Forget everything you know about takeaway. In a time where people are experimenting more in the kitchen and are more conscious of where their food comes from, they’re also wanting more from their takeaway. And more and more Canberra venues are coming to the party.
Grabbing a quick and easy dinners on the way home, no longer mean you’re restricted to cheap pizza, Asian cuisine and Indian curries. Now you can find slow-cooked lamb shanks, pork ribs, sophisticated salads and gourmet burgers – all which can be enjoyed at home without setting foot in the kitchen.
On Lonsdale Street in Braddon, the prime example of a high-end takeaway is Pizza Gusto. It has gained a cult following over the years for wood-fired pizzas with simple but sophisticated toppings, served efficiently out of a rather spare shopfront dominated by the pizza oven.
Then in January, another takeaway shop opened up on the strip - Chez Frederic, which serves pastas, ragout, stews and paella in simple cardboard boxes with wooden cutlery. Everything is to go and if you want to sit down to your meal, you just take it over to the big communal tables.
Sara Pouget is the owner. She opened the eatery for a simple reason - her father Frederic owned a similar shop at home in Perth and she wanted to do the same here. But she thinks the popularity of gourmet takeaway comes from people having a higher level of concern about what they put in their mouths. “I think we’re more health conscious now,” she says.
Chez Frederic is all about the takeaway and is set up to provide quick, easy and high-quality food. There's a standard lunch and dinner menu, including handmade pasta and hearty meat dishes, plus a selection of inventive options on the specials board every night.
Pouget says her team take particular care in sourcing their produce, using only organic, grass-fed or free-range meat, and importing some specialty products direct from Italy to give an authentic taste. The result is equivalent to what you would expect from a restaurant – but can be quickly picked up and taken home with you.
“Doing it as takeaway in the style we do it, we’re able to keep the prices reasonable, as we don’t need as many staff and the plates and everything we use mean that costs are lower,” she says. “Our overheads in general are lower so we can give restaurant quality food, which I think people want.”
While the food is fancy, the rest of the experience is kept simple. The plates are disposable and the feel is very casual. On Friday nights there's a queue of public servants and Braddon hipsters picking up meals for a quiet night in after a long week.
“It’s about 50/50 between dine in and takeaway,” says Pouget. “We have customers that come in two or three times a week. It’s perfect for people in apartments.”
Takeaway is all about convenience and with people leading increasingly busy lives, Pouget says this is the main thing that makes takeaway a winner. “I’m a couch potato I guess – if I can have the chance to relax I will,” she says “Everyone’s so busy now, it’s nice to have something that feels like you’ve actually cooked it at home.”
It’s a line of thought that Grant Kells, owner of Smoque, agrees with. “I love to get takeaway,” he says. “I live alone and, well, cause I work in a restaurant all day – when I go home I like to not spend time in a kitchen.”
Kells’ Southern American BBQ restaurant in Civic offers its entire menu as takeaway, all served in the traditional brown paper bags. “Barbecue food itself is just awesome for takeaway. It still tastes great if you microwave it the next day too.”
In fact, it's so popular that Kells says takeaway now accounts for about 30 per cent of Smoque's business. “We really push our takeaway – and we have a big food wall to keep it all warm,” he says.
“Our wings and ribs and everything are designed for takeaway, and we just change some things up a little bit so they travel well. Like the coleslaw on our burgers, we put in a polystyrene container.”
And it’s not just eateries that have jumped on the takeaway bandwagon. The recently opened brewery Bentspoke in Braddon has launched its Traveller bar, offering the option to take fresh draught beer or cider away from the bar.
Owner Dan Watters says it’s a fairly unusual concept, but one that people have quickly taken to.
“It has been really, really popular,” he says. “The real advantage that you’re getting is fresh draught beer. When you buy a normal takeaway beer, it might have been in the bottle for a year or more. You can really taste the difference.”
To buy the takeaway beer, customers must purchase the BentSpoke Traveller – a two-litre refillable, insulated and pressurised container. The Traveller keeps its contents ice cold and a valve inside the lid allows you to pressurise the vessel, in case you don’t finish the contents in one sitting.
“You can choose what you want the Traveller filled with – at the moment we have seven different beers and one cider. And everything is brewed here on premises,” he says.
As with so many other parts of our lives, the internet has helped boost our access to takeaway. There's the website and app Menulog, which allows users to order and pay for meals online. And if you're feeling particularly slothful, you can use the Delivery Hero app to order a meal and have it brought directly to your home.
Julia Snabl, Menulog's marketing manager, says takeaway in Canberra is on the rise. The company has been running in Canberra for eight years and Snabl says they’ve had an increase in both takeaway orders placed through their site, as well as venues who have signed up to offer takeaway.
“We now have 42 takeaway restaurants in Canberra [on Menulog],” she says. “It increases every year - more people order takeaway pretty much every day every week.”
If you scroll through the Menulog app, you'll see the majority of those restaurants offer the standard Thai, Indian, Chinese or Italian dishes. But Snabl says the company is starting to see an increase in restaurants with unusual cuisines coming on board.
“We’ve seen a few Japanese places, plus Mongolian and German,” she says.
So Canberra's showing an appetite for a new style of takeaway, something that's much more than fast food or suburban fare. We like to eat out and maybe we now want to take restaurant-style food home with us too. And no matter what sort of takeaway we like, there are more and more ways to get our fix.
Canberra's gourmet takeaways
Chez Frederic, Braddon
The Italian eatery that aims to provide restaurant quality takeaway, with pasta and meat dishes.
Pizza Gusto, Braddon
The original cult takeaway, Pizza Gusto offers wood-fired pizzas on the go. The menu ranges from simple white pizzas with rosemary and garlic to more lavish offerings.
While there is a more extensive menu if you’re eating in, Shorty’s range of burgers plus a few of its sides are available as takeaway. And these are no dull burgers – ranging from pulled barbecue pork to southern fried chicken.
This American barbecue puts in hours of patience to create its signature smoked dishes, saving you ample time in the kitchen. Everything on the regular menu is available takeaway.
La Scala, Civic
If you’re after serious pasta, traditional Italian spot La Scala offers a takeaway menu Sunday to Thursday nights. And best of all, they range from $12-$15.
Need something to wash down your meal? The new T.A.B. – takeaway bar – is open at Bentspoke, meaning you can avoid the crowds and take home their brews with you.
The Mediterranean restaurant offers a full takeaway menu offering mezze, grilled dishes, pides and salads.
Brodburger and Brod Dog
A Canberra institution, Brodburger’s move from the little red caravan to the Canberra Glassworks has meant wait times have gone down, but the quality of burgers has remained the same. The caravan has now been given a new life selling gourmet Brod Dogs in the Westfield Belconnen carpark.
Flint at Shaw Vineyard
You can now get takeaway lunches at this sunny restaurant in the pastoral reaches of Murrumbateman.
This is casual Thai dining executed well - grab a crispy fish salad that's full of flavour to take home.