire dish, but thoroughly enjoyed what I ate.
Other options for breakfast include interesting dishes such as avocado rolled in black and white sesame seeds, marinated feta, chilli flakes, alfalfa and lime served on multigrain sourdough ($15.50), and garlic smashed into multigrain sourdough toast with seasoned heirloom cherry tomatoes, basil, pesto, garlic chips and cheese balls ($15).
Coffee Lab has a big counter area to the left as you walk in the door, but there is table service. The décor features loads of wood and rustic elements, and greenery here and there. It gets plenty of natural light through the massive windows that line the front of “the lab”. It’s got a relaxed vibe. Not at all pretentious. Just full of beans.