Have you heard? Canberra is the place that everyone wants to visit these days. Combine your trip to the Handmade Market with other attractions around this beautiful city. Try the coffee or go on a drive to the wineries of the region. Share a plate of innovative food and then walk it off at the lake or the Arboretum, capturing the views of Canberra. And then rest your head at one of the nation’s capital’s great hotels.
The list of eateries in Canberra is growing every week, with new gorgeous cafés and restaurants popping up all over our fair city. The main eating areas are Braddon, Kingston, Manuka, Barton and New Acton, but if you venture further afield, there are superb eateries nestled in suburban centres. Pulp Kitchen in Ainslie, Two Before Ten in Aranda, Little Oink in Cook and Young & Frisky in Gungahlin are worth a trip, but do some research and the hidden gems will reveal themselves.
Canberra’s cool climate is the talk of wine experts, with top class wines now coming from the Canberra region. There are over 130 vineyards in the area, many of which have cellar doors that offer good food, great views and of course, something nice to drink! Again, there are too many to mention, but check out Eden Road and Four Winds in Murrumbateman, Lerida Estate by Lake George or Surveyors Hill in Hall. And three wonderful wineries will be present at the Handmade Market this weekend – Quarry Hill, Twisted River and Long Rail Gully will be sharing their blends and knowledge at EPIC on Saturday and Sunday.
From family rooms (Abode Hotels) to top class boutiques (Hotel Hotel, Burbury) and places in between (Aria, QT, Mantra), there is a wealth of accommodation here in Canberra, much of it within a stone’s throw of EPIC, for easy access to the Handmade Market.
Spring is springing at the moment, and the blossom is coming out in force. With perfect temperatures of around 16 degrees forecast for this weekend, head down to Lake Burley Griffin and walk the 5km bridge to bridge circuit, taking in all of Canberra’s beautiful architecture in one walk. Or head to the Arboretum for truly spectacular views.
For the kids, there’s no beating Questacon for its interactive displays and amazing learning experiences. Floriade is fast approaching if you want to stick around for a few days (opens 17th September), but if you’re only here for the weekend of the market, what about the Canberra Moon Festival in Yarralumla?
And I hear a rumour that there’s an excellent market happening this weekend! 10am until 4pm on Saturday and Sunday at EPIC. 220 stalls, including a gourmet food hall, great atmosphere and all your Handmade shopping needs met under one roof…
To plan your trip, visit one of these websites for details of Canberra’s accommodation, dining and attractions:
On 11th & 12th June, Handmade presented 220 stalls to Canberra’s discerning shoppers. And over 20,000 visitors tasted, tried and bought the best in Australian design and produce. We’ve already told you that the market is beautiful and well-attended, but did you know quite how much? The attendance at the last market was equal to the total crowds at the mid-June Brumbies and Raiders games combined and the daily attendance at Handmade was greater than the total daily attendance at Enlighten’s 2015 ticketed and non-ticketed events!
That was last month, but there are only eight weeks to go until we open the door for September’s market. Save the dates, as we will be back with our usual mix of unique artisan products that are handmade only in Australia. One-off designer fashion and jewellery pieces, homewares, gifts and gourmet produce will all again be represented.
Handmade is also a great community organisation. Our door charities raise $40,000 each year, and our stall charities have reported extraordinary figures. Thanks to your amazing donations, the Vinnies blanket drive allowed the night van to operate fully stocked for the next two months of Canberra’s bitter Winter.
Founder Julie Nichols reckons “we could wrap the Telstra tower in the donations we received for Vinnies at the June market! Blankets, coats, sleeping bags and other warm items will go direct to the people who need it most at this time of year, and people were also generous with toiletries and sanitary items to help Canberra’s homeless through the Winter”.
We would like to thank everyone who brought donations to the market, and with the recent chill, we know how valued these items are.
Our gourmet food hall is growing in popularity and attendance. Two coffee carts, three wineries, two juice stalls, nine sweet offerings and seven hot food kiosks kept visitors fed and watered at the last market, and judging by the applications for September, we’re in for another gourmet treat! Watch this space for details.
