21 Lonsdale Street Braddon, Australian Capital Territory 2612
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 8am-3pm; Tues-Sun 6pm-10pm; Sat-Sun 8am-3pm|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Wheelchair access, Licensed, Outdoor seating|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||0436 355 732|
Latin American eatery Elk and Pea has been a stalwart amongst the construction and development on Lonsdale Street for years, but it's had a bit of a change with Sophia and Leeroy Petersen taking over the venue from original owner Bria Sydney in September last year.
While the layout remains the same, there are welcome additions and a few changes. Gone is the giant birdcage structure in the middle, and the seating area just inside the door has been given a fresh makeover with new bench seating and bright artworks. But many of its original quirks remain – the peacocks on the rafters, the framed oil paintings on the ceiling and the colourful wallpaper features in the toilets.
The menu is new too, and has only just started the week we visit for dinner. It's short and relaxed, and split into 'something light' starters, three types of fajitas, three salads, three larger shared mains, and three desserts.
For drinks there are a few beers, and an adequate wine list – about half are international, half Australian and just the one local – and all bar one are available by the glass.
Where the drinks menu really shines is the cocktail list – perhaps the touch of co-owner Leeroy who is a bartender with champion flair. There are seven creative cocktails on the menu, although the bar staff are more than open to whipping up something else if you're so inclined.
The Northern Boarder ($18), is a fresh and zesty tequila concoction that pairs up beautifully with the food, and the Chanel No. 5 ($18), a mix of coconut and butterscotch liqueur, fresh-pressed coffee bean, kaffir lime leaf and gin, that's so indulgently delicious, it really should live on the dessert menu.
But to the food. To start we try the Mexican street corn ($6 per piece). It's one of my favourite dishes usually, and Elk and Pea's iteration doesn't disappoint. It's beautifully charred, smoky and covered in lime and a healthy grating of manchego.
The con carne fajitas ($21) come deconstructed with three soft tortillas, and mounds of lettuce, cheese, tomato, jalapenos, and avocado, plus succulent, shredded meat and a simple yet full of flavour chimichurri. If there are four of you, ask for an extra tortilla – there's enough filling leftover.
Service is friendly and relaxed, if a bit hard to come by at times. But by now we're completely engrossed in what has landed on our table. The lamb shoulder ($75) is a serious hunk of meat, falling off the bone, with a sweet and sticky glaze, served on a creamy bed of sweet potato, surrounded by hunks of roasted tomato and onion.
It's served with generous sides – roasted skin-on potatoes, crispy Asian greens and beans. This is not a dish for only two people – it would have satisfied us and a couple more people as dinner alone – but we can't help trying to (unsuccessfully) polish off the shoulder, feeling it would be criminal to leave such beautiful meat uneaten.
Before the lamb, we had every intention of visiting the dessert menu, but it's not to be tonight.
As the crowd increases, the noise does too – this is the place for a casual catch-ups with friends and groups, not an intimate date night.
But if you're after a bit of fun and some hearty Latin American food, Elk and Pea is exactly the place for it.