Totally relaxed vibe but serious about food

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Sardine piadina… with caramelised onion, pine nuts and currants. Photo: Wendy Johnson

“Sean McConnell has created a menu that is inspiring with dishes not seen elsewhere in Canberra. Think modern Australian with touches of Europe,” writes dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON

THE first feature that struck us when we entered Rebel Rebel in NewActon was the cathedral ceiling installation created from reclaimed hardwood from the now demolished public-housing units on Northbourne Avenue. Stunning.

Rebel Rebel – a bar, bottle shop and eatery – has a totally relaxed vibe. The team is serious about food but there’s no air of pretension about the place, which we love. We also love the “all-purpose” flavour of the place. You can pop by for a drink and something light, a full meal, pick up a bottle of wine (at retail cost!) or something to take away (including just coffee). 

Sean McConnell (former Monster Kitchen and Bar, Ovolo Nishi) has created a menu that is inspiring with dishes not seen elsewhere in Canberra. Think modern Australian with touches of Europe.

Smoked beef tartare… with whipped tahini and bright and spicy zhoug. Photo: Wendy Johnson

The first dish out of the large, open-concept kitchen was the smoked beef tartare, with whipped tahini and bright and spicy zhoug – an inspirational combo of ingredients and a well-executed dish all round.

Corn and manchego croqueta… glorious, cheesy and salty. Photo: Wendy Johnson

When we enquired about the corn and manchego croqueta ($8) we were told it had quickly become one of Rebel Rebel’s more popular dishes and it immediately became one of ours. The tasty prawn head aioli was glorious and the dish cheesy and salty.

We weren’t totally enamoured with the rich and oily sardine piadina ($9) but couldn’t pinpoint why. It’s not that we don’t love sardines, and certainly caramelised onion, pine nuts and currants unite with great force. Sometimes food just comes down to personal preference…

Grilled beef tongue… married beautifully with the peppers marinated in Spanish fortified wine. Photo: Wendy Johnson

The grilled beef tongue dish ($24) won’t be for everyone, but we were glad we gave it a go. It’s fabulous that Rebel Rebel is pushing the boundaries with some dishes and the tongue married beautifully with the peppers marinated in Spanish fortified wine. A lovely touch of Europe.

Pork neck with confit fennel… five stars! Photo: Wendy Johnson

Another popular dish is the pork neck with confit fennel (such a marvellous way to prepare this glorious vegetable) and cabbage ($32). It was five stars for this creation.

Blueberry ganache… amazing textures. Photo: Wendy Johnson

Desserts are intriguing. If you don’t want anything large, you can choose from a selection at the counter (or take away).

Blood orange meringue… couldn’t resist. Photo: Wendy Johnson

We couldn’t resist each having a taste of the blood orange meringue and indulged in one of the larger desserts, the blueberry ganache. It offered up amazing textures and who doesn’t love bright-coloured pomegranate seeds exploding in the mouth?

Rebel Rebel’s wine list gets a huge round of applause, with many interesting options available by the glass. 

The staff are knowledgeable and well prepared to explain dishes and wine, and make recommendations. The service was super attentive until the end. Dessert took a loooong time to arrive, one of our coffees was forgotten and we had to prompt the staff for our bill.

Rebel Rebel, 21-23 Marcus Clarke Street, NewActon, open seven days. 

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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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