PUBLIC MANUKA is quite simply, MANUKA’S PUB, a nice modern pub on the main corner in Manuka, Canberra. I spend a bit of time in Canberra for my day job and have been trying to catch up with my ACT besties, the Schmollinghams (long story), every time I am in the capital. I researched places for us to catch up for dinner last night and we settled on a superb looking place called ALCHEMY – after going insane trying to contact them I discovered they had closed down. So Schmollinghams suggested we meet at PUBLIC MANUKA, so we could have a drink and decide where to go. And so began our fun filled night of eating and partaking in some nice wines.
I am sorry I did not get photos of the actual venue, it is modern, it has a nice bar, it is very open with high ceilings. It has great indoor and outdoor settings and we settled on the outdoor, yes, because my flu recovery is not killing me enough. Just kidding, I was rugged up and the outdoor area was made from basics and had a feel of recycled/ reclaimed items. There were tall old barrels spruced up to sit around and drink from surrounded by a beautiful wall of potted plants that were all so well taken care of – a rarity in most venues, these were plants to admire and feel comfortable with, not giant ash trays with sorry neglected plants in them – we were discussing how on earth they keep them all secure at night – there were so many of them and the stand for them did not have wheels, hopefully it is remarkable honesty in a trusting suburb.
There were also some couches you could sit at to drink and also eat but we moved to a more covered area with a suitable dining table to eat from – the area had these beautiful over-sized light globes with large elements to highlight they were a part of the design – I loved them – would love them all hanging above the Spooning Australia Kitchen!
The Schmollinghams and I all like wine but watch out – the wine by the bottle is not the cheapest – average price is around $60- but the wines were both beautiful, we had an EXPRESS WINEMAKERS 2013 TEMPRANILLO and then a 2014 BK WINES SYRAH NOUVEAU (kind of like a milder Euro shiraz) – both great wines, both could have done with a couple more years on the shelf but they were delightful to quaff none the less. It should also be noted PUBLIC MANUKA stocks some great boutique beers well worth drinking for the beer lovers out there.
We settled on a tapas style dining experience of sharing everything and ordered away but their menu is extensive with full meals and also a decent pizza selection. They all came out at once, which was preferred and they were all swift, relatively affordable and bloody delicious. The first dish we had was FRIED GOLDEN CRISP FIVE SPICE CHICKEN with a green chilli soy – and BAM – the best friend chicken I have had in years and years. It literally tasted like a healthy and real KFC – no arguments from the Schmollinghams.
We had a nice side of hand cut sliced chips with chipotle mayonnaise and lime dipping sauce with the chicken = BLISS.
We then each grabbed a slab of SMOKED LAMB RIBS w/ sticky maple syrup & tamarind glaze. They came looking sexy on a sheet of paper and we wolfed them down. Now, if I rate all the dishes we ate, excluding the sides, this would have been my least favourite dish but that is not a negative as all the food was sublime.
We followed this with two amazing dishes – SOFT SHELL CRAB TORTILLAS w/ avocado, black beans, jalapeño, fresh lime & ranch dressing. These were heavenly and the tortillas were firm and fresh. But the one thing that beat them all for me, the final dish, the crowning glory of my stomach filling, OSSO BUCCO FAJITAS w/ avocado, sweet corn salsa & chipotle sauce. You spooned the Osso Bucco in to the fajitas and I loved it!!
And it would be rude if I ignored the poor lonely, mostly unloved steamed vegetables :).
I am surprised the venue is scoring so low on Urbanspoon – I couldn’t fault it. The staff were friendly and very helpful, even discussing wine types with me, everything was efficient and relatively affordable and the venue was so accommodating and comfortable. If I lived here this would be my local. It was also a bonus watching NZ come through in the cricket on the big screen to see all the peaceful patrons shout in joy at their feat of being left with 5 runs needed from 2 balls and then hitting a 6. There was a bonding in the venue at that moment.
Considering I eat at some venues in Sydney for twice the price with half the food and a quarter of the joy this place was a great venue to kick back with good friends and catch up with nice food and wine.
Be sure to check out there website HERE. They have plenty of different nights at the venue from DJs, live music, 2 for 1 pizzas and much more – what’s not to like!