muse canberra | a new experience
I can already hear you quip "but the bookshop-cum-cafe has been done before!". So what's so new about the offerings at Muse?
Paul and Dan, owners of Muse, invited a small group of us to lunch to sample the menu, learn about the kitchen's philosophy, and find out exactly what Muse will be offering the residents of Canberra. They boldly invited us to review our experience 'warts and all', but in all honesty, Muse is completely without lumps and bumps.
Situated on the ground floor of the East Hotel, Muse features a split-level design, and comprises a small but excellent bookshop on the lower level that is light-filled and airy. The restaurant is slightly elevated above the bookshop, and divided by minimalist hand-made hanging bookshelves in a warm timber. It's a clever design; upon entering the restaurant from the front entrance, the symmetry of the tables, banquettes and light fixtures draws the eye through to the wall of books and just invites you to peruse their selection.
While small, the range of books is refined and representative of the Canberra demographics; specifically the latest drool-worthy cookbooks and must-have political biographies. Muse will also begin a series of Tuesday night literary events on September 29 with former political speechwriter and Crikey correspondent Bernard Keane. These events are $10, and include a glass of wine.
As we're guided through the expansive beverages list, it is evident that much care (almost to the point of obsession) has been taken. We notice the distinct absence of international labels. Paul and Dan wanted to maintain an all-Australian wine/beer/spirits list, and have been to the majority of vineyards on their list. The eclectic and comprehensive selection includes a robust selection of red and white varieties, ranging from Canberra District Sangiovese from Four Winds Vineyard and McLaren Vale Grenache from Ochota Barrels to Adelaide Hills and Barossa whites such as the David Franz Riesling Semillion and Massena Viognier. We commence our lunch with a Canberra District Riesling from Surveyor's Hill; a crisp, bold wine, with a lovely mineral note and a beautiful balance between acidity and natural sugars.
By this stage, our table is starving, and thankfully Muse provided the goods! Lunch options include either a choice of beautiful, fresh salads full of pulses and herbs starting from $16, or a main course with salads from $26. The style of food is hard to pin to one particular influence, but think Bill Grainger meets Yotam Ottolenghi, with an emphasis on seasonal, fresh produce. The menu changes based on what's available. For our lunch we sampled twice-cooked pork belly, grilled ras-el-hanout prawns, lamb shoulder sausage rolls, vegetarian lasagna, and a beautiful array of salads and desserts. Chefs Sam and Lucy must be credited for their skill and vision
I could describe the food ad nauseam but you really must sample this place. Open for breakfast on weekdays from 6:30am, and offering an a la carte dinner and share plates seven nights a week, there will be something for everyone here. Coupled with the plan to host acoustic gigs in the space, Muse appears to be aiming to create a unique cultural and culinary destination in Kingston. Whilst the marriage of literature and larder is not a new concept, the love and care put into Muse along with the daily changing menu and weekly events make for a refreshing concept, and one that is particularly welcome in Canberra's crowded restaurant scene.
muse web site | muse wine list | muse sample lunch menu | where: east hotel, 69 canberra avenue, kingston ACT
Note: Jonathan dined as a guest of Muse.