143 London Circuit Canberra, ACT 2601
|Features||Accepts bookings, Wheelchair access, Licensed|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 6247 8301|
Now that the ACT election is done and dusted, there'll be a brand new crop of staffers, pollies and journos slipping across the road for a working lunch or a coffee on London Circuit.
So just as well that for the past month or two Social & Co has been open ready for them. In years' past this was the home of Tosolini's, where many a journalist and media advisor would have a casual, off the record chat.
But times have changed and this is now Social & Co, which has slightly more of a work drinks and bar feel. The front of the restaurant is filled with big high tables along the wide windows, perfect for apres-5pm groups and people watching. More formal dining tables fill up a platform at the rear of the room. This afternoon the whole place is filled with light from the street.
And yes, there are a scattering of office workers enjoying a pint by the windows, looking suspiciously as though a pizza is on the cards later in the evening. The drinks list includes a set of ornately described cocktails, from negroni to espresso martini, while wines are wide ranging by the glass, from a Four Winds riesling to an Italian fiano.
In the kitchen here is Darren Perryman, a chef with plenty of experience from Autolyse to the fine dining First Floor in Kingston. The menu is split between small share plates, big plates, a list of pizzas and a section that includes big shared items for two or more people, such as a whole roast chicken ($50) or a 1kg aged rib-eye ($80).
It's going for a "bit of everything" vibe but feels a little disjointed to me - should we order a main, something bigger, a pizza? Will the small plates work for an entree? There are only two of us tonight, so we skip the entree and go into the mains.
A big slow-cooked lamb shoulder ($26) is lovely and tender, gently reclining on a bed of hummus with a layer of tabbouleh hidden in between. Slices of flatbread are fanned out on the side of the bowl for scooping purposes and there's a little frill of crispy fried kale on the top just to keep things current. This is a delightfully generous, laid back dish, from the plentiful bread to the properly fall apart chunks of meat and the creamy tang that the hummus brings to lift proceedings.
Pizza with jalapenos, Casalingo salami and pineapple ($25) is nicely smoky on the edges but towards the middle the weight of all the cheese leaves it overly soft and floppy for my liking. You're going to have to resort to cutting with a knife and fork. And the combination of the slightly pickly jalapenos with creamy cheese with sweet pineapple chunks doesn't sit right for me, the flavours mingling with all the grace of wide-eyed grads at a SNOG mixer in early February.
Still, there's a fair bit we're liking so far about Social & Co - service lags a little towards the end of the meal when we're looking for a dessert menu but has been prompt and attentive so far, with the right amount of casual charm for a place like this.
Desserts when they arrive include chunks of fluffy pistachio cake served with dabs of a sweet orange gel and a good scoop of pistachio gelato and crumb, the whole thing rounded out by tart yoghurt ($17).
A manchego cheesecake is adventurously tangy and salty sweet, not your typical cheesecake, served with a sphere of not-too-sweet raspberry gelato ($17).
This is a competent addition to Civic, falling more into the category of the post-works drinks, pre-show dinner crowd rather than a destination dining spot. It's got a welcoming vibe and a menu that takes a bit more of a chance than your usual bar with food.
Go-to Dish: Slow-cooked lamb shoulder, $26.