We guess that you are making good use of your larder items from last month, with sauces, chutneys, spices, chocolates and sweet treats all going into your shopping bags. Again, we are excited to be welcoming new foodies in September and will give you all the details over the coming weeks, along with their stories and maybe even their secret recipes!
And the applications are revealing some beautiful new designers of homewares, fashion, jewellery and children’s items. We’ll be talking to them in the next few weeks to find out what they’re bringing for you in September, so you can start your list-making.
On a bright morning recently, I made the short trip to Braddon for a coffee and a stroll. Used to arriving at The Hamlet for lunch or an evening snack, it was strange to find it quiet, but the minute I took in the smoky cooking aromas, I became a convert to the early stop. There, I found Carlos Ramirez Roldan, the founder and force behind Mr Papa’s Peruvian street food, who found the time for a chat, while the Hamlet was waking up.
Carlos is an advocator of making plans, but is aware that plans change and is very comfortable following a different path when they do. His route to Mr Papa is an example of following the opportunities instead of the plan. His catering life started early when he got involved in his grandparents’ catering company. From the age of eight, he would go in the van with staff to market, spend 20 minutes loading the van with produce and return for the day’s cooking. By 13, he was put in charge of buying supplies. Carlos’ journey from Lima saw him cross the Pacific a roundabout way. He studied hospitality management in Lima before securing an internship for a hotel chain that led him to America and five years with the Hilton group. On his return to Peru, he started a restaurant with a friend, until his father in law planted the seed that studying at ANU for a Masters would be a good idea. (He himself had studied in Melbourne.) Before he even started a course here, he was offered a job with another hotel group that offered residency, so the course was put on ice for a while.
While working in 2012, he started helping one of his colleagues out at the Multicultural Festival. He admired this colleague’s “life perspective” and relished the opportunity to contribute to the community, but found that he equally enjoyed catering within the market environment and the seed for Mr Papa was sown. The name Mr Papa was easy to find. “Papa” in Peruvian is a type of stuffed potato, and as this was the first dish on his menu, he quickly adopted his now-famous title. In 2014, he was the only person in Canberra offering Peruvian food, making him unique and in-demand. He was asked to cater for 800 people at the Gold and the Incas Exhibition at the National Gallery and as a result, the enrolment at ANU might have to wait a little longer.
The business now operates in three areas. His van at the Hamlet serves the Braddon regulars and Mr Papa can be found at markets and festivals as a pop-up stall. But it’s the catering arm of the business that is thriving and growing beyond expectations. With a trend towards festival style weddings, the crew is busy with at least two weddings every month. Customising a canapé style to suit the theme of the wedding, Carlos and his team go above and beyond, creating an entire bar from scratch for example. He is also popular at the Peruvian embassy – recently catering during the Peruvian general election.
Mr Papa is also a regular at Handmade, serving hundreds of specials to our hungry shoppers. Carlos says that Handmade is a “market on a different level” with more attention to detail and creativity than any other market he knows, reflecting the openness to new things that is characterising Canberra at the moment. He is amazed and delighted that Canberra is growing its own vibe, citing “so much creativity” as the defining feature of his new home.
Showcasing Peruvian culture is what drives Carlos. Around 60% of his ingredients are from the Canberra region and he relishes working with local suppliers and producers to get the best of what’s on offer. However, the remaining ingredients are shipped every 3-4 months from Peru itself, allowing him to retain the authenticity of the brand. He wants to provide his customers with an experience. “I don’t just want to sell you a bottle of water,” he says, pointing to the bottle in front of him. “I want you to remember who you bought it from.” In keeping with this authentic style, he is currently customising a 1962 truck, previously used to transport racing cars, to become a mobile van. Combining street food, Peruvian culture and vintage style is a recipe for success and a plan that he is definitely seeing through.
There are many businesses in Canberra shouting from the rooftops about their sustainable practices, eco-friendly environments and low impact credentials. They should too, because Canberrans are concerned about their surroundings.
One of a Kind Apartments in Dickson isn’t shouting. It’s quietly murmuring in keeping with its secluded surroundings. But this family-run accommodation is certainly walking the walk, providing what it calls a “distinctive urban eco-tourist experience.”
