65 Constitution Ave Campbell, ACT 2612
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 5100 5929|
We are all enjoying the rise in quality, casual eats in Canberra and as spring bursts forth, and we begin to thaw out, one of the freshest arrivals is The Pedlar.
Tucked behind the ASIO building and with cranes and building sites all around, this small, pretty joint finally delivers the long awaited pub Campbell residents have long hoped for.
Staff are very keen and very friendly, greeting you as you open the door and explaining and suggesting food and drinks in a relaxed, not suffocating way. It is clear they are all glad to be there.
A good range of pub standards are on show - cheeseburger, steak and chips, schnitzel - but then they branch out. Scallops come with cauliflower purée, braised beef cheek has Paris mash and roasted marrow, half a kilo of mussels are done in coconut and lemongrass stock.
We start with thin, crispy toasts which are well-topped with slices of grilled haloumi, and jammy red onion ($15). A perfect, substantial nibble with drinks, they are flavour-packed and, like the rest of the menu, a cut above the average pub fodder.
Oysters come natural or Asian-style Kilpatrick, ($16) which is bacony with a tang. Kingfish ceviche ($17) is a great dish, just right for a pub. Packed with avocado and good fish ("cooked" in lime juice) it's lifted right off the scale with liberal jewels of habanero chili jelly. Loaded onto cumin toasts this is a great dish, packed with flavour and freshness, exactly what you want with a glass of ice-cold riesling (Freak No 3, Clare Valley, $9) or a foaming lager.
All wines are available by the glass here, and real thought has been given to the selection. There is plenty you want to drink, five sparklings, two rosés, and two dessert wines if you are really pushing the boat out. Loads of Aussie options are sprinkled with the odd French or German, and creative cocktails include peach and yuzu mojito and a Vietnamese espresso martini. Beers on tap are plentiful and pressed juices, smoothies and milkshakes expand the brekkie and kid options nicely.
Scotch fillet ($26) is cooked medium rare as ordered, and is a good tender, flavoursome cut of beef. A thatch of fries and properly-made pepper sauce with generous, properly-dressed salad make this one of the best value steaks around.
And value is a common feature - from the wine list, with several good glasses at $7 and $8, to beef cheek under $30 - the value and quality outstrips many, more formal establishments.
Half a kilo of mussels ($23) are lovely little specimens bathed in a great Thai broth with a real kick, all mopped up with charred bread.
A bowl of sweet pumpkin and ricotta gnocchi is a riot of a dish, spiked with shards of crispy pancetta, threaded with strips of bitter radicchio, all coming together to make a great hungry person's pasta.
A huge date pudding ($13) is slightly dry, but full of good assertive flavours, and is well teamed with caramelised banana and terrific ginger ice-cream.
Looking around the room many are popping in for a glass and chips after work, or hoeing into a schnitzel, and there's nothing wrong with that, all the standard fare has a quality edge. But make sure you try the more adventurous dishes.
This joint is doing a great job with the food, not trying to jam overly fancy dishes into a pub, but making big boisterous confident food you'll want to eat again and again. Get into it.