Our top 20 favourite Canberra restaurants for 2016

Pork belly bao at Akiba.
Pork belly bao at Akiba. Photo: Graham Tidy

To round out the year, the Canberra Good Food team has put together a "top 20 favourite restaurants" list — and here it is in alphabetical order.

Akiba

Tucked underneath the Actew AGL building, this pop-Asian restaurant continues to be a place to see and be seen. The buzzy joint, owned by Peter and Michael Harrington, pumps out fun food - steamed buns, dumplings, fried chicken, and noodles - washed down with colourful cocktails. This year they put some of their menu into the hands of their customers, running 'The People's Dumpling' competition on the search for four new eclectic dumpling flavours. And their customers showed their love for the joint - they won the People's Choice Award at the AFR's Top 100 Restaurants in May. It gets us excited to see what the Harrington brothers have up their sleeve for their new venue across the road in the former Tongue and Groove spot.

40 Bunda Street, Civic, 6162 0602, akiba.com.au

Food and Wine. Aubergine Restaurant at the Griffith Shops. Owner, Ben Willis. July 7th 2016 The Canberra Times Photograph by Graham Tidy.

Photo: Graham Tidy

Aubergine

The Canberra institution closed down for three weeks in the middle of 2016 for its biggest makeover since it opened its doors. The new look is modern contemporary formal - a darker interior and upgraded creature comforts but still no table cloths. It remains atop Canberra's restaurant scene, with its two Good Food Guide chefs hats. Owner Ben Willis' food still the essence of fine dining - everything speaks of great ingredients used wisely. Still a special occasion venue - but unpretentious and welcoming. 

8 Barker Street, Griffith, 6260 8666, aubergine.com.au

Nick Smith opened up Bar Rochford earlier this year and has shared his experiences breaking into this tough but lucrative market.

Photo: Karleen Minney

Bar Rochford

Don't be confused by the name - Bar Rochford is much more than a bar. The 2016 newcomer is a chilled out watering hole in a lofty upstairs spot in the Melbourne Building - be careful not to miss the entrance, marked by a little R on a door next to Lemongrass. Owner Nick Smith (pictured above) has created a breezy venue with nooks and crannies, and a wine list filled with the unusual and interesting. Despite only a tiny kitchen, chef Ian Poy manages to produce a tasty mix of bar snacks and changing dinner mains.

65 London Circuit, Civic, 6230 6222, barrochford.com.

Currants add bursts of sweetness to a plate of Fremantle sardines.

Photo: Jay Cronan

Benchmark Wine Bar

The new and now aren't always better, as Benchmark shows. The wine bar on Northbourne Avenue has high-quality European-style food teamed with dangerously good wine. While fully fledged dinner isn't necessarily the venue's point, a classy drink will often lead to a proper sit down. Owner Tasso Rovolis and his team are full of knowledge to navigate the wine list - a serious document - and chef Mathilde Pomies cooks up classic dishes, executed perfectly.

65 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra City, 6262 6522, benchmarkwinebar.com.au

News Restaurant review at the Chairman and Yip in Barton. Beef and scallop pepper hot pot. 19 March 2016 Photo: Rohan Thomson The Canberra Times

Photo: Rohan Thomson

Chairman and Yip

It was a big year for Chairman and Yip, moving from its old quarters in Civic to the former Malamay spot in Barton, in what was a merging of the two restaurants. The new fit out is a far cry from the white linens and wood accents of Bunda Street, but loyal fans of the restaurant won't find too much amiss. The wine list is still strong and the menu has a mixture of dishes from both restaurants, with plenty of mainstays from the Chairman. It's a soothing mix of their favourites served up by familiar faces, with much of the same Chairman flair.

1 Burbury Close, Barton, 6162 1220, chairmangroup.com.au

Banoffee pie at eightysix restaurant in Braddon.

Photo: Supplied

Eightysix

Eightysix calmed down and settled in, in a very good way. It's still glamourous, noisy, and always packed, but you can converse and relax with a sense of privacy. Gus Armstrong and his team's food is consistent, modern and fresh, and adventurous without being wacky - you can sit up at the bar and watch all the kitchen action unfold. Staff are helpful, casual and knowledgeable. Our advice? Never say no to the banoffee pie for dessert (pictured above).

Corner of Elouera and Lonsdale Streets, Braddon, 6161 8686, eightysix.com.au

Italian & Sons Braddon. Photo by Italian and Sons. Supplied for use by Fairfax Media. Age Good Food Guide 2017.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

Italian and Sons

As its end of Lonsdale Street has gradually built up in the latter half of the year, Italian and Sons manages to keep its own sense of cool. You'd be hard pressed to find a night when the venue isn't pumping, serving up Italian dishes that are gloriously full of flavour, and often stunningly simple in design, easy to wash down with an Italian drop. It's harder and harder to get a park in the area, but Italian and Sons still has the same energy that is always has, and is hard to pass on.

