There’s something you need to know about Charlie Black…
The prices are kept reasonable in part because of the brasserie-style “system”, meaning you order and pay at the bar, get a buzzer that lights up and acts like something crazy from a sci-fi movie when it goes off at your table to announce your meal is ready, and you pick up your own food at the counter near the kitchen.
I let you know this because the pages of the menu are presented on a small flip stand and unless the cover page is showing when you settle into your seat you won’t know “the system” until someone wanders over to explain.
Charlie Black has one of the best locations in Manuka (corner Furneaux and Franklin streets, a great possie for watching weddings at the church across the way).
Salads start at $16 for a Caesar and top at $18 for a warm confit duck with coriander, chilli and fried vermicelli noodles. Bar snacks are mostly $11 and include a divine chicken liver and apple pate with toast.
I’ve eaten at Charlie Black’s several times now and on a recent visit was determined to put the claim emblazoned on the sign out front to a test: “The burgers are better at Charlie Black’s”.
My beef burger ($18) came with everything but the kitchen sink (“BIG” is how the menu describes it). Tasty, but a bit challenging to manage the stack of bun, patty, egg and other goodies.
My friends opted for the grilled chicken burger with avocado, bacon, cheese, tomato etcetera ($18). They agreed it was decent enough with the chips being the favourite part by far.
More recently, two of us ordered the braised rabbit pie encased in light, fluffy pastry. The dish is quite rich, especially the jus, and we found it salty with the mash a bit thin ($22) – we’re creamy, smooth mash folks.
The beer-battered flathead and chips with tartare sauce is excellent value for $18. And I can vouch, from my first visit, for the spiced lamb cutlets with hummus and tabouli salad ($26).
Charlie Black’s wine list is great, although more than once I’ve had to adjust my order because a selection had run out. The Lenton Brae Southside chardonnay (2008) from Margaret River is a real treat ($10 glass; $42 bottle). The reds are carefully chosen and the martinis are all $14.
And the name? Who is Charlie Black, anyway? Some say we’ll never know.
Charlie Black, Manuka, call 6232 6600. Open seven days for lunch and dinner.