Dining / Smiles for burgers in a wooden box

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WHEN I think of Canberra’s dining scene, I think of a popcorn machine in full swing. Places to eat and drink popping up like crazy. So if you didn’t stuff yourself over Christmas and New Year, don’t fret; you won’t starve in the capital in 2017.

Milk Crate 2
The cured salmon with mango and young coconut slaw burger… a winning combo of fabulous flavours. Photo by Andrew Finch
This year’s line-up of reviews starts with the relatively new Milk Crate 2, a cool-looking place featuring a sunny yellow and sky blue colour palette, some furniture built out of plastic milk crates and fascinating artwork. The outdoor area is massive and includes a bench bar, lounge seating areas and tables of different heights, some with button-shaped tiles forming the surface.

Milk Crate 2 gets a tick for serving all-day brekkie on Saturdays. However, we were told they were out of the Big Ben brekkie and pancakes. My mind boggles. How can a kitchen be out of basics such as flour, milk and eggs? Perhaps the pancake mix comes pre-packaged?

The main lunch menu is about burgers and salads, all $18. It was a burger burst for all of us.

We smiled at how Milk Crate 2 presents its burgers. They arrive in a stunning, branded wooden box, made by the owner’s joiner, with sauces in colourful bowls with pretty patterns. Instead of regular old fries, the burgers are accompanied by yum, well-seasoned, roasted-type potatoes. Vegetarians are well loved with salad starring falafel and marinated tofu.
The cured salmon with mango and young coconut slaw and hot-sauce mayo was a fave, with a winning combo of fabulous flavours. The brioche, so popular with burgers these days, wasn’t too sweet (thankfully).

Another fave was the brisket burger, with mushroom, capsicum, provolone and lettuce. It was filling and satisfying, with the brisket beautifully tender.
The only loser was the chicken burger. It sounded exotic, with rum, chili and lime chicken, avo, corn, lettuce and mayo. How can you go wrong with that Caribbean theme?
The issue was the salt. Far, far too much salt. So much so, two of us couldn’t stomach it. The burnt brioche bun didn’t help. We mentioned it to the wait staff who said they’d let the chef know. We didn’t hear back. Instead we were charged for the privilege of not being able to eat it. Sigh.

Coffees are beautifully served in intriguing vessels and on wooden boards, some shaped like meat cleavers (also by that clever joiner).
Cocktails are $18 to $20; wines start at $8.50 a glass ($26 to $52 a bottle). Milk Crate 2 transforms into a bar until midnight on Fridays.
Signage said the place was open until 3pm but by shortly after 2pm the furniture around us was all packed up. Time to go perhaps?

Milk Crate 2, 16 Marcus Clarke Street, Civic, is open Monday to Saturday, various times. Call 6174 0643.

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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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