MONSTER Kitchen and Bar at Hotel Hotel in the Nishi Building of the NewActon Precint of Canberra is my favourite venue in the Capital of Australia. I am obsessed with it, a restaurant in one of the most creative buildings I have ever seen. Everything in the building and NewActon precinct is artistic and visually unique. Even the Monster website is one of my favourite restaurant websites. It is like the creative hub of the Capital came together and created something beautiful and their entire ethos adheres to the building’s soul. I would live here if I could.
For my own housekeeping make a cuppa before reading this review because it’s a large feature article and I have to cover off the building, the hotel and the restaurant – they all deserve attention and are integral pieces for the one amazing experience.
NewActon’s Nishi building outshone buildings from around the world to win International Project of the Year at the 2015 Building Awards in London. It is an architectural marvel and everywhere you look is something more to admire. The outside of the building is covered in a timber facade with plants growing up it on the outside or there is the sublime big timber stairs inside where people always have their wedding photos taken and I have to photograph every time I am in the area or about to pig out at Monster.
I can’t find much information on the history and/or vision that became Nishi but the building was designed by engineering group Arup and was a collaborative endeavour from the Molonglo Group. Molonglo Group are a property developer and creative production house – that is one interesting collaborative partnership. They work alongside artists, designer-makers and architects to actively conceive, design, deliver and curate projects. Nishi was designed with sustainability credentials and a strong focus on design and artist involvement. They have a gallery space and basically the building itself is a long term piece of art.
From the hotel itself – it sums it up for me…..
Hotel Hotel is a collaboration between designers, artists, artisans and fantasists. We love hotels, not for their swank but for reminding us of our transience and the importance of romance.
We like textures and patinas that remind us of the bush, big trees, well-worn t-shirts and old wise faces that in every line reflect the enormity and joy of a life well lived.
I am yet to stay in the rooms but one day it will happen so I can eat at Monster for every meal. The Hotel itself is ran as some kind of artistic movement as well as a hotel. You have to check out the hotel’s BLOG HERE – it is the little extra that makes them unique and marvellous.
One thing that you can’t help but gape at is the entry to Hotel Hotel. You walk into the entry foyer to see a horizontal reclaimed dead forest that is spellbinding. It has to be one of the most beautiful and photographed staircases in the world and every time I see it I just stare in wonder. Now this I could find information on – from the hotel’s blog actually. The entire entry is reclaimed timber collected from a house; a basketball court; from the Nishi construction site itself; and from off cuts of Nishi’s own lovely Blackbutt timber façade.
The ceiling feature consists of 2150 pieces of reclaimed wood and “then shiteloads more in the stair,” and 1200 steel rods that hold the wood in place. Because of the different wood widths and sizes, no two steel rods are the same, and each one was individually designed with holes of different widths, and at different distances to each other. The intricate and precise nature of the detailing is mental. It was put together by hand, including the Jango styled steps and took about five months to complete.
MONSTER KITCHEN AND BAR VENUE:
Monster itself spreads across four separate spaces. The lounge is a series of nested spaces made of woven rough formed concrete structural lintels. The Mosaic room houses giant original artworks. The Salon and Dining rooms tell a story of Australian immigration. Every room is completely different and marvellous in it’s own right. I could eat here different times and eat in each room and shoot it and you would think they are all different venues with their own personalities. I have only eaten in two of the spaces and they are both marvellous. The place is suited to business meetings, couples dinners, friends dinners, breakfasts, lunches, you name it – they are open from 630am to 1am 7 days a week!!
I personally wouldn’t want kids there because the place is somewhat serene and as beautiful as an art gallery. Maybe bring them, may I suggest sedating them? Haha. While I describe the place as serene the website does claim….
The kitchen and bar team guide her through her multiple personalities as she shifts from lucidity to debauchery.
So go figure – I might need to attend at a more debaucherous hour!!!
THAT FOOD & DRINK……..OMG:
The food is modern and fully supports local and seasonal produce prepared for sharing. The food itself I would describe as multicultural influenced Canberran fusion that is always fresh and unique and as artistic in plating as the rest of the building. Their drinks are as good as the food and their cocktails make me drool, and that’s not from overindulgence. They serve an impressive selection of boutique Australian beers, a good mix of local and international ciders and even Japanese sakes. Monster’s wine and champagne selections are international with a separate Australian collection that deserves awards. They even have 17 types of gin and 37 types of whiskey – this place could be heaven in disguise!
They serve breakfast from 630am – 12pm and you could get their house made crumpets served with the OWN HONEY harvested from their very own bee hives. I mean what more can they do to be at the top of their game? They also do a bunch of healthy grain based breakfasts, some international style breakfast and may I suggest the Pork Belly with fried egg, green mango and chilli jam!!! That is my kind of breakfast porn right there! Pork belly for breakfast! Definitely in heaven.
