Keep your distance, but for all the right reasons

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Small tarts and other dangerous temptations at the Ainslie Bakehouse. Photo: Paul Costigan

“In the bakery – it is three customers at a time. Something like that should stay forever. So much easier to get served and much safer not to be crowded in,” writes “Canberra matters” columnist PAUL COSTIGAN.

TWO weeks into 2021 and thoughts go back to early last year when the pandemic struck and Canberra went into lockdown – not as tough as the later Victoria episode, but it was an experience that possibly changed some habits.

Paul Costigan.

There were many lessons. Shopping local and supporting local businesses was a practice taken up by many. New takeaways were explored and discoveries made.

Having an Indian takeaway is always a desired option, so several new places were tried out. The best turned out to be Yogis Kitchen Indian Restaurant in Barton. The spices are mild unless you ask for different. When we call in we order a couple more dishes than required with the extras heading for the freezer. Their naans are delicious. They freeze easily if you wrap them singly.

That’s another change about having takeaways. When practicable, I now buy extra serves (for another day) so that I have to make less visits. Safer – fewer risks.

Our favourite local Vietnamese has to be the Vietnamese House Restaurant – tucked away in the eastern end of the Dickson shops beside Hudson’s Café (I could say opposite the National Bank, but it has just closed). Its Singapore noodles and Shantung chicken are often in our takeaway bags – with extras again for the freezer. There are many other favourites. Always friendly service.

My real find for 2020 has to be the Bakehouse at Ainslie shops. The couple who run it took over in early 2020 and what a difference! If you like a good croissant – this is the place to go. But we warned, they need to be consumed on the day not long after they enter your shopping bag. I suspect everything in the cases with the croissants needs to be consumed soon after purchase. Whereas the temptations to the left, being the small tarts and other dangerous temptations, could last longer once home (depending on how tempting they are for others).

The other wonder is their smallish baguettes (not the larger, sourdough ones). Warm a little when you get them home (for me that’s 25 seconds in the microwave), a little olive oil, some mustard, camembert (best one being from Aldi), some greens, ground pepper – and you have one hell of a heavenly meal. One of their medium-size baguettes easily feeds the two of us.

One common theme around the above is that such outlets continue with safe practices. In the bakery – it is three customers at a time. Something like that should stay forever. So much easier to get served and much safer not to be crowded in.

The same goes for places such as doctors’ surgeries. Ours now has far fewer seats and has worked the appointments so that the reception is no longer crowded. You only have to look at the statistics on how many people did not get the annual flu injection in 2020 and it is clear that we have been taking too much for granted when it comes to gathering in smallish places such as surgeries and cafes. 

There were two occasions in the last few years when at well-attended public talks (crowded on one occasion) I was aware that others were coughing. At one particular National Library talk, it was more than a cough – it was deep and dangerous. Both times, I soon came down with a serious flu or whatever it was. On both occasions, it took months to recover.

Will lessons be learnt and will we keep this practice of social distancing in public areas? I hope so. The question is how to educate people and businesses that it is not okay to gather when you suspect you have something lurking. 

To finish on food. Canberrans are lucky when it comes to choices on foods to take away. There are so many and they are easy to get to wherever they are in Canberra. Supporting local businesses is definitely the way to go. Maybe it is time for another visit to the Bakehouse.


Paul Costigan is an independent commentator and consultant on the visual arts, photography, urban design, environmental issues and everyday matters.

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