Dining / Drinking in the view, pity about the food

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The panoramic views are unlike anything else in Canberra, so it’s worth a trip just to watch the sunset. Photo: Wendy Johnson

IT wasn’t a full moon but seemed to be. Our first visit to Howling Moon, the totally glassed-in rooftop bar at the top of The Rex Hotel, was chaotic to say the least.

But it’s a new year and my first review of 2019 so let’s start out with the positive.

The panoramic views are amazing and, unlike anything else in Canberra, it’s so worth a trip just to watch the sunset.

The décor is relaxed and tropical. The bar selection is impressive, with more than 25 whiskies and a large number of gins on offer. The cocktails are split into classics and signature options. The menus we were initially given by waitstaff featured some intriguing options for sharing, which is what we were after.

Then we stopped howling with pleasure.

The Howling Moon bar was actually closed and so one of our party headed down the glass staircase to the Swan and King bar hoping to get some attention. The rest of us studied the two menus provided – a red-coloured one for Howling Moon and a blue for Swan and King.

The bar was congested but eventually wine was purchased. Then one of our party had to head downstairs to order food.

The Carnivore’s Antipasto Platter… with prosciutto, salami, cured meats, grilled vegetables and mozzarella. Photo: Wendy Johnson

The Carnivore’s Antipasto platter ($35) was reasonable enough with prosciutto, salami, cured meats, grilled vegetables and mozzarella. For a share plate it howled out for more bread and/or crackers.

The Baked Bavarian… a baked, double-cream brie served with toasted ciabatta and celery. Photo: Wendy Johnson

The Baked Bavarian ($30) is a great idea if you’re sharing. It’s a baked, double-cream brie served with toasted ciabatta and celery. The problem is that the brie wasn’t baked enough to be nice and oozy.

We couldn’t get the attention of any waitstaff and so headed downstairs for a third time to order the salmon gravlax served with citrus cream and capers ($45) and the Pork (belly) Royale, served with apple and celeriac slaw ($40).

This is when we became convinced that it had to be a full moon.

Even though staff had given us the two menus from which we were ordering, and we had ordered two dishes off of said menus, we were suddenly told by bar staff that we could now only order from the hotel’s in-room dining menu. Huh?

I took the in-room dining menu to our patiently waiting party. We had a squiz but decided that sharing a ham and cheese toastie or a vegetable wrap wasn’t going to cut it, especially when sitting in what The Rex says is a sophisticated cocktail bar. We weren’t sure how we were going to share some other menu options either, like the cheeseburger.

So we up and left, heading to the inner-south for a lovely bite to eat. Will we return? Perhaps, but we would phone first to find out if the bar is actually open and what the deal is with the food.

Howling Moon, 150 Northbourne Avenue, Braddon.


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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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