Lanterne Rooms

Welcoming .... Daniel Mark, head chef of the Lanterne Rooms.
Welcoming .... Daniel Mark, head chef of the Lanterne Rooms. Photo: Jay Cronan

3 Blamey Crescent Campbell, Australian Capital Territory 2612

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Opening hours Tue - Fri 12 Noon – 2:30 PM 6:00 – 10:00 PM, Sat 6:00 – 10:00 PM
Features Vegetarian friendly, Wheelchair access, Business lunch, Licensed
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Daniel Mark
Seats 70
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 02 6249 6889

Canberra Times Top 20 Restaurants for 2013: No.7

Not sure whether this happens to you, but every time I enter the Lanterne Rooms, I'm expecting to walk in on the Crazy 88 scene from Kill Bill where O-Ren Ishii's Yakuza army is being hacked to pieces by Black Mamba. I know Lanterne is more Malaysian country house than Japanese slaughterhouse, but I get distracted by the bamboo and grainy wood screens, the low lights, and the eastern feel.

There's an elegance and restraint to the look and service, so very different to the increasingly hipster-run destinations. There's no act at Lanterne.

Tofu and eggplant with roasted tomatoes and black sesame, at the Lanterne Rooms.
Tofu and eggplant with roasted tomatoes and black sesame, at the Lanterne Rooms. Photo: Jay Cronan

The food embraces the Nyonya tradition of blending foods and techniques of the local Malay and the Fukien traders. This early fusion defines Nyonya cooking and at Lanterne it's taken a little further to simmer in the modern melting pot of Australian dining.

It's the kind of place where I'm really happy for them to decide on the food. Marinated scallops and calamari with vegetable achar and watercress is such a simple but multi-layered dish. Chunky daikon with that distinct earthy aroma balances the sweetness of carrot, both the base for the classic Asian achar salad, and the pair of marinated molluscs mirrors the vegetables, earthy scallop and sweet calamari. A very well put-together dish.

Crispy tofu and eggplant with roasted tomatoes and black sesame is a dish all about intensity and texture. Really, you could just eat your way through the entrees at Lanterne, which are so defined and interesting, carrying that Nyonya influence.

In the main courses, you'll find signature dishes such as twice-cooked pork rib with black vinegar and palm sugar. Duck kapitan and Kamping blackmore wagyu curry are always so easy to order, you know they'll be super satisfying and as interesting as they were when the menu was being developed.

The wine is tailor-made for the Peranakan-influenced food, quite tidy these days but always easy to choose from.

Lanterne Rooms has been open in this quiet corner of the Campbell shops for more than five years and still excites with the interesting menu, good service and lovely surrounds. And they've kept the Crazy 88 at bay.