The apartments are Canberra’s first 8.0 EER energy rating multi-unit development, and every aspect of the building design and the way the business is run is as environmentally conservative as possible, to the extent that they have a published “eco mission” which outlines how they minimise waste, conserve natural resources and partner with local like-minded businesses.
The gardens are planted with low water and native greenery, which provides a habitat for native birds and wildlife. Each apartment has a compost bin, which is composted on site and used for the vegetable patch, herb garden and greenhouse. Guests are even encouraged to help themselves to the veggies and herbs grown in the garden.
All six apartments are styled around a different creative city and colour of the rainbow. San Francisco is yellow, Shanghai is red, Kyoto is indigo, Paris is blue, Yogyakarta is green and Mexico City is orange.
Having been here for 23 years, the whole family loves Canberra. As group, they have picked the layout of the city, the environment, the lifestyle, and the artistic culture as their favourite things. In fact, according to Casuarina “much of our design has been developed out of an appreciation for the unique assets of Canberra: its climate, environment, materials and lifestyle.”
They are also supportive of what Handmade Canberra is doing, showcasing local designers and giving rise to a more passionate and artistic city. Handmade can reflect this support right back. Businesses like One of A kind are the backbone of Canberra’s renaissance and we’re happy to share the love.
They might produce New World wines at Mount Majura Vineyard, but there’s nothing new about the patch of limestone and volcanic rock on which the vineyard sits. Dating back to the Silurian era of 430 million years ago, this piece of fertile ground was identified by Edgar Riek, a pioneer of the Canberra wine district, who predicted that this small patch of red soil facing the morning sun could produce unique wines.
The magic of this piece of land is not only the richness of the volcanic soil, but also the perfect East/North East positioning on this face of Mount Majura, which allows for a long growing season in which grapes are still being harvested through until May.
But the magic doesn’t stop there. Each vine is hand planted, hand pruned and hand trained. Each grape is hand picked and the team is sympathetic to the land, using barely any machinery, cutting weeds instead of using pesticides, taking water from a bore and operating from a solar passive cellar door.
The vines were planted in 1988, making Mount Majura the first vineyard within the ACT. The current owners, a group of enthusiasts, took over the running of the estate in the late 90s. The team, led by viticulturalist and winemaker Frank van de Loo, is small but passionate, producing Riesling, Chiraz and the signature wine, Tempranillo – widely acclaimed as Australia’s best.
The estate is heavily involved in the local scene, not only offering tours around the vineyard, structured tastings and winery tours, but also working collaboratively with other wine producers. They were recently involved in an end of vintage tasting in Gundaroo and a tasting at Hotel Realm for Canberrans. They’re regulars at the Forage, and we are fortunate that we’ll also be seeing them at EPIC in September for the Handmade Markets.
I asked Fergus McGhie, who is responsible for sales and marketing, what he loves most about Canberra and he didn’t pause long before settling on New Acton. Monster Bar & Grill is on the list, but the favourite has to be Močan & Green Grout, not only because of its inexpensive share plates, but also because it’s BYO!
I love working with Handmade Canberra. Not only am I involved in the best event that Canberra has to offer, but I get to spend time drinking great coffee with wonderful local people! The coffee is purely for research purposes, you understand, but spending time with Canberra businesses that are creating beautiful products in innovative ways is more than just research, it’s a complete joy.
On a recent Friday morning, I picked up my skinny cap from Two Before Ten and walked through the welcoming doors of Moxom & Whitney on Lonsdale Street. I spent over an hour watching Bin (Belinda) put together a glorious range of terrariums and Lou working her magic with bouquets, while chatting about their floral origins and what makes them tick. It’s a hard life I know.
With Lou’s background in hospitality and Bin’s as a nurse in the Air Force, the girls struck up an unlikely friendship 18 years ago. It was many years before they decided to work together and in the meantime, Lou ran a florist in Dickson called A Bloom a Day, but was disillusioned with what she was making in the world of mainstream and wanted something different. Bin on the other hand, was inspired by the flowers and spent time “playing” in Lou’s shop until Lou encouraged her to take a course in floristry.
