Short trip to Canberra – day 2 of 2

Including reviews: Zipp Restaurant Bar, My Cafe, Dobinsons Bakery Cafe

On Saturday we woke up at 6 am. We got ready to hit the gym and went downstairs. Unfortunately there were two guys there, so it was a bit difficult to get to use the equipment. We stayed there for a while but then I suggested Gladys to go back to the room and do a bodyweight workout instead.

An hour or so later we were ready for the breakfast. My experience so far had been that buffet breakfasts are pretty standard, so they’re at least decent. How wrong was I. After getting one glass of water and one of juice we decided to start with porridge. I love porridge and I had never had a bad one until last Saturday. I topped mine with dried apricots, raisins, walnuts, dried apples and some fresh fruit (watermelon, rockmelon, pineapple). Gladys tasted her porridge first and she told me something was wrong. It was utterly sweet. Not only it had been already mixed with dried fruit but it hadn’t been soaked in water or milk, but in sweetened yogurt.

Zipp Restaurant Bar (Mantra hotel, Canberra) - Porridge (way too sweet), dried fruit, nuts and fresh fruit.

The second round was a savoury one. I got scrambled eggs, which were perfectly cooked and seasoned, canned baked beans (why on Earth would they put canned food in a hotel that is definitely not cheap?), an average hash brown and a croissant. There was also bacon and tiny sausages that I didn’t try. It would have been really good if they had included roasted tomatoes and mushrooms, as most restaurants offering breakkie buffets do. The eggs and the croissant were the only things on this plate I enjoyed.

Zipp Restaurant Bar (Mantra hotel, Canberra) - Scrambled eggs, CANNED baked beans, hash brown and croissant.

“Hot” beverages included a (limited) selection of teas, cold and watery coffee in flasks, full cream milk and skim milk.

Zipp Restaurant Bar (Mantra hotel, Canberra) - Cold, watery coffee with milk.

We realised a bit late that there was a table in a corner with different kind of sliced bread, toasters and spreads. I had a crumpet with peanut butter and raspberry jam, Gladys had a wholegrain toast with butter and jam.

Zipp Restaurant Bar (Mantra hotel, Canberra) - Toasted crumpet, peanut butter and raspberry jam.

There were pancakes and pastries, too. The sweet pastries were nice, I bet they came from the same provider as the croissants. The pancakes were terribly sweet; in spite of my sweet tooth, I could only had a bite.

Zipp Restaurant Bar (Mantra hotel, Canberra) - Sweet pastry, way too sweet pancake with syrup.

At this point and even when we left some food on the plates, we were already stuffed. But we knew we’d have to queue for at least 1.5 hours to get into the Masterpieces exhibition, so I made a final effort and got a raisin toast with butter. I don’t know where the bread came from but the slice was super thick and it tasted like really cheap stuff. Not yummy at all.

Zipp Restaurant Bar (Mantra hotel, Canberra) - Terrible raisin toast with butter.

Well fed (in terms of quantity but not quality), we went to the reception to ask how to get to the gallery. The receptionist in charge that morning lacked expression and customer service skills, and only told us “most people go in taxi”. We had been thinking about getting there walking but then we realised we’d waste precious minutes and we took a taxi. Our friendly driver asked us if we had had enough breakfast for the 1.5 to 2 hours of queuing. We had.

We arrived there at 9:15 am. There were two queues, one for people with tickets and other for people without them. At first sight the prepaid one didn’t seem too long but it actually went all the way to the garden of the next gallery, which is a separate building surrounded by big gardens.

National Gallery of Australia (Canberra) - Queue for Masterpieces from Paris

Some minutes after we arrived there was already a big queue behind us.

National Gallery of Australia (Canberra) - Queue for Masterpieces from Paris

At 10 am, the exhibition’s opening time for non-VIP people, the queue started to move slowly. We got to the gallery’s door at 11:00 approximately, only to find that there was more queue inside the gallery. Eventually we arrived to the first room of the exhibition (there were six in total) and even when we were tired and there were queues in front of most of the paintings, it was a really good experience. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to be that close to an original masterpiece again, and to be able to appreciate all the details in colour, shape, volume and depth that make the difference between ordinary and great.

Of course the gallery hosts a number of other exhibitions but we were too tired to visit them. We made a last queue to pay for some souvenirs we bought (Gladys got a book of the exhibition and I a print of my favourite Van Gogh’s painting, “Starry Night”). After that we sat down for 5 minutes and walked the almost 3 kilometers that separated us from Manuka, according to the guide one of the two suburbs every foodie must visit (the other one is Kingston).

Once again we saw ourselves surrounded by big houses with big gardens, lots of trees, a few parked cars and no people. When we arrived to Manuka there was not a single shop and we feared we had been misled. We walked towards the beginning of Franklin Street and were relieved when we saw people and shops. However, most restaurants were closed (some of them close at 2:00, others at 2:30), so were options were limited.

After having a look at the menus of the available places we decided to stay in My Cafe, which I’m pretty sure was in the guide, too. Service was a bit slow but eventually we ordered a lamb dish for Gladys and a spicy lentil and macadamia burger for me. We also ordered beer, and after some minutes of drinking and chatting a different waitress came to our table to let us know that Gladys’ choice was not available. She ordered a chicken, bacon and sundried tomatoes sandwich instead.

Food took long to arrive at our table, the kitchen was really small and all I saw coming out from it were beef burgers. When our meals arrived I had already finished my beer, so I ordered another one (which took long to arrive). Gladys had ordered her sandwich in a focaccia but it certainly looked like an average bread roll. There were fresh tomatoes inside, apart from a few sundried ones, and potato chips on the side. Gladys told me the chicken was cold.

My Cafe (Canberra) - Chicken, bacon and sundried tomatoes "focaccia"

My spicy burger was not spicy at all. I was waiting for a Middle Eastern kind of taste that was not there.

My Cafe (Canberra) - "Spicy" lentil and macadamia burger

The guacamole that was supposed to be on the patty was a really small and formless chunk of avocado. The salad, which I thought would be on the side, with the potato chips, was actually some lettuce leaves in the sandwich.

My Cafe (Canberra) - "Guacamole" on lentil and macadamia burger

We paid $14.50 and $14.90 for the sandwiches, again not a good deal for the quality of the food. We decided once again to avoid the risk of paying $8.50 for a dessert and took a taxi to the city centre. We went to the shopping centre to buy some food for the way back. We ate a berry pie there, then Gladys bought some biscuits she didn’t eat and I bought a Chicken Caesar focaccia, that ended up being the only really yummy thing I found in Canberra (it came from Dobinsons Bakery Cafe, the pie was from there too but it was nothing special). Funny I got it in a food court of a shopping centre.

Zipp Restaurant Bar
84 Northbourne Ave
Braddon ACT 2612
(02) 6243 2528

My Cafe
87 Grimwade St
Mitchell ACT 2911
(02) 6295 6632

Dobinsons Bakery Cafe
Bunda St
City ACT 2601
(02) 6257 5966


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