15 Kingsland Parade Casey, ACT 2913
|Features||Licensed, Accepts bookings, Bar|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 6253 8961|
The birthing of new suburbs is such an oddball thing, if anything but unusual in Canberra, which seems to be continuously spawning vast swathes of residential development. The problem is how you develop character and excitement when everything is built and populated at once.
Which is partly why we're surprised to discover Casey Jones. It's not that this place is especially full of character - it is, after all, in the corner of a new single-building shopping centre hopefully dubbed the Casey Market Town, but it has plenty of life; it's busy, modern and full of happy people. The other reason we're surprised is because Gungahlin is almost entirely foreign territory for us except for this one destination, a stone's throw from the Gold Creek school where we haul ourselves every Sunday morning in spring and summer for a thrilling session of futsal. Who would have thought there would be a restaurant here?
Casey Jones is a large space, but divided into different areas so it feels quite cosy, with brick, polished concrete and recycled timber and big windows, with a relaxed and good feel. The music is not subtle, which is in keeping with the casual and busy atmosphere.
The menu is in keeping with the "gastropub" theme, in so far as it offers a burger and a pasta, pizzas and other mains - all with a generous approach and modern interpretation. The burger is a "ciabatta burger" with beef ribs, harissa and pickles ($23.90).
And there's bar snacks such as crispy okra; chorizo with onions and peppers; and a crab slider in "charcoaled brioche", which is the second time we have encountered this strange offering in the space of a fortnight. Charcoaled brioche looks to be a burger bun with charcoal added for a black effect, all for effect methinks.
We head to the pizza menu for a pork sausage, potato, rosemary and fontina pizza ($21.90), a nicely unstructured pizza, crisp edged, with a good simplicity in the toppings. It's enjoyable, if not especially refined nor reaching the heights this combination can, and a little uninteresting in the base.
The pork belly ($25) comes as a generous plate - all the serves a big here - with a large piece of rolled belly with a stuffing of what might be preserved lemon and perhaps rosemary, adding interest to the meat. Alongside are chunks of beetroot and puree, shaved beetroot also, and a rather bland bed of red cabbage, with hot mustard fruit, and watermelon chunks. It's a large dish, a little unsubtle, even random and quite brash but generous.
We really like the egg pappardelle with braised lamb ($24), which tastes like something you might make at home - shredded lamb, rich with tomato, with good bitey pasta, peas and good fetta. This is a dish that makes sense, works in the context and is well-executed. Casey Jones also offers a kids' menu, with dishes for $10, and the spaghetti bolognese is well-liked at our table.
While Casey Jones is friendly in the feel and the service, it's also rather haphazard. Menus and water arrive as soon as we sit down, but there's a gap before someone comes back to take an order for drinks and dinner. When the wine arrives, it's already poured, so we don't see the bottles. Which is not unusual in Canberra but still not the way things should be done in our view.
There's quite a list of wines by the glass, but it doesn't venture into interesting or unusual territory - the whites hovering safely around riesling and sauvignon, with a local chardonnay (Pankhurst), a pinot grigio and a moscato. In the reds, you'll find Pankhurst sangiovese, Clonakilla's O'Riada shiraz and Lake George Cabernet Merlot by the glass among others. The list is quite short, and focussed largely on affordability. There's also an energetic cocktails menu, plus fresh juices and smoothies.
The food appears suddenly, but there was a mix-up and one dish was missed. We end up waiting an excessive amount of time for this dish to arrive and things start to feel a bit muddled.
The staff are pleasant, though, and hurry our desserts, which unfortunately let things down. There are two desserts on the menu - a clafoutis and a panna cotta, and you are invited to ask also about options in the dessert display.
But the main focus of deserts looks to be a list of "signature affogatos" ($21 each), of which we order two - "banana creme" and "white chocolate berry haven". They're kind of deconstructed desserts on little flat plates. There's ice-cream, flaked almonds, banana chips, biscuit crumbs, and other bits, but none of the components are interesting or inspiring in any way. There's also a shot of coffee and another of booze - Bailey's Irish Cream on one, and a "Chambord Bailey float" on the other. Not an ideal way to end a meal.
The affogato desserts need a rethink, in my view. But otherwise we like Casey Jones and would probably eat here regularly if we lived in the vicinity. It's a nice place to be and pitched well to get a regular local clientele.