Out and About: Eating Aussie Style

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”  ~James Michener

November 5: This page is devoted to the food I’ve eaten while I’ve been in Australia.  It seems fitting that the quote above comes from one of my favorite authors, and I’ve done my best to eat my way through this sabbatical!

Meals: My first experience with eating something out of my ordinary was pizza topped with pumpkin and feta, at Trilogy in Woden.  I met Meredith and her friends for dinner and they raved about this pizza. I did eat a slice, and  I have since learned that pizza with pumpkin and feta is a staple at most pizza places.  In  fact, pumpkin in anything other than pie is quite popular.  I prefer a pizza with meat and tomato sauce…. call me old fashioned, I guess.

Slice of New York style pizza (I love NY Pizza, Canberra)


I have yet to eat a burger with “the lot” – meat patty, cheese (real, not processed), onions (fried or raw), pineapple, beet root, eggs, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and “sauce”  – but I have eaten a burger with most of this stuff on it.  Sean Muir roadtripped all over Australia looking for the best burger with the lot, but I’ll settle for one (or one nearly like it) in the Canberra area.  Dobinsons Bakery Cafe on Bunda Street has an “Aussie Burger” with chicken schnitzel, beetroot, egg, bacon…, so I might give that a go at some point soon.

Burger with most of "the lot", but no egg or pineapple or bacon (Hogsbreath Cafe, Canberra)


Those of you who know about Fatty’s in Waikiki know that their won-ton noodle soup is a Zellner favorite.  In search of a good substitute in Canberra, I got a noodle soup with wontons at the Chinese take-out in the Canberra Centre Food Court (yeah, that should’ve been my first clue). It looks pretty good, but it’s not nearly as tasty as the soup at Fatty’s or even the one at Emperor’s in Albany.

WonTon Noodle Soup (Food Court, Canberra Centre)


Donna, my landlady, cooked dinner for me almost every night, and all of the meals included a nice glass (or two) of wine from Australia or New Zealand.  She is a fantastic cook and I miss her meals now that she is on holiday.  We ate duck sausages with pears, vegetable green curry, and many Indonesian-inspired meals.  We also had lamb chops, lamb cutlets, lamb shanks, lamb kabobs, lamb wraps – basically, anything with lamb.  In an overestimation of my appetite, she made giant bowls of tabouli and hummus.  It took me days to eat it all.

Hummus, anyone?

Perhaps the best meals she made were basic meat and potatoes… only in this case it was schnitzel and potato salad and beef Wellington with salad.  It took me a few days to eat those, too.

Beef Wellington, ala Donna


The population of Germans in Australia means that there are plenty of German restaurants.  I ate at the Bavarian Bier Cafe when I was in Manly and enjoyed their wurst platter with a nice hefeweizen.

Wurste (Bavarian Bier Cafe, Manly)


Tilley’s is a “Canberra institution”, as described to me by both Meredith and Tanya.  With a description like that, I had to go.  I learned that when it opened in 1984, it was intended to be a space for women. That policy was soon abandoned, however, when several cadets from the Royal Military College in Duntroon attempted to force their way.  Fortunately, Tilley’s is on the busline, so one Friday night, I had dinner there – wild mushroom bruschetta with spinach and feta.  Good meal, good wine.  And some good-looking men, too!

I didn’t eat out for breakfast much but Meredith, Kirsten and I had a nice brunch at Cafe Injoy in Nicholls.  The portions were huge, but in the spirit of Mom’s clean plate policy, I finished off the Breaky Stack and washed it down with a flat white.

Sourdough bread, cheese, spinach, ham, grilled tomato, poached eggs (and Meredith's mushrooms), drizzled with Aoli oil (Cafe Injoy, Nicholls)

Other dining events on the schedule include a country lunch at Grazing at Gunderoo, featuring fresh local ingredients, and a Sounds of Silence dinner at Uluru, where I will eat kangaroo and barramundi while listening to a didgeridoo under the southern stars.
Sweet Desserts and Other Treats: Dobinsons is well-known for its pastries and most did not escape my tastebuds. The tarts are good for one person; larger versions of all varieties exist (at ~$18 AUD) if you’re having a party.

Which to choose? One or all? (Dobinsons, Canberra)

 A nice afternoon at Adore Tea resulted in me being exposed to Mortal Sin. I ate it.

Mortal Sin involves cheesecake, chocolate mousse, and a cakey crust (Adore Tea, Nicholls)

Of course, you’ve already seen my stash of candy bars (and I have added more), but I should mention that the biscuits here are also quite good. BTW, “biscuit” is Aussie for “cookie”.  Anzac biscuits and TimTams are two of my favorites. I blame, I mean thank, Claire for introducing me to TimTams before I left Michigan – yummy chocolatey-goodness!! 

What's left of my TimTams! 1 in every 2 households here contains a package of these.


Drinks: The Australians love their coffees, which really means they love their caffe lattes, cappuccinos, flat whites, chai lattes, and combinations involving sugar, soy milk, and flavors.  I discovered Koko Black‘s cinnamon hot chocolate and became an instant fan of it. Yum Yum! Beats Swiss Miss any day (even with the little marshmallows!)

Cinnamon Hot Chocolate (Koko Black, Canberra)

Most of my morning coffee (caffe latte, flat white, chai latte, butterscotch latte, cappuccino  – whatever the mood wanted) is “take-away” (that’s Aussie for ” to go”) from Smooth Bean in Civic.   Katie, the owner, always greets me by name (as she does every customer) and the service is friendly and quick. 

"One skinny flat white, please!" (Smooth Bean, Canberra)


“The gentle art of gastronomy is a friendly one. It hurdles the language barrier, makes friends among civilized people, and warms the heart.” ~ Samuel Chamberlain

Of course a good meal isn’t nearly as tasty without good company and for that I must thank Tanya and Tim and Meredith and her friends, as well as the many others I shared a meal with.

Tanya and Tim: Now that's a knoife! (Hogsbreath Cafe, Canberra)

Afternoon tea with Meredith and Kirsten (Adore Tea, Nicholls)


“You don’t win friends with salad.” ~ Homer Simpson

Unless you’re a great cook, as is Donna, who usually included a tasty green salad with dinner.  Thank you, Donna!  

When she isn't in her kitchen, Donna is usually tending to her beautiful garden.


Other Food and Drink:
Fish-n-Chips at Bondi Beach
Sticky Date Pudding in Tasmania
Tapas Tasting Plate (including kangaroo!) in Paddington (Sydney)
Latte at London Grill (Civic)
McDonald’s Advertisement (Civic)
Buffalo Cheese Frittata (Civic)
Burger with The Lot (Alice Springs)
Cake – too much cake! (Manuka)

Other Links:
Meat pies are quite popular, as are sausage rolls.  They’re not my favorite, but some people really like them.
Official website of Koko Black
Watch Crocodile Dundee say “That’s a knife!”
OMG! Does CNN know I’m in Australia?  Some of my food is on this list!

Some Vocabulary:
prawn = shrimp (any and all sizes)
capsicum = pepper (any and all colors)
schooner = pint (of beer)
nibbles = snacks (as in before or after seminars)
rocket = green leaf used often in salads; arugula
coriander = cilantro
chook = chicken
snag = sausage
tomato sauce = ketchup; catsup