Head chef Sean McConnell and part owner David Alcorn of Mocan and Green Grout in New Acton.
Head chef Sean McConnell and part owner David Alcorn of Mocan and Green Grout in New Acton. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

We discovered Travis Cutler in the kitchen at Aubergine this month, where you’d have to say he’s looking slightly bewildered at his own decision to start an apprenticeship.

Cutler is seasoned in Canberra hospitality, excellent front of house at the Parlour Wine Room in its early days and then for many years at Thirst, where his interest in the wine list always made dinner exciting.

So he surely knew what he was in for when he opted to do a mature-age cheffing apprenticeship, and he chose well when he set his sights on Aubergine. But it’s a hard ask, so little money for such bruising hours, without the prospect of a secure career at the end.
Still, from the viewpoint of the dining public, the idea of Cutler with his own kitchen is pretty interesting.

Chef Nicolas Poelaert.
Chef Nicolas Poelaert. Photo: Eddie Jim

We wrote about our troubles finding anyone local to clean our coffee machine recently, with Cosmorex telling us they needed the machine for three weeks just to do a quote. Well, we’ve now had a call from Cosmorex’s manager Peter Bragg, who says he has a policy of providing quotes within 48 hours.

Whoever told us it would take three weeks was operating well outside the timeframe but everyone concerned has been reminded and if you call now you should have more luck than us. Bragg says he has four full-time staff servicing machines, one  full-time on domestic machines. So it’s no small business.


A Baker in New Acton.
A Baker in New Acton. Photo: Rohan Thomson




Brittanique cafe for Ainslie

What is it about Ainslie and the French? Frenchman Daniel Giordani took over Pulp Kitchen last year and is transforming it this month into a tour of the French regions in food and drink. And now, the Ainslie shops are to get a cafe all about the food and drink of Brittany, at the hands of Bruno Paressant.

Paressant is a long-time Canberra resident who came here on a chef’s visa in his 20s, working first at the French Kitchen near the Electric Shadows cinema. He has now taken over the Restaurant 2602 site at the northern end of the Ainslie shops, and is working to re-create a cafe from his home region in France.

He hopes to open in November, but is still working through planning issues (apparently heritage rules operate in the area, so his original Brittanique shopfront needs some amendment), and importing issues. He says there’s no wine made in Brittany, and he plans to offer instead the Brittanique cider, whisky and beer. The whiskies include Eddu, made with buckwheat.

As to the food, the focus will be crepes and patisserie, he says. Savoury crepes made with buckwheat (so gluten free) and filled in the simple French style with mushrooms and tomato, ham and cheese, and fancier fillings like leek compote and scallops, or smoked salmon. The patisserie will include “far Breton”, the famous custard-like cake from the region.

This is Paressant’s first time back in the kitchen for some years. He was trained as a chef, but has worked for many years front of house in Canberra, most recently at Sage at Gorman House, and before that at the Ginger Room at Old Parliament House.

His cafe, Breizh (the Breton word for the region), will be open Tuesday to Sunday for breakfast and lunch, and in the evenings on Friday and Saturday, with the focus on patisserie and casual dining.

Lunch with Little Creatures

The Durham Castle Arms in Green Square, Kingston, holds a beer and food matching lunch on November 10. The five-course, six-beer lunch is crafted around Little Creatures beers – its Pale Ale, the newly released India Pale Ale and its single-batch Mr Obadiah. Adrian Moran from the Durham says the beers will be matched to a menu including a zesty Mediterranean-style pasta, a rich beef stew and vegetarian samosas ($50, 6295 1769). The lunch is part of Canberra Beer Week, which kicks off on Saturday November, 9, with a “Beer Day Out”. Local, interstate and international breweries will be here for the event.

Food writers tete a tete

Judging by the proliferation of food blogs out there, food is something we like writing about as well as eating. If you’re in this category, you might be interested in the Food and Words festival on Saturday, October 19, in Sydney. Fourteen food writers and cookbook authors will speak, including chef Peter Gilmore from Quay and author Belinda Jeffery, blogger Lemon Pi, hunter gatherer Rohan Anderson, Bourke Street Bakery’s David McGuinness and Paul Allam, who will speak about their Bread and Butter Project. Robert Edis, president of the Victorian branch of Soil Science Australia, will speak on the subject of soil and its relationship to “elite” vegetables.  Food and Words is organised by writer (and regional editor of the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide) Barbara Sweeney. Bring your own picnic lunch, or have your picnic prepared by former Longrain head chef Martin Boetz, Alex Herbert from Bird Cow Fish, and Mint Cafe chef Brad Jones. October 19, 10am-4pm, $185, foodandwords.com.au.

Another eatery for New Acton

The Hotel Hotel Bar and Lounge is the latest offering in the New Acton development, opening in November. It’s not the most exciting of names. Hotel Hotel seems especially uninspired for a (you guessed it) hotel, and Bar and Lounge is similarly prosaic for a (yes) bar and lounge. However, this place is very promising. Sean McConnell, of Mocan and Green Grout, is head chef for the eatery, which will offer all-day eating, breakfast till late as well as room service for hotel guests. Michael Gray, head of food and beverage for the precinct, says the bar and lounge will take up the entire ground floor of the 99-room, five-star boutique hotel, and includes lounge seating, an open fire, banquette areas and a courtyard “secret garden”, as well as more formal dining. The timber dining tables, along with other furniture and custom items in the hotel, were designed by Broached Commissions in Melbourne, and can be arranged as a big feasting table or pulled apart for different configurations, he says. The venue is aimed well beyond hotel guests, with Gray wanting to build a “democratic”, approachable and full-of-life venue for people living the working in the area and the wider community. The food will be in the shared-plates style that McConnell likes best. He’ll continue to have Diego Arata, who was at Mezzalira before joining the Molonglo team, working with him, and the hotel is recruiting staff. McConnell will oversee Mocan and Green Grout as well.

Bring your own dinner

Good Food Month continues, with some extraordinary offerings still to come, including the Brooks of Canberra dinner on October 30, in which celebrated Melbourne chef Nicolas Poelaert, brings his tem to Canberra to re-create a Brooks menu at the Burbury Hotel. Not often you get a chance to eat at one of Melbourne’s best without actually going to Melbourne ($185, including wine, rbell@realmprecinct.com.au). A. Baker’s Backyard Produce dinner is on Monday, October 21. This is an intriguing one. It’s a little vague, but the idea is you tell them what produce you can supply from your backyard when you book, then drop it off a few days in advance, or they’ll pick it up from you, and it will be incorporated in the menu. So you don’t get exclusive rights to your bunch of kale, or baby carrots, of bunch of rhubarb, but you do get to see it cooked by a talented chef and back on everyone’s plates. You don’t need enough to feed 50 people; just whatever you can spare (if you don’t have fruit or vegies, bring flowers for the table). Chris Dennis from A Baker says he’ll bring produce from his own backyard in Yass also – he’s got silverbeet, fennel and chives looking in good shape. Local wines, including Gallagher sparkling and Collector Lamp Lit marsanne ($80, including wine, 6287 6153). Pulp Kitchen’s French-themed dinners for Good Food Month are on Tuesday October 22 and 29 ($90, $120 with wine, 6257 4334). Eighty-six in Braddon offers Sunday lunches, $55, including a glass of champagne, no set menu (6161 8686). The Canberra performance of Blind Tasting, a one-woman show that combines wine and performance, is on October 18 at the Street Theatre, including a wine tasting with Shaw wines (6pm-8pm, $39, 6247 1223).