Here's a project that has had my curiosity and anticipation building over the last few months! A.Baker is short for Acton Baker. Well, I only figured that out earlier this week (light bulb moment) but I, along with the rest of Canberra, had been keeping my eye on this project for some time. It is a collaboration between a team of foodies and designers as well as the guys who run Two Before Ten, made even popular by the Regional Produce Dinners and the 10 Yards Pop-up Restaurant they ran as a lead up and a teaser to the grand opening of A.Baker. If you want to know more about the crew behind A.Baker venture click here.
A.Baker is a bakery (obviously) as well as a restaurant and a wine bar. I read that the signature bread is a slow fermented sourdough made from flour ground on premises and of course there is a pastry chef as well. The restaurant is all about bistro style comfort food with the emphasis on local produce. The wonderful coffee that us Canberrans know and love is roasted just down the road at Two Before Ten. The bar also tries to keep things local with the inclusion of Australian spirits that you are unlikely to find elsewhere in Canberra. The wine list is also mainly Australian and Canberra region wines feature heavily on the list.
And then there's the design aspect of A.Baker which has so many wow factors about it. The stand out feature are the walls which have so much character and uniqueness about them; they are charred in places, stained in others with dramatic paint drips and splashes. It's definitely a conversation starter. Then there's the large courtyard with plenty of room for alfresco dining, the open kitchen, view into the bakery, the steel bar, impressive copper pendant lamps, brass edged tables and cosy little nooks and crannies to settle in for an evening. Oh and there is an underground speakeasy as well; how mysterious! The overall design is impressive on every level.
I was on a mission to show my out of town dining companion (a very accomplished blogger and a foodie from the west coast) some of Canberra's finest sights (foodwise of course) so we arrived at A.Baker for an early dinner on the second night they opened for business. Any concerns of opening week teething issues quickly subsided as the service was that of a well oiled machine with plenty of individual attention by the owners themselves. Their knowledge and obvious passion for good food along with the casual yet professional service was a breath of fresh hair.
The menu is meant for sharing, which is music to the ears of us food blogger as we like to try as many things on the menu as humanly possible, and then some.
We decided on half a dozen of delicious South Coast oysters ($3.50 each) to share along with four other small plates ($16 per dish).
Dutton Park duck ravioli with confit gizzards, broad beans, lemon and burnt butter was a delicious little parcel. Yes, confit is a fancy word but gizzard being the not so fancy things inside the digestive tract of a chicken, this might not be to everyone's taste. This was the first time I tried gizzard and I of course loved the meaty richness of it. The ravioli was cooked to perfection but the duck actually wasn't that memorable to me in this dish. However, the combination of the ravioli and confit gizzard with the freshness of the broad beans was definitely memorable for all the right reasons.
Marianvale Murray cod with black olive, brandade, broad bean and tomato was a light and delicate dish. The cod was flaky and lovely and saltiness of the brandade was well balanced by the fresh tomato.
Roasted Galston spatchcock with broccolini, lemon, Bredbo black garlic and Romesco was another standout dish. The spatchcock was deliciously crispy on the outside and moist on the inside and the Romesco was the perfect blend of creamy nutty spiciness to make each mouthful a delight.
Lemon and ricotta torta with golden raisins, honeycomb, yoghurt and Marsala ($14) was beautifully presented and looked almost too good to eat. The lightness of the torta was well balanced by the creamy yoghurt and the sweetness of the raisins and the honeycomb. It was a dessert that left you feeling satisfied but not in a sugar coma.
So the verdict: I have no doubt that A.Baker will become the darling of this town in no time. The menu is innovative in the way that classic dishes are given modern twists with some unusual surprises along the way. The nod towards all things local is to be much admired. And the service here is some of the best you are likely to find around town making A.Baker an experience not to be missed. Whether you are after a fresh breakfast or a loaf of sourdough to take home, a romantic meal, a quick bite to eat before/after a movie at the Palace Cinemas across the road or after work drinks, A.Baker has you covered. I'm already making breakfast plans here for the weekend (along with rest of Canberra, I suspect)!