Feels like a holiday at pretty Pollen

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Pollen decor… flooded with light, with wonderful floral arrangements and lots of patterns, textures and shades of blue. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

“[After] a trip to Jindi Eco Spa, a walk through a stunning diversity of native Australian plants and then a quiet lunch at pretty Pollen café, I felt like I’d been on holiday,” writes dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON.

I DECIDED to make a day of it. My visit to the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Acton began with a trip to Jindii Eco Spa, a walk through a stunning diversity of native Australian plants and then a quiet lunch at pretty Pollen café. I felt like I’d been on holiday.

Wendy Johnson.

Pollen is doing well managing COVID-19. Seating is limited, reservations a must (valid only for one hour), but they’re well and truly open for business.

There’s a Hamptons feel to the décor and you can feel the love that Tracy Keeley (Business Woman of the Year Award 2018) devoted to revitalising the place, wanting it to be a destination café for Canberrans and visitors alike. I once read that Tracy is best known for breathing life into eateries that have lost their flavour, and it’s so very true.

To fit in with the Botanic Gardens, Pollen has incorporated wonderful floral arrangements into the décor and lots of patterns, textures and shades of blue. The café is flooded with natural light and you can dine inside or outside (a terrace overlooking a group of sensational ferns).

The menu is compact and designed around ‘all-day dining’. You order at the counter and food and drinks are served at the table by friendly staff in smart uniforms.

My pulled pork tacos ($21.50) featured 18-hour slow-cooked meat topped with loads of brightly coloured ingredients, including red cabbage, corn, capsicum, red onion salsa and coriander. The combination of tastes was fabulous and the pork was as tender as you’d expect after being so patiently cooked. The peri peri mayonnaise was tangy and there was lots of it. My only comment is that some of the red onion was thickly sliced and chunky – a more refined salsa would have been much preferred. Avo lovers can have this as an add-on for $5. This is a nice, super tasty, light lunch.

Pulled pork tacos… 18-hour slow-cooked meat topped with loads of brightly coloured ingredients, including red cabbage, corn, capsicum, red onion salsa and coriander. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

Other items on the menu included some lovely looking zucchini fritters ($16.50), a crunchy quinoa schnitzel ($21.50) and fish and chips ($24.50). Breakfast/brunch items include eggs benedict ($18.80), smashed avo ($17.80), waffle ($18.80) and more. A specials board is also available.

I enjoyed my lunch with a glass of Nick O’Leary Rose, a top Canberra drop ($12 a glass or $48 a bottle). The wine list is as compact as the menu itself, with the rosé and riesling from Nick O’Leary, a pinot noir from Lerida Estate and one of the sparklings from Gallagher Wines. A couple of the beers are from Capital Brewing – so good to see locals supported.

Pollen is open seven days. Call 6247 7321.

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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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