Dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON reveals her list of Canberra’s top five restaurants for 2017.
WE love chatting about new places opening in every nook and cranny in the capital. But what about the cafes, restaurants and bars that have been serving us faithfully for decades?
This year the Durham Castle Arms Village Inn (or just “The Durham”, as it’s so fondly called), in Green Square, Kingston, can stand on the rooftop and yell that it’s proud to have been serving beers and good pub grub to patrons for 25 strong years. Yup, 25 strong years.
It’s celebrating with a new chef, a new menu and new specials to keep customers coming back for more.
With a spruced-up outdoor area and new tables nestled under glorious mature trees with views of the lawns of Green Square and plenty of sun, The Durham called out to us: “Attention, please. I’m a perfect spot for lunch”.
You can’t go wrong with the $10 express pub lunch options, which include a caesar salad, beer-battered barramundi, beef sausages, a burger and pasta. Also included is the classic crumbed-chicken schnitzel (served with gravy, of course), which was top-notch and you can select chips (they’re great) or creamy mash ($21.90). A friend I dine with regularly, who is a schnitty expert, was impressed.
The rest of us decided to splurge and upgrade to the $15 express lunch option. The 250-gram sirloin is excellent value. It was cooked just as ordered. It was tender, juicy and served with chips and a side slaw that wasn’t ghastly creamy. Then there was the crispy skin salmon fillet with Bearnaise sauce – a perfect size, perfectly cooked, and served atop a healthy bed of greens. Other great-value lunches for only $15 include southern fried chicken pieces with mash and gravy, chicken parmigiana and a Thai green curry.
Weekly specials vary. The week we visited they ranged from $14 to $17.
Beer lovers are well taken care of. The Durham says they have the best selection of craft beer in Canberra – more than 50 bottles and 12 rotating taps.
Wine lovers are also well taken care of with a pretty good selection of reds and whites, including local varieties, at reasonable prices. The Xanadu “Exmoor” Chardonnay, from Margaret River, is a cool $45 a bottle and at a nearby location it’s $80 a bottle (one year younger). Glasses of wine are super reasonable – starting from $7 and topping off at $12 for whites.
Open seven days, with the kitchen not closing between lunch and dinner (a bonus), The Durham offers daily specials. On Saturdays you can feast on $16 ribs and swig down $15 jugs of pale ale.
Special events to keep customers amused include Tuesday trivia nights and live music on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Durham, Green Square, Kingston. Call 6295 1769. Open seven days, noon until late.