59 30 Lonsdale St Braddon, ACT 2612
|Opening hours||Mon to Fri 7am-3pm, Sat to Sun 8am-3pm, and 5pm-late Fri to Sun|
|Features||Breakfast-brunch, Cheap Eats, Events, Licensed, Outdoor seating, Wheelchair access|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
Having pressed my face against the window of Barrio for many months, longing to eat here, I have built up quite a load of expectation. It's excellent to see the two guys that seem to run the place here at 6am setting out the two or three tables, even when the temperature drops way below and the only other people on Lonsdale Street are the tradies arriving to contribute to the depressing gentrification and corporatisation of what was such a shabby street, and the yogies arriving for the first class of the day.
Now, they're there at the end of the day also, Friday to Sunday, running Barrio as a wine bar with food. Small businesses, run with this much focus and care, owners hands on, are always the best kind.
Overcome with excitement at finally eating here, we order the entire menu, all except the pickles and bread crisps with "fancy cheese". The guy looks a bit taken aback but heads to the other end of the room - that's about six or eight steps away - to action our request. There's not an actual kitchen at Barrio, just a couple of benches with coffee machine, and a kind of counter-top griller, by the looks. Which limits the actual cooking to quite an extent, but somehow Barrio works with this limitation with some aplomb.
Actually, I think they are mostly interested in the wine. They open a few bottles of interesting and unusual wine each night, leaning, the guy says, to non-intervention styles, and they like to help you understand it. Non-intervention, cloudy and a little crazy, is on-trend, and also matches what we like, so this is good. Wildflower sour ale is poured from a wine bottle into a wine glass at wine size, which is weird, and it's good, grippy, more like a cider than a beer. Manon sauvignon from the Adelaide Hills from a trendy small organic maker has the hallmarks of this kind of winemaking, where it's not easy to categorise and funky is a sign of success.
We're sitting on stools, of which there are fewer than 20 in this tiny room, at the lovely long central table, made of a slice of tree trunk and surveying the ingredients stack on a shelf that are both used in in the kitchen and sold for you to take home. Which we do - a pack of purple corn tortillas, which we use to try to replicate tonight's "taco of the week".
It's an unusual combination. Chunks of chicken with a satay sauce, a convention flouter like the wine, but we just enjoy it. The purple tortillas are dramatic and soft, the fired chicken is scattered with coriander leaves as well as the hot peanut sauce. Great value at $12 for two little tortlilas.
Charred corn dip ($10) takes the weird a little too far for our liking. The charred flavour is unmissable and the dominant flavour, but thankfully it tastes real rather than using horrendous artificial smoke. It's topped with a scatter of dried crunchy greens, which he tells us are carrot tops.
Conversely, we are big fans of the crostini ($5), three little dried rounds of toast with a spread of zucchini dip, beautiful chunks of pickled cherry tomatoes and fresh mint. Simple and delicious.
The eggplant ($12) should be great but is a little undercooked, so not super squishy like eggplant in its best state for eating. It's a long half of eggplant, topped with miso and togorashi Japanese red pepper mix. It's salty and meaty with the miso, but really needs more cooking.
We had asked for the entire menu and realise at this point that we missed out on the chips. The guy had assumed we didn't mean the chips to boot and we understand why once he brings them - they're just crisps from a pack and dusted with red spice mix. We had visions of homemade crisps, potato skins still evidence on the edges, and we're disappointed to get the bog standard commercial variety. In retrospect, given the lack of equipment in the kitchen, and the minimal bodies at work, and the fact that this is primarily a hole in the wall wine bar, our idea of the chips was misguided, especially with a price point of $3.50.
The other thing you won't find here is dessert but no matter. Because just out the door and turn left into the little shopping centre you'll find John Marshall's ice cream shop, Frugii Dessert Laboratory, where you couldn't find a better way to finish the meal.
We are happy with Barrio and like it a lot. It hasn't fulfilled our over-blown dreams of a teensy food mecca, but it's eclectic, enjoyable, nicely targeted and we will return frequently. We are also looking forward excessively to the eatery that Barrio opens in No Name Lane mid-year, to which these dishes are a prelude.