7 Lonsdale Street, Braddon, 6162 4888, italianandsons.com.au

Kapitan Duck

Photo: Jay Cronan

Lanterne Rooms

With new developments in Campbell bringing more eateries to the suburb, Lanterne Rooms has gained some nearby neighbours but hasn't lost any of its own charm. It has stuck to the plan, offering a style of gutsy Malaysian-Chinese based food and reaching much wider for new influences in the way dishes are approached and presented, all wrapped in a very smart set-up and excellent service. As part of the Chairman Group it shares the same theme – refined and super hardworking, with very good food, an emphasis on service, a stylish Asian twang and great individuality. 

3 Blamey Place, Campbell, 6249 6889, chairmangroup.com.au

Food and Wine. Restaurant Review of Les Bistronomes in Eloura Street Braddon. Dessert...White chocolate mousse with sweet potato crisp and rhubarb. April 15th 2016 The Canberra Times Photograph by Graham Tidy.

Photo: Graham Tidy

Les Bistronomes

​Clement Chauvin and Abel Bariller opened this paean to France in 2014 on the less travelled side of Elouera Street in Braddon across from BentSpoke, and it's slipped into a relaxed, casual bistro feel with fine technique on display. The space itself is simple which lets the dishes do the real talking - they emerge from the kitchen in a cloud of smoke and a welcome touch of theatre, with some presented to diners for inspection before being taken back to the kitchen to be carved. 

Corner of Mort and Elouera Streets, Braddon, 6248 8119, lesbistronomes.net

Japanese banquet at Lilotang in Barton.

Photo: Jay Cronan

Lilotang

The youngest of the Chairman Group restaurants, Lilotang is approachable on top of all that slick Asian cool you'll recognise from its older siblings. The modern eatery is a shot of cool and youthful, from its unrefined concrete floor, to loads of natural light, bare tables and a general sense of relaxed dining. Food is original and interesting yet still fun on the plate. Our tip: take a journey through the sake list.

1 Burbury Close, Barton, 6273 1424, lilotang.com.au

Baby carrots, yoghurt and licorice root at Mocan and Green Grout.

Photo: Melissa Adams

Mocan and Green Grout

Mocan and Green Grout gets things just right. The menu is small with just nine dishes, each focussed on one ingredient with vegetables playing a central role, and there's no wine list or booze at all for that matter (you can BYO). The space is cool, casual and a little unusual. The intimate set-up has the chefs and wait staff all working at an open bench, with diners opposite. You can watch the goings on and hear what they're saying to each other and to that extent, share in the process of preparing dinner, which adds to the sense that your meal has been put together with respect and care.

1/19 Marcus Clarke Street, NewActon, 6162 2909, mocanandgreengrout.com

Spaghetti cacio e pepe at Molto.

Photo: Elesa Kurtz

Molto Italian

Carlo Tosolini's newest venture at the Kingston Foreshore is a great place to sample the wonder and endless variety of one of the world's great cuisines, with two Italians in head chef Giuseppe Pappalardo and pizzaiola chef Giordano Renzetti in the kitchen. It's hard to resist the whole wheels of pecorino with the centre hollowed out, which are used as a mixing and serving bowl for lush cheesy pasta. The whole place has the feel of a well-run establishment, with confidence and personality.

155/43 Eastlake Parade, Kingston Foreshore, 6140 7039, moltoitalian.com

Summer stone fruit, elderflower cream and berry granita Fruit salad by Sean McConnell of Monster restaurant at Hotel Hotel in Canberra on Friday 28 November 2014 for AFR Photo: Andrew Meares

Photo: Andrew Meares

Monster

In May, the stylish bar and restaurant at Hotel Hotel in NewActon was named one of the Australian Financial Review's Top 100 Restaurants. Coming in at number 80, it was the sole Canberra representative in the top 100 - and it's not hard to see why. Sean McConnell continues to set the standard with his brand of relaxed yet high-end food. In June, Monster's yabby jaffle was named one of the 17 Australian dishes you must try before you die by Good Food's Jill Dupleix and Terry Durack.

25 Edinburgh Avenue, New Acton, 6287 6287, hotel-hotel.com.au

Food and Wine. Morks Restaurant review shots at Kingston Foreshore. Soft shell crab roti, yellow curry, house pickles. February 5th 2016 The Canberra Times Photograph by Graham Tidy.

