Greek salad… plenty of olives and nice chunks of feta among loads of lettuce, slices of red onion and cherry tomatoes. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

“Rocksalt has switched owners and is now a café, but still very much a loved local, as it was when it swung open its doors in 2000,” writes dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON.

Wendy Johnson.

I FIRST reviewed Rocksalt in Hawker in 2010. Then it was a fine dining restaurant working diligently every lunch and dinner to create amazing and innovative modern Australian cuisine. It was a “destination” restaurant with attentive service. 

While many Canberra restaurants established more than two decades ago are no longer, Rocksalt is still steady. It has switched owners and is now a café, but still very much a loved local, as it was when it swung open its doors in 2000.

We were up for lunch on a weekend but could have ordered from the extensive all-day breakfast menu (the shakshuka baked eggs with tomato, spinach and chickpeas caught my eye for $18). 

Lunch starts with a soup of the day. Rocksalt doesn’t offer entrées to share, so we ordered a Greek salad instead. It was a good size for $9.50 and there were plenty of olives and nice chunks of feta among loads of lettuce, slices of red onion and cherry tomatoes.

Fish and chips… piping hot, crispy beer batter and two large pieces of tender fish. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

Rocksalt’s fish and chips arrived piping hot ($24). The beer batter was crispy, and the dish included two large pieces of tender fish. The chips were crispy too. 

Lamb shank… the meat fell off the bone and the Morroccan spices were exotic. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

It was a cool, rainy day so I opted for the hearty lamb shanks, appreciating that at Rocksalt you can order a single shank ($22) or two ($28). So sensible for folks who can never chow down on two massive shanks. The meat fell off the bone and the Moroccan spices were exotic. The dish has a hefty hit of veggies. My only suggestion was to make the mash more velvety, creamy and decadent. It was a bit thin for my liking.

Ricotta gnocchi… looked lovely on the plate. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

The ricotta gnocchi ($24) was pleasant, although it needed just a wee bit more seasoning to bring it to life. It looked lovely on the plate. The asparagus, roast pumpkin and pepitas got along very well together and the sage butter sauce was a great addition.

Other dishes for lunch include a beef burger ($24), pulled pork quesadilla ($24), calamari salad ($26), a falafel roll and steak sandwich (both $24).

Rocksalt’s wine list is short and sharp, and reasonably priced. The rosé we ordered to support local (Joshua’s Fault, Gundaroo) wasn’t available, so we settled for the Babich pinot noir rosé from New Zealand, only $36 a bottle. The wine lineup includes several Australian options. Would be good to see at least one other regional wine available. 

We sat in a small area at the back of Rocksalt, which is segregated by two large wine racks. It’s a perfect spot for a small function. Outdoor dining is also available.

Rocksalt doesn’t have a surcharge on Sundays and doesn’t ding you extra for using a credit card. No split bills, however.

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Ian Meikle, editor