Urban Pantry or Average Pantry? Manuka

Every time I walk past Urban Pantry in Manuka it’s heaving with people. Always super busy, loud and according to their website ‘both intimate and sophisticated with urban sensibilities‘. For those of us without urban sensibilities, this means it’s a bit wanky. Despite this, I was feeling optimistic when I headed there with the family to get brunch and see off a friend who was moving to the Philippines.

The venue is in a lovely spot on the corner of the grass square between Bourgainville Street and Palmerston Lane. There are a couple of big grassy squares with trees in the middle where small children can play. We had a warm spring day with the pollen floating from the trees.

fullsizeoutput_7deInside Urban Pantry, the space is light and clean with pretty white framed windows, white tiled walls and a large brick feature wall with ‘Urban Pantry’ stencilled on it. There two outdoor dining areas. It’s a rustic looking space and there was plenty of sunshine coming in through the huge windows. It’s a noisy place to eat too. This was partly due to the sheer number of people who were there for brunch but also the music was really loud. We had to talk with raised voices to be heard.

When we arrived around 11am, the place was pretty busy and there was a queue outside of about five groups. We’d fortunately booked a table so headed in and found our soon-to-be expat friend had arrived a bit earlier. Before spotting our table, we received some pretty serious greasy’s from the staff when we pointed out we had booked.

The service we got at Urban Pantry was poor to middling. The majority of staff were abrupt and treated us like an inconvenience with the exception of one staff member who, while friendly enough, didn’t have a great knowledge of coeliac suitable food and gave some conflicting information.

After waiting for about 15 minutes, the friendly staff member came over to take our coffee orders while we waited for our final friend to arrive. I briefly discussed my coeliac requirements with the staff and explained I needed to eat gluten free and have food prepared separately, specifying that the toast needed to be cooked in a separate toaster or grill. I was told that everything on the menu was gluten free and that she’d check with the kitchen about the toast.

Thinking that the English Muffin Benedict would be a good option, I asked about the foodfullsizeoutput_7b4 prep, specifically for the potato rosti and was told that this was not gluten free due to cross contamination with the fryer, despite being told earlier that ‘everything’ was gluten free. Feeling a bit nervous about the information I was receiving, the staff member went to the kitchen to check about the toast and I had another look over the menu for something that looked like it would be safe to eat.

After another 15 minutes, our coffees arrived and shortly afterwards, our Bolivian buddy arrived. We chatted and perused the menu while we waited for someone to take our order. After another 15 minutes, the friendly staff member came over. She confirmed that she’d spoken to the kitchen staff and that the toast would be grilled separately. I opted for the Baked Sicilian eggs, Michael had the Brioche French toast, our Bolivian buddy got the Chefs Pan and our soon-to-be expat friend ordered the Urban Avocado.

When I ordered, I confirmed the baked eggs were gluten free and we waited for our food. We waited for about 20 minutes, which I know isn’t a very long time, but having arrived at 11am it felt like it was – we didn’t receive our food until past 12pm. We’d also all polished off our drinks by the time the food arrived, which is a bit of a pet peeve. Still, the coffee was very nice.

Unfortunately, when the food did arrive, it was uninspiring. Michael’s Brioche French toast was disappointing. He said the brioche was stale and very dry. The egg hadn’t soaked into the bread at all, and there wasn’t enough vanilla bean ice cream (although the ice cream was nice).

Brioche French toast

When the Urban Avocado came out, the first thing we all commented on was the fetta. It took a group effort to find all 6 crumbs of the cheese. Also, the bread was barely toasted and although the bacon was delicious, it was an extra $6! On the plus side, the eggs were perfectly poached.

The Chefs Pan was a better dish. The sourdough was nice with a drizzle of olive oil and again, the eggs were perfectly poached. We ordered the potato rosti too and this was crunchy. Overall the dish was good.

The Baked Sicilian eggs were pretty average too. Essentially, it was shakshouka but the overwhelming flavour was tomato. The olives and fetta were undetectable, and the egg yolk was hard. The tomato flavour was so overpowering that the whole confit garlic cloves had no taste. The gluten free bread was nice though. It was a Deeks loaf and was $3 extra.


Our table was cleared pretty fast once we’d finished eating (surprisingly fast considering how long it took for us to order and get food), but we decided to stay a little longer and order some drinks. I had a second decaf flat white, while the others opted for peach tea, a bloody mary and a ‘mamosa’ (spelled how they have it on the menu).

The drinks were very pretty to look at, but again, the taste was average. The peach tea was mostly soda water with little peach flavour and the bloody mary was too sweet and needed seasoning with some pepper. The mamosa was slightly better. It was very pretty to look at with petals floating on top but the passionfruit in it sank to the bottom. It wasn’t sweet enough with the juice at the bottom of the glass, we didn’t have anything to stir it with, and couldn’t get any of the staff’s attention to get hold of a spoon! Eventually, after very slowly twirling the glass around, the drink mixed and was sweeter.

In total, four meals and eight drinks came to $152.90. This included extra charges for bacon, gluten free bread, two decaf coffees and a service charge. Usually I don’t object to a service charge, however the service at Urban Pantry was slow and the staff were indifferent. Overall, we won’t be rushing back.

5 Bougainville Street Griffith ACT 2603
(02) 6162 3556

2 thoughts on “Urban Pantry or Average Pantry? Manuka

  1. Couldn’t agree more!
    It’s such a pitty that so many cafes (especially in Canberra) opt for style over substance.

    Keep up the great reviews 😋


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