Photo: Graham Tidy

Morks

This funky, modern Thai restaurant at the Kingston Foreshore has built a cult-like following for good reason. An intelligent, edgy mixing of cultures and flavours typifies this place - it gives many much pricier establishments a real run for their money. The main challenge reading down the one-page menu is choosing what not to have, so take a decent group to make life easy. Most of all, it is an exciting place to eat, a place you will want to share with family and friends.

18/19 Eastlake Parade, Kingston Foreshore, 6295 0112, morks.com.au

Restaurant Review at Ottoman Restaurant. Karniyarik eggplant stuffed lamb with yoghurt garlic sauce. Photo Elesa Kurtz

Photo: Elesa Kurtz

Ottoman Cuisine

Very little has changed at this stalwart of the dining scene - and we think that's just the way it should be. The Barton Turkish restaurant shirks the trend to be loud and brash and keeps things genteel and focussed, letting the chef Serif Kaya's food speak loudly and clearly for itself. Meals are pure and unadorned classics, with bright and strong flavours and a focus on fresh and seasonal produce. While in some restaurants, longevity can lead to a gradual diminishing in relevance, Ottoman remains elegant and idiosyncratic.

9 Broughton St, Barton ACT 2600, 6273 6111, ottomancuisine.com.au

Food and Wine. Restaurant Review of the Ainslie Shops establishment, Pulp Kitchen. Goats cheese fondant with beetroot, turnip and walnuts. June 26th 2015 The Canberra Times photograph by Graham Tidy.

Photo: Graham Tidy.

Pulp Kitchen

Whether it's for a casual dinner, or a more glam night out, Pulp Kitchen always manages to tick all the boxes. It's had changes over time, but stays in touch with what it does best. The Euro-French bistro food is generous and uncomplicated. The beef tenderloins with fries and bearnaise in particular is a staple, that keeps us coming back. Coupled with its effortless grungy, super-relaxed surrounds, it's the perfect gem hidden at the suburban shops. 

1 Wakefield Gardens, Ainslie, 6257 4334, pulp-kitchen.com.au

Food and wine Restaurant review at Pialligo Estate Garden Pavillions. Pialligo award winning gravlax, golden beets, pickled radish, lemon and tendrils 24 March 2016 Photo by Rohan Thomson The Canberra Times

Photo: Rohan Thomson

Pialligo Estate

Even after all this time, it's easy to forget this picture perfect venue is only 10 minutes from Parliament House. The luxe rustic farmhouse oozes charm, and we love their fresh and thoughtfully produced food, much of it sourced from the estate itself. The fire at their Hume smokehouse in July and the outpouring from the community following showed just how much people love their award-winning Pialligo smokehouse bacon. And their more recent Garden Pavillions adds to the appeal, particularly during the warmer months.

18 Kallaroo Road, Pialligo, 6247 6060, thepialligoestate.com.au

Silo Bakery + Cafe, restaurant, Kingston, ACT. Picture supplied

Photo: Adam McGrath 

Silo Bakery

The Kingston bakery has a European bent that is rare in Canberra, consistently producing exciting food that is deceptively simple. Their incredible quality bread and tarts rival those of any high-end restaurant, and it remains one of the best places to eat quality cafe food in the ACT. Don't just pop in - make sure you sit down and eat from the menu.

36 Giles Street, Kingston, 6260 6060, silobakery.com.au

Caramelised white chocolate,  brik pastry and strawberry sorbet at Temporada.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

Temporada

​Tucked away in a quiet part of Civic, Temporada continues to create its own buzz, serving up high-end food in a relaxed atmosphere. Restaurant supremo Ben Willis and Chris Darragh's everyday eating joint has the hallmarks of a chef at the peak of his powers. Funky, friendly staff are knowledgeable and keen for a chat, excited by the food and drink they are serving, and the understated, faintly industrial decor and vibe just works.

15 Moore Street, Civic, 6249 6683, temporada.com.au

XO restaurant in Canberra photo: supplied

Photo: supplied

XO

Playful XO burst onto the scene last year in Narrabundah with its Asian street food menu and a cheeky name. The young owners have created a friendly, upbeat and accommodating venue, and best of all, they do it with very good food. The menu is succinct, made up of small and large share plates, with everything from your staples to the quirky Asian bolognese and "sexy squid". To really top things off, we suggest diving headfirst into the "kisses and hugs" cocktail, an ode to the sichuan peppercorn. 

16 Iluka Street, Narrabundah, 6295 9696, xo-restaurant.com.au