The Vinyl Room gets a spin

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IT’S third time lucky with Manuka’s newest tapas and cocktail lounge, The Vinyl Room.

It opened a few weeks ago where the Julep and then Tulip lounges used to be. The space has been transformed and the fresh approach is a winner.

The street-level entrance to this upstairs venue is on Franklin Street, beside Public. If you get lost look up – a very bright blue neon sign points you in the right direction.

The bar area is now sensibly located at the back and new seating is at the front overlooking the happenings in Manuka. You settle very easily into comfy lounges and chairs, surrounded by wall art created by a local artist and groovy lighting, and listening to cool tunes. Also cool are the staff “uniforms” – designer shirts with fabulous colours and patterns (no standard grey, brown or black at this establishment).

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Tapas starts at $6 for almonds roasted in thyme and orange salt, olives, and edamame, the Japanese-inspired young bean dish that is all the rage. You then enter the $15 zone with sensational seared rare beef on offer. The chef’s special Asian marinade is a recipe I would love to have. The cured salmon gets another big tick, layered with herbs, fennel, orange and capers. It melts in your mouth. Also available is a confit of grilled mushrooms served with feta and glazed balsamic, tasty prawn spring rolls and asparagus wrapped in salty prosciutto.

Vinyl pizzas are $20 (gluten-free base available) and we vouch for the BMW (initials of three staff). We asked for it with blue cheese, which added depth to the ricotta and mozzarella. The pizza is loaded with sundried tomato pesto, roma tomatoes, mushrooms, prosciutto, sage, spinach and balsamic vinegar. It sounds complicated, but works well.

The cocktail list features 45 options with classics such as the Old Fashioned and Tom Collins as well as “new frontier” cocktails, including the Bazooka Bubblegum, Japanese Funk Stew and A Friend from Yonkers. And then there’s The Naked Italian, who I want to meet, created with mint, muddled lemon, Dolin dry vermouth and ginger beer.

Manager and part owner Wayne Meaker, who has been in hospitality for 15 years, is adjusting the wine list to include a local white (two local reds are already available), detailed descriptions of varieties (it is not currently clear) and perhaps a couple more familiar labels. Whites by the glass start at $8, top off at $14 and average $10. Reds $8 to $18 and average $10.5.

Guest DJs are being planned and live jazz will start Thursday nights sometime in June. The décor is a work in progress with a major piece of art featuring the spines of dozens of vinyl LP covers – hence the name – due to be installed in a few weeks.

The Vinyl Room, Franklin Street, Manuka. Open Wednesday to Saturday, 4pm to 4am.

PHOTOS: The Vinyl Room… You settle very easily, surrounded by wall art created by a local artist and groovy lighting, and listening to cool tunes.

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Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson: Food reviewer for Canberra CityNews magazine since 2004, covering stories for true foodies to digest.

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