Two weeks ago, the hubby and I had tickets to see Rob Brydon at the Canberra Theatre and decided to make a (weekday) night of it by grabbing some pre-theatre dinner and drinks in the City.
We hadn’t booked anything and had really left it to the last minute so we decided to try for a bit of steak somewhere in Braddon straight after finishing work. Our first attempt was Blackfire – it always smells so smoky and delicious on the way past – but unfortunately, we were out of luck! Blackfire didn’t open until 6pm, too late for us to eat and get in for the show. Disappointed, we decided to head a bit further down Mort Street to Marble and Grain but we were again thwarted by another 6pm open!
We decided we’d have a look round Lonsdale street as a last resort and, if we didn’t have any luck, we’d head into Civic proper. We came across Tipsy Bull and decided we’d give it a shot – Michael had read a couple of reviews previously that were positive and that indicated they’d be able to cater to my dietary needs. We headed through the gate and up the outdoor seating to the main entrance, where the staff were standing. We were given the choice of indoor or outdoor seating and went for a table outside, near the restaurant building and covered by a roof. It was a lovely night, not too hot or cold, but we did notice heaters for the colder weather. It was a lovely spot.
The outdoor area is a tiny, green haven from the bustle of Lonsdale street. The space is enclosed with brick walls and plenty of green hedges and sun umbrellas. Inside, Tipsy Bull is warm and modern. On the right is some tall seating, and a long bar with the kitchen tucked at the end of the room. On the left side, there is plenty of lower seating.
We were seated quickly, and a lovely staff member came over with menus to discuss the drink and food. Tipsy Bull is a gin bar with over 200 types of gin – I love this! There’s nothing better than gin on a sweltering hot day, however this time I skipped the booze. For the last few months, I have happily been designated driver because I’m pregnant! The food is designed to be shared, like tapas, so we were advised to get one plate of ‘nibbles’, two ‘small plates’, something ‘From the Garden’ and a ‘Large Plate’, and the dishes come out when they are ready.
The menu is well marked with dietary requirements and contains a good amount of gluten free options. In addition to this, the menu states at the bottom to notify staff of dietary requirements, but also that the food prepared at Tipsy Bull may contain a range of allergens – fair warning I feel.
I explained to him that I was coeliac and pregnant, and as such, my list of dietary requirements goes for pages and pages! He took this all in his stride though. He knew the coeliac issue was about gluten, and I made it clear to him I couldn’t have alcohol, raw fish or meat, soft boiled eggs or anything unpasteurised. He said he’d run everything past the chef and was confident that we wouldn’t have any problems.
After a short wait to look over the menu, the wait staff returned for our order. We opted for the olives, fish tacos, grilled chorizo, pickled beetroot salad and the black onyx angus sirloin. These were all marked as gluten free on the menu, and after talking with the staff I felt pretty good about the food meeting my dietary requirements. We also ordered a Highland Apple Mule cocktail for Michael and a Tomasina mocktail for me.
After a short wait, our drinks came out. Michael’s Highland apple mule was a whiskey cocktail with apple and smokey ginger beer. He said it was very drinkable, and not too sweet. The Tomasina was fruity, with strawberry and raspberry flavours. Sweet and delicious, plus it looked lovely.
Our first plate came out in good time. The olives were really very nice (I know it’s hard to screw up olives). They were just salty enough, soft and warm. They were topped with candied orange, chilli and almonds. The chilli was unnoticeable but the combination of the olives with a little piece of sugary, candied orange, and the crunchy, toasted almonds was really nice. I could’ve sat quite comfortably and eaten my way through bowls and bowls of these!
The fish tacos came out as we were picking at the olives and chatting. The menu described these as a chilli slaw, pineapple jam and jalapeno salsa in a tortilla. I’m not 100 percent sure that this is what came out though. The two tacos were white fish topped with a finely cubed green salsa and micro herbs. Mine had quite a watery white sauce, while Michael’s wasn’t as saucy. There was a slight lip tingle from the chilli and I could taste some lime in mine. Michael was not particularly impressed with his, saying the flavours weren’t vibrant enough. Although these were a bit average, they weren’t bad!
Our next plate was the grilled chorizo. This was brightly coloured and tasty! There were five slices of beautifully cooked, red chorizo piled on top of the bbq’d corn salsa containing pieces of warm tomato, and a flick of micro herbs. Next to it was the mojo verde – a thick and refreshing, green sauce. The portion size was just right and the components were very complimentary.
After taking away the empty plates and waiting a few minutes, the beetroot salad and steak were brought out together. Both of these dishes looked lovely again. However, the beetroot salad was disappointing. It came out with the goat’s curd in a little bowl for Michael as I wasn’t particularly comfortable eating it. I loved the idea of eating the thinly cut slices of beetroot but they weren’t flavoured strongly enough. It was topped with some witlof leaves (a bitter flavour that I’m not a huge fan of generally), chervil and honeycomb. The chervil and honeycomb were undetectable though too.
The steak was better taste-wise. It was beautifully cooked to a non-bloody but still soft medium. On top was a soubise, or a simple onion sauce, which was thick but delicate and delicious. It came with a white radish salsa, miso butter and a mystery red sauce, which were all nice but nothing too special. It was disappointing that this well-crafted (and expensive) dish was spoilt by a long line of gristle down the middle of two thirds of the meat.
Once we’d finished our food, the staff quickly came and cleared our empty plates, and offered us the dessert menu. The dessert menu was pretty short and only one thing was labelled as gluten free – the flourless chocolate cake. The description of this included ‘Xmas Gin’ so I asked the wait staff if I could skip this part – he said it should be fine as the xmas gin was actually squirted onto the cake at the table in front of you. We ordered two and sat back to chat. After a few minutes, our wait staff came back though. He’d spoken to the chef who had confirmed that this dessert actually contained alcohol throughout – the sauce was boozy, and well as there being booze cooked into the cake and the xmas gin. I was pretty disappointed but was told that the Autumn Mess could be made without gluten or alcohol, so I opted for one of these!
After a short wait, our desserts were bought out and unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures so you’ll need to use your imaginations! Michael’s chocolate cake looked good – it was a good-sized individual cake decorated with berries and labne, a creamy cheese made from strained yoghurt. It was decorated with pretty, edible flower petals and topped off with ‘gin squirts’ as Michael and I titled them! Michael said the texture of the cake was a bit rough, but it tasted great – the dark chocolate flavour was nice and bitter, and complemented by the ‘gin squirts’ and the slightly acidic berries.
The Autumn mess was nicer – it was prettily plated up and although it looked small the portion size was perfect. What was bought out was three swirls of thick, sweet cream topped with three or four small figs, cut into quarters. The chocolate soil was snaked between the cream and interspersed with pretty violet edible petals. Tiny rocks of honeycomb were dotted around like little gold nuggets and the red wine reduction, was artily swirled onto the plate. And it tasted beautiful. Rich and creamy, the figs were ripe and sweet, and the red wine reduction provided balance with a bit of bite (although I only tried a little of this as I thought it tasted a bit too boozy – Michael disagreed though and said it was hardly boozy at all). The chocolate soil added some texture to the dish and I was really happy with it!
After polishing off dessert, we headed inside to pay. Our meal and drinks totalled $172.54. The whole time the staff were very attentive, clearing empty plates, making sure we were happy and very accommodating to my dietary requirements. Although some of the dishes were a bit average (you can’t win ‘em all) I was happy and satisfied with the food and the service.
2/5 Lonsdale St, Braddon ACT 2612
02 6248 7999