Dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON reveals her list of Canberra’s top five restaurants for 2017.
IT’S on the ground floor of a free-standing heritage building, on a side street in the heart of Queanbeyan, overlooking a beautiful park. Even though it’s been open for years this quaint restaurant had never been on my radar. I’m glad it is now because I adored my authentic tasty Thai food fix.
I’m talking about Lime Leaves, which whips up Thai dishes bursting with flavour and presented with care.
Khun Omm is an award-winning, self-taught chef who began making amazing Thai food in Australia in 1996. She’s the “matriarch” of Lime Leaves, using fresh ingredients and her signature style of cooking to create truly memorable dishes.
One of our party began with Tom Yum, the traditional hot-and-sour soup Thailand is famous for (vegetarian or chicken $10.90; prawn, $13.90). It was fragrant, with a generous dose of herbs in the broth.
When at Lime Leaves, tantalise your tastebuds with “Drowned Prawns” ($25.90). The plump, succulent king prawns were indeed drowning in coconut milk but the dish was a perfect balance of flavours – light lemongrass, salty shrimp paste and tangy tamarind juice.
The “Crying Tiger” presents sliced, grilled beef ($20.90) or duck ($22.90) on a bed of salad. It was exceptional and this time tamarind was used to create a more fulsome dressing with bags of flavour.
I love Thai curries and am fascinated with the gazillion ways chefs create this dish, never giving their secrets away. The green curry ($14.90) was rich and creamy (thanks to the coconut milk), sweet (palm sugar) and savoury (fish sauce). It was super delicious.
House specials include the Goong Wan ($25.90), caramelised king prawns tossed in butter and orange sauce, which I’d love to try on my next visit. Chef special options also include red curry duck with lychees and cherry tomatoes ($22.90).
The wine list is compact but well priced and some local wines make their mark.
I visited Lime Leaves on the recommendation of a friend who works in the area. The stately building has separate rooms (each adding their own touch of intimacy) and toasty fireplaces. Thai décor elements sit happily among the building’s wonderful architecture.
The service was friendly and staff took note that we were off to The Q theatre. We experienced a few mistakes with our order, but it was apologies all round and we headed out in plenty of time. Apparently new staff were in training.
Lime Leaves is a quiet, special spot. It’s worth a visit.
Lime Leaves, 24 Lowe Street, Queanbeyan. Call 6299 2000. Open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday and lunch Wednesday to Friday. Fully licensed; BYO (wine only). Lime Leaves is also in Kaleen, Gwydir Square, 283 Maribyrnong Avenue.