When I asked my 16-year-old daughter where she’d like to go for our short mid-winter break, I had visions of sunning myself in Broome or Far North Queensland—but as usual, she surprised me with “Somewhere really cold. Hobart, Canberra or Kangaroo Island!”. It was only the two of us going this time, so we did some Googling and, tempted by the range of vegan options in our national capital, we settled on a 3-day break in Canberra.
My daughter (let’s just call her ‘H’ for now) went on a school camp to Canberra only a couple of years ago, but apart from an overnight stop on the way to Merimbula (25 years ago) and a one-day work trip, I hadn’t been there since I was 10. After talking to friends, I was prepared to be frozen and bored—but Canberra was full of surprises, and turned out to be a great place for a short winter break.
As you’ll know, there’s a lot to see, and we didn’t even get to half of what we’d planned. We made it to the War Memorial, Parliament House, the National Museum, ANU and Canberra Theatre, but didn’t get time for the Gallery, Library or Questacon. But most importantly, we ate lots of great vegan food!
We came across the aptly named blog, Canberra Vegan, so we planned our trip around vegan eateries, rather than tourist attractions.
Sweet Bones Bakery – false start!
First stop was Sweet Bones Bakery…but we’d neglected to check the opening hours (8am-2pm) and arrived at 2.20pm, just in time to read the ‘Shut happens’ sign, but still see the remaining diners finishing off their meals. I was so hungry, tired and disappointed that I almost wept and begged them to feed me, but I decided to be an adult about it (when I saw the look of warning in my daugher’s eyes. Don’t you DARE embarrass me!), so I played Pollyanna’s Glad Game and looked at it as an opportunity to discover somewhere else to eat. >:-/
Only a couple of doors away was the Mexican takeaway chain, Zambrero’s, that my son had raved about after a trip to Canberra. We were able to get a taco and a burrito with beans, salad and salsa, and enjoy them while watching a whole lot of old film clips of The Cure from the 70s, 80s and 90s (Robert Smith looked like such a little boy in the early ones!). It WAS going to be a great holiday after all!
For dinner that night, we eventually found our way to Kingsland, a warm, casual, friendly restaurant in the same vein as the Loving Hut, which offered a huge menu and a TV running the SupremeMaster TV channel. Mock meats aren’t usually our thing but, in awe of the prospect of being able to choose from the WHOLE MENU, we’d decided to try it out. Sadly, as we were taking our seats, my phone rang. It was one of my cousins with the terrible news that his older brother had died suddenly, so of course, this was a rather subdued meal.
We weren’t actually all that tempted by the mock meat menu. Somehow, even when you know it’s not animal, the descriptions of pork, chicken and fish don’t really get the taste buds going. We finally chose to share some dumplings and ‘duck’ with salad and steamed rice, which were pretty good. We probably would have enjoyed the salt & pepper tofu more, but we wanted to try something we wouldn’t normally eat.
The banana fritters for dessert were great! We chose chocolate soy ice cream (H had strawberry topping and I had maple syrup) to accompany them. They were hot and sweet and delicious on a cold, sad kind of night.
Best of all, as there was a mid-week special on, our dinner only cost a TOTAL of $25! Who could argue with that?
Sweet Bones Bakery – take 2
Rather than take on our hotel’s buffet breakfast, which seemed to consist of eggs, bacon and a choice of milk (low-fat dairy and full-fat dairy), we decided to head out to Sweet Bones again…nice and early this time!
Hidden away in a groovy, hipster, warehousy/arcade-type mall, Sweet Bones is a totally vegan café that shows what can happen when a couple of people with a great idea manage to get Kickstarter funding. This is now my favourite place to eat—if only I lived in Canberra!
I had a steaming bowl of corn chowder with sour dough toast, and H had her favourite: toast with avocado, tomato and cracked pepper. We took away a hazelnut chocolate brownie and a gluten-free chocolate coconut brownie, along with soy hot chocolates to drink on our travels.
Most of the restaurants and cafes we found seemed to close between about 2pm and 6pm—so it was tricky to get an early meal. This meant that, as we were out at Canberra Theatre that evening (more about that later), our next proper meal was at Sweet Bones the following morning!
Sweet Bones – take 3
This time I had an eggplant wrap with tomato, spinach and cashew ricotta (I’m told the secret is soaked cashews roughly blended with silken tofu—Yum!), accompanied by a cannellini bean, red onion and parsley side dish.
I followed this with my first BOUGHT green smoothie (pictured at the top of this post), which was so delicious that H went back to get her own. She’s less enthusiastic about my green (actually, brown, because I add raspberries) smoothies. This one was kale, apple juice, banana, flax oil and hemp seeds, and was a vivid ‘soylent’ green. I’ve been making them at home and they are becoming a bit of a family favourite.
Sweet Bones seems to be best known for its cupcakes and brownies, but their meals are fantastic—just the kind of food I like to eat— delicious and interesting but not fussy. Check out their Facebook page to see their range.
We REALLY wanted to try the vegan Ethiopian food at Fekertes, but due to those crazy Canberra restaurant hours, we had to choose between Sweet Bones and Fekerte’s for lunch. Dinner was out, because that wouldn’t have given us time to get to the airport by 7pm, so we settled on the only vegan dinner we could find—fruit salad, nuts and a packet of chips at the airport.
Ethiopian food and the National Library will just have to wait until our next visit.
Slava’s Snow Show
Don’t let anyone tell you Canberra is boring! We were busy the whole time and were definitely well fed. We were even lucky enough to stumble across the opening night of this show by an ex-Cirque du Soleil clown at Canberra Theatre. It was a great bit of escapism. One review said that it was “a fantasy experience capable of catapulting the worst of sceptics into a world of fantasy”, and sitting next to a 16-year-old, I can tell you that’s true! Have a look…