I’m going to introduce to you my favourite cafe in Canberra, and probably one of my favourite cafes in Australia. The standards here are on par with those in the cafe capital of Melbourne, and I loved The Cupping Room so much I went there twice in the short 3 days that I was in Canberra visiting my brother, sister-in-law and baby nephew. Of course it helped that we stayed just a stone’s throw away in the ANU University House.
Situated in the heart of the Canberra CBD, The Cupping Room’s name is inspired from the cupping of coffee (not as suss as it sounds!), which is is the process coffee roasters and growers use to judge different coffees’ quality against each other without bias, and they have cupping sessions held free of charge every Wednesday and Sunday from 2.30pm (bookings essential). I didn’t get to go, but another blogger wrote about it in quite a lot of detail.
The space is a breezy little shack with foldable windows and plenty of good lighting, and the patrons are mostly uni students but there’s a fair share of Lycra-clad joggers / older adults / business people looking for good nosh. There’s a row of comfy fabric cushion sofas lined across the edge of the walls, and adequate breathing space between each table. There may be a short queue if you’re here during rush hour in the morning or lunch.
The clever thing about the menu is how they seem to more or less feature their same favourites in the menu but rotating with different ingredients on a seasonal basis (we were there in March and it was their Summer menu; it has now rotated to the Autumn menu) which takes advantage of fresh seasonal produce and reflect the overall mood of the seasons. There’s also a specials menu stapled onto the normal menu everyday which usually runs out of stock quite quickly.
On the lunch menu, my savoury-philic boyfriend got the Market fish burger ($21) – Oven baked sword fish steak, piled high with Mauritian pickle, aioli & zucchini ribbons in a brioche bun and fries on the side. The swordfish is too tough for RX’s liking, but I thought it was nicely seasoned, and taken with the zesty Mauritian relish, creamy aioli and the raw zucchini thins, it was a very satisfying brunch indeed.
Me on the other hand as a sweet-philic, was craving something lighter… so I got their amazingly good Bircher muesli ($13) with coconut milk soaked oats, chia seeds, grated pink lady apple, almonds, and passionfruit pulp. The flavours were such a great combination and the juicy crisp of the pink lady apple (my absolute favourite apple cultivar), almonds and tangy passionfruit made something as monotonous as muesli into a sensationally delightful breakfast. Surprisingly the coconut milk was not too heavy; perhaps it is a mixture of almond and coconut milk? I’ve never tasted such a delicious bircher muesli before. They were really generous with the chia seeds too; it was proportionally more than the oats!
Escabeche ($19) – one of the specials on the menu (they seem to rotate weekly with seasonal produce, so while it’s still on the autumn menu, it may not be kingfish anymore). Cured kingfish with heirloom beets, baby carrots, radish, jalapeños, boiled egg & anchovy aioli and gluten free bread (just wanted to try Deeks quinoa bread… it’s originally supposed to be sourdough toast. By the way they do charge extra for the GF bread; I think $1?) – RX’s favourite meal in Australia. Not to be confused with ceviche (raw fish), escabeche is a Meditarranena/Latin American dish of poached fish marinated in an acidic mixture served cold. The dish really piqued the palate with generous blocks of mellow and oh-so-soft poached kingfish, which had only a very mild vinegar taste. I don’t like cured food but this was really well done. The fresh heirloom veggies were piled in a beautiful fresh stack, and the jalapenos provided the hot kick to oomph the dish up. The soft boiled egg was seasoned with salt and pepper and provided a yolky creamy goodness to dip the nicely toasted bread.
Beautiful food…Hotcakes ($18) – Figs, strawberries, pomegranate, housemade honeycomb, crème fraîche, citrus syrup and berry gel ricotta hotcakes (I saw on their Facebook they have it with agave syrup; as I have read some people say it’s not sweet enough for them!). This is THE BOMB. Yep. Beats any other hotcake I’ve had in my life. I loved the generous heaping of fruits and despite its looks, it wasn’t too sweet. The creme fraiche, berries and pomegranate had a refreshing and sour touch while the crunchy honeycomb provided the sweetness needed to balance it off. The ricotta hotcakes were thick, fluffy and substantial; it’s really the good homemade stuff.
Real chai – infused with bonsoy ($5). The chai tea leaves came in a strainer and I could pour the honey-infused soymilk through. I asked for less sweet, but they advised me it was already pre-prepared; but luckily it wasn’t too sweet at all. Chai tea tastes so much more gingery and fragrant when it comes from the real thing and not syrup.
If you’re looking for wholesome, beautiful, and good food, I think you’ll know where to head if you’re in the capital of Australia.
The Cupping Room
1/1-13 University Ave, Canberra City 2601 Australia
Tel: +61 (02) 6257 6412
Opening hours: Monday-Friday: 7am-4pm ; Saturday-Sunday: 8am-3pm