Their coffee is Canberra Roasted, their tea is from Tea Craft and they even serve a Bloody Mary for brekky for crying out loud!
The Bar Menu starts at 12pm, runs until 1am, and serves at the same time as the share plates menu. It is the cheaper in price but as marvellous in selection. You could kick it off with the Boxgum Grazing Beef Tartare with miso cured egg yolk, avocado, horseradish and crispy black rice. That is the most expensive on the Bar Menu at $23-. I recently devoured the Duck Parfait with pickled quince and walnut. It was heavenly.
While not on the menu at the moment on one of my recent visits I indulged in the 38hr pork neck baos with cucumber kimchi. Debloodylicious. And then there is the one dish that brought Monster to my attention. I read about this in Sydney and Monster became my number one must visit venue in Canberra. All for Yabby Jaffles. This simple and delectable dish was named one of the 50 dishes defining Australian dining by Gourmet Traveller.
Poached yabby meat is stuffed into fluffy white bread along with horseradish, crème fraîche and Gruyère, then it’s toasted to a perfect shade of gold. It’s sharp, buttery, cheesy goodness.
It is the single greatest sandwich I have eaten. It is seasonally off the menu at the moment but due to its popularity it will be back when it warms up. They are currently doing a Wagyu Tongue sandwich with pickles and mustard that will also impress. And you can’t go wrong with the Terra Preta Jaffle with Parmesan. Terra preta means “black soil” in Portuguese. It’s a type of very dark, fertile manmade (anthropogenic) soil found in the Amazon Basin. It is also known as “Amazonian dark earth” or “Indian black earth.” The truffles will good and most likely sourced from the local truffle farms.
Everything from lunch time is based on sharing at Monster. Most of the Bar Menu I have shared on my visits. The share plates range from $18 to $36 so everything is accessible and worth every penny. Below is the first dish I ate from the share menus. It was Crispy Kingfish Wings and is not currently on the menu. The wings are accompanied with sriracha, togarashi (Japanese chilli pepper) and lime wedges. I am not a regular fish person, bones scare the shit out of me but this was unique and delightful and we polished it all off.
I have also destroyed the divine Pulled Lamb Shoulder. It’s served with yoghurt, pistachio, vine leaf, pomegranate and brik. Brik is a Tunisian dish consisting of thin pastry around a filling.
And on my last visit I ate the Brussels Sprouts Dish. It’s served topped with morcilla migas and a fried egg. Quick tip to Monster – ADD THIS TO THE BREAKFAST MENU!!! I make a very similar dish for breakfast at home. This one is a little more high class and is Mexican inspired. Morcilla is a blood sausage but it was explained to me this is made of a lot of pork products (I would gather the sausage is included) and Migas means crumbs so I am gathering a lot of old bread crumbed into the meat mixture for a brilliant texture. This is placed on top of the fried sprouts and then topped with the egg. This dish is very salty so don’t add more and pop that yolk all over it.
MINI SPOONING RECIPE:
For my home version just fry your sprouts with lots of chopped bacon until it caramelises and starts to burn a little, then serve with an egg on top. I also add piri piri to mine when frying for that chilli, garlic and lemon seasoning.
If you’re stuck on what to order get the Chef’s Selection Menu. It’s three items from the bar menu, four from the shared menu and one from the dessert. You can’t go wrong with this. I will definitely do this on one of my next visits – very interested to see what they would select for me.
There is ALWAYS ROOM. I have devoured their Mandarin and Cocoa Nib Brittle with Almond and Rosemary ice cream. It made me swoon and I am sad to say – seasonally off the menu at the moment. May I suggest the Chestnut, Pear, Earl Grey and Thyme Dessert or the Soft Chocolate, Mandarin, Almond and Rosemary. They are all bound to impress.
MONSTER KITCHEN AND BAR will make my Top 10 Australian restaurants of 2017. It is a mind-blowing experience that incorporates some of the best architecture and interior design in the country with artworks that will impress and food to make you stand and clap. OK, maybe this was just me clapping but I love this place and who wouldn’t clap for Yabby Jaffles?! For someone mostly invited to venues to review it speaks volumes when I have visited this place, in a different state/territory to where I live, three times and paid each time. I wish this was the Monster in my closet!!
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 3/3 food, 2/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 1/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 1/1 toilets and 1/1 bonus
Monster Kitchen and Bar Deets:
PH: (02) 6287 6287
Hotel Hotel – 25 Edinburgh Ave, Canberra ACT 2601
BOOKINGS: Yes but walk ins available during the day
HOURS: 7 days – 6:30am to 1am
TAKEAWAY: I do not think so
LOCAL DELIVERY: No
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes
KID FRIENDLY: Not really
*** All meals at Monster were paid for ***