Putting the pub into Public

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CANBERRA’S hospitality scene is moving as fast as a high-speed train. It’s impossible to stay on track. Bars, pubs, lounges, coffee places, bakeries, restaurants, cafes, even a place plonked in a loading zone.

Recent openings include Treehouse, Loft at Duxton and Autolyse. Next up will be A.Baker, Barcode, Sup Espresso Bar and Mini Bar, as well as places transforming the Kingston Foreshore, including C Dine Bar, Morks and Lonsdale Street Roasters (third location). Whew.

So, is this intense competition healthy or unhealthy? Is it survival of the fittest?

The interior of Public

Some places pay no attention. They stick to their routines and formulas, even when they’re not working, and then die a slow death. Others embrace the speed with which Canberra is travelling and their position as part of a wider hospitality community. This is the case with not one, not two, but the three establishments located super close to one another in Manuka’s Flinders Way and Franklin Street area. Public Manuka’s Pub graces the corner. Next door is Polit Bar and across the street The Alchemy Bar. Three establishments. Three personalities.

Polit Bar promises to be a discreet cocktail lounge where you can relax and have a quiet chat. The Alchemy Bar (former Minque) has a full restaurant and operates as a true bar pumping it up at night. And Public Manuka’s Pub has recently renovated, to become a true local, friendly pub through and through.

Public Manuka’s Pub listened to client feedback and again adjusted operations and reconfigured to create “one venue”. It has cleverly introduced new “zones”, in which customers can gather, installed new hooks for ladies’ bags and some new seating. It has made a remarkable difference.

The new menu features even more pub items, with specials almost every night.

Sharing dishes include super tasty five spice chicken, fried golden crispy and served with green chilli soy ($12), sensational osso bucco Fajitas that I am addicted to ($15) and delightful king prawns wrapped in crisp egg noodles ($16).

Pub favourites include burgers (most $19), fish and chips ($20) and chicken schnitzel ($22). Mains include a pulled beef cheek pappardelle – a super winter dish ($25) – and a New Orleans-inspired Jambalaya. Pizzas sit around $20 and I can vouch for the shantung duck version. I’ve not yet indulged but I hear the peanut butter baklava, with dark chocolate gelato and caramel sauce sends dessert lovers straight to heaven.

A new drink menu has been introduced, with a sparkling, white and red at $7 a glass and averaging $9 a glass. Down, down. Prices are down.

Manuka is a changing. But it’s not just Manuka. It’s Canberra. And it’s great for those who love their food and drink. It’s great for hospitality in general. I’ll toast to that.


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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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