Chalk and cheese | Onred and Central Cafe | Canberra and Queanbeyan

Regular readers will know that I have a liking for all sorts of food. Fine dining and bulked up comfort and truck stop food. One day I will write about my grand parents and their Chinese restaurant at one of the biggest truck stops in Australia.

On Wednesday night Bron and I went to Onred Restaurant. This is regarded as one of the finest eating places in Canberra. Today we had lunch at Central Cafe in Queanbeyan. This is regarded more broadly as the place with the amazing mixed grill challenge. I don’t think it’s in the league of Man v Food but it’s pretty sizable and it certainly takes a good attitude to eating to finish the plate, or at least in my case, complete the meat eating.

The philosophy at Onred is many small serves to enjoy the flavours. At Onred they recommend choosing three or four entrée sized dishes from their menu and then enjoying a dessert each. The way the meals are served, sharing between diners is encouraged.

Onred Restaurant on Red Hill

I think many readers will be surprised that I did not capture any images of food. The ambience of the restaurant was not conducive to me pulling out my iPhone with each course. Given we had seven dishes and then two desserts I would have spent the whole night with my iPhone out. I can describe what we ate.

Polenta fried calamari w cauliflower and almond puree and eggplant chips [8/10]
Pan fried sweetbreads w bread sauce, celery, parsley, hazelnut and sultanas [9/10, I really enjoyed the sweetbreads]
Baked parmesan scallops and scallop ceviche [10/10]
Chicken, sage and bacon crepinette w parsley puree, roast cherry tomato and fried capers [7.5/10, it was okay but a little bland compared with everything else]
Salted pork belly w bacon dusted grapes and radish salad [8/10, pork belly is now ubiquitous and it’s not as special as it once was]
Char grilled sirloin w black pudding, smoked onion puree and pickled onion rings [8.5/10, the sirloin was a little tough, the black pudding was spectacular with the onion]
Szechuan glazed duck breast w confit duck, confit orange and lemon and coriander buckwheat [9/10, the duck was superb, I’m not a fan of the buckwheat]

Caramelised pineapple w ginger cream, sable crumbs and lemon myrtle ice cream [9/10, the flavours were fresh and tropically sweet. I loved it]
Crushed flourless chocolate cake w liquid chocolate, orange and mandarin puree, honeycomb and orange ice cream [Bron had this. It was a generous dessert and it look luxurious and comforting. It looked like a loving hug on a plate]

The restaurant is on the second story in a building on top of Red Hill. The views of Canberra are very good and the room itself was relatively quiet given the harshness of the glass surfaces. The service was good. It was attentive but unobtrusive. It was a very nice evening. I would definitely return for another meal. My favourite dish was the scallops. They were near perfect and the one dish I’d want to come back for for a larger serving to enjoy myself.

Today we had lunch at Central Cafe in Queanbeyan. This is an institution in Queanbeyan and well known in Canberra. When I first started working in Canberra a work colleague mentioned the place to me and the mixed grill challenge. He was a power lifter and said it was one of the few substantial meals for a reasonable price anywhere in the Canberra/Queanbeyan district. So after four years of thinking about it I finally tried it.

It’s situated on the main drag in Queanbeyan and pretty obvious as you drive down the street.

Central Cafe from the street

Okay, so no surprise I went with the mixed grill. If you read the menu you will see Mixed Grill – A serious Challenge for $29.50. Famous around Australia for its size, weight and quality, our Mixed Grill is NOT FOR THE FEINT HEARTED! Have you got what it takes?

The famous Central Cafe Mixed grill. Pork chop, steaks, snags, ham, bacon, lambs fry (liver), crumbed veal, roast potato, chips, cauliflower and broccoli cheese and carrots

The plate is a full dinner plate and it is covered in food. I was disappointed there wasn’t a lamb chop or cutlet. There were two steaks, two sausages, two pieces of ham, a bacon rasher, four pieces of liver, and a piece of crumbed veal. I started well and felt confident I’d finish the meat in terms of a high protein low carbohydrate challenge. I ate a few chips and all the cauliflower and broccoli.

Me eating the Cantral Cafe mixed grill. The pepper sauce was pretty good too.

It wasn’t until the end, towards the piece of veal which I was keeping for last that I started feeling full and my brain was giving me signals to think about slowing down.

Only about a third of the way through

I didn’t eat all the chips and carrots. I was feeling a little full. Rather than make myself feel full or force myself to eat I felt comfortable stopping after eating all the meat.

All the meat is gone.

This was a good meal. It was worth going to Central Cafe and enjoying lunch. It’s another milestone in my Canberra bucket list.

Well I wouldn’t think of Onred and Central Cafe as chalk and cheese. That suggests one is bad while the other better. Both of these places is good. Both of these places serves a purpose. I’d return to both places. If you’re new to Canberra and want to take someone out to a nice dinner in a pleasant environment with a good view, Onred is a good start. If you’re new and you like big hearty meals, try Central Cafe, you won’t be disappointed.

Central Cafe menu

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9 thoughts on “Chalk and cheese | Onred and Central Cafe | Canberra and Queanbeyan

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