It’s been a big week for Canberra and while I’m very proud of our homegrown dining scene, the arrival of Sydney cult favourites Sonoma and Messina has had me a little giddy. It’s a little hard to explain, but it feels a little like going out and not being asked for ID – like we’ve finally earned a spot at the grown up table. Not to be overshadowed, the quiet achievers over at Barrio have taken up residence at a little spot at No Name Lane, dishing up authentic Mexican flavours at a fun little joint called Taco Taco. The trifecta of things – sourdough, gelato and tacos – it’s finally starting to feel like we’re reaping the rewards of being the both the world’s most liveable city and one of the best places to travel to in 2018.
Bread lovers rejoice, Sonoma opened with a bang this week, baking up to 18 hours non-stop each day to bring us their best artisanal sourdough, pastries and pies.
After five years of delivering to Canberran restaurants from their Sydney site, Sonoma opened its eighth outlet in Braddon, and its first outside Sydney. The bakery and cafe has been eighteen months in the making, taking up residence at the site that used to house Autolyse. The Braddon premise is expected to service both wholesale and retail – Sonoma has imported a European Kornfeil oven that is capable of baking 240 loaves at once and it’s planning to bake throughout the day – expect to see counter selections change if you come at different times in the day.
If you’re the kind of person that walks into a bakery, inhales the smell of freshly baked bread and emerges hours later in a daze after interrogating staff about flours, fillings and who knows what else (no, I have no idea who you mean), you’ll love it here – the staff are passionate about sharing their love of bread and at the top of their game. They will be only too happy to talk you through their extensive range of breads and pastries, and as someone who has worked their fair share of front of house, I have to say their commitment to delivering the ultimate customer experience is second to none. The croissants are made with cultured butter, the pinsa are deliciously chewy and the kouign ammans are flaky perfection. The coffee is surprisingly good. And then there’s the bread. I had just about forgotten what real, authentic sourdough tastes like until I had a slice of their Miche. Complex, slightly smoky and with a lingering sourness the loaf has all the hallmarks of a long, slow ferment. And long is right, each loaf takes 36 hours from start to finish and is hand shaped prior to baking. (For the super ultra bread nerds – they use 100% hydration – that’s equal parts flour and water, how crazy is that?)
Fun fact: Co-founder of Sonoma Andrew Connole trained with Chad Robertson of Tartine fame, in Sonoma county – hence the name. Andrew brought some of their sourdough starter back to Australia in 1998 making the Sonoma starter culture almost twenty years old this year. I was about to ask how he managed to get a jar of bubbly flour, wild yeasts and environmental bacteria past Australian customs but I then I thought the better of it – perhaps better to use my imagination and best for everyone if they don’t incriminate themselves.
1/21 Lonsdale St, Braddon
Monday to Sunday, 7am to 4pm
Two doors down on Lonsdale St, Gelato Messina quietly opened its doors late on Thursday evening, with much less fanfare but no less excitement from the general Canberran population. The Braddon store is the 17th in the largely family-owned and run operation. With over 35 signature flavours plus another five specialty flavours that change every week (this week it’s the Game of Thrones ones) rotating through the store – it’ll be a while before you run out of new things to try.
Gone are the trademark piles of brightly coloured gelato – the Braddon store is the first of it’s kind in the Messina family. The schmick new store display features LED backlighting and fully enclosed cabinetry to keep the gelato at optimal temperatures for longer.
4/21 Lonsdale St, Braddon
Sunday to Thursday: 12 – 10.30pm,
Friday and Saturday: 12 – 11.30pm
So good they named it twice – the boys from Barrio are dishing up flavourful, vibrant Mexican-inspired meals throughout the working week. The restaurant concept started as a joke between the guys, but they are dishing up some seriously good food at this little daytime eatery on Alinga St in the city. With a name like Taco Taco, the menu is very much Mexican-influenced, but they aren’t ruling out other street food influences for later down the track.
The tacos are deliciously soft and pliable, made in-house from masa harina. The tacos are that much levelled up by freshly made corn tortillas, but the bowl of broth is the secret MVP on the menu. It’s all delicious, if anything, the tacos are on the small side but I expect not everyone is as greedy hungry as I usually am. Come before noon if you want a seat, and keep an eye on their Instagram page as they are planning to offer weeknight dinners soon.
Shop 8 No Name Lane, 40 Marcus Clarke St, Civic (enter through Alinga St)
Hours TBC – check their website or Instagram