Lou says the old adage that you shouldn’t work with your friends isn’t relevant to them, because by the time they decided to start Moxom & Whitney, they had already seen the best and worst of each other. The girls had been together every day during Lou’s husband’s illness when Bin had helped Lou to nurse him, so working together in business was not a big leap at all.
Embracing a new start, they set up shop at the Lonsdale Street Traders where rent was low and gave themselves three months. Three months turned to six, by which time the originality and beauty of what the girls were doing had carved them a niche.
The move to the ORI building over Christmas last year was a great deal of hard work, but the new shop with its high ceilings, rich charcoal walls and spectacular array of flowers and greenery is worth the effort. They wanted it to feel like home and started to serve chocolate and cake to visitors, while offering handy hints, honest advice and Canberra’s most beautiful collection of flowers.
This honesty extends to their weddings, for which they will only supply in-season flowers and ask their couples to trust them and stay open minded that they will produce the best floral displays for the occasion. “It’s a day of love and fun,” says Lou. “It’s about two kids who want to go out there and rock the shit out of their wedding.” Moxom & Whitney rocked the shit out of 62 weddings last year because they understand the importance and impact of what they do.
Their supply chain is short. They buy many of their flowers from a truck that arrives from Melbourne on a Monday and order exotic flowers when needed from Singapore. But much of their greenery is foraged from farms and friends’ hedges and they are now starting to grow and harvest their own. It is a dream to create their own flower farm and cut out the middle man, mindful of their footprint. This ethos suits their honest attitude and love of all things local.
Bin’s terrariums account for around a quarter of their business. Hers are definitely the best in the business, with meticulous attention to detail and quirky touches that set them apart. Their terrarium and flower workshops are currently sold out for many months as they have become a local institution. Every event is different because of the people who attend, and Lou & Bin open their doors in the evenings in characteristic welcoming style to people who want to learn, but also want to have a lot of fun.
Moxom & Whitney has definitely carved its place in the Lonsdale Street annuls and the girls are passionate about their home. They believe that Lonsdale Street offers everything and want people to shop local because they know how hard it is to make small business work. The Hamlet and Debacle are places you can find them in their downtime, but when they venture further afield, it’s to Edgars in Ainslie or Trev’s in Dickson.
I honestly could have stayed and watched them work all day. They’re vibrant, funny and great company, but it’s not all coffee and flowers for me, so it was time to get back to some ”proper” work. Like I said, it’s a hard life.
Jenny Shaw is one of the original Lonsdale Street trailblazers.
Until 2008, she owned and ran the Hive Gallery. Being an artist and working with them fuelled her grand passion for colour, but by 2011, she felt the need for a break and a recharge, which saw her travelling Australia and redefining her goals.
On her return, she found that she had missed working with colour and the joy it gave her. But she also discovered that her commitment to the handmade, artisanal and decorative life was starting to be shared by many local businesses. Where once she had been the only one, now she found like-minded people wanting to spread the colour. It was time to return to retail and Handsome Pretty, the newest incarnation of her creative and decorative journey, was born.
Originally among the Londsdale Street Traders, the shop moved over to the Ori building in January. Jenny relishes the light and has turned the space into a mecca of what she calls “curated colour.” Where before, her commitment was to Australian products, she has broadened her scope to include homewares from around the world from Morocco to Asia, all still handmade and unique.
The name came from the 1970s TV show, Lost in Space, in which a green alien woman falls for the cantankerous Dr Zachary Smith and, seeing something in him that no one else sees, calls him “handsomepretty”. Jenny thinks we all have our own version of what is handsomepretty, and as the shop displays such a mix of products in such a mix of colours, it’s easy to find something that each of us thinks is beautiful.
Canberra, as we all know, is changing and Jenny has seen this first hand. “Ten years ago, we were all a little bit embarrassed to be from Canberra,” she says, “but now everyone is so proud of it!”
Her favourite haunts include the Local Press Café in Kingston and shopping local in Braddon, but if she’s feeling nostalgic, a walk through Down Memory Lane in Fyshwick does the trick. However, the sense of community that is evident in Lonsdale Street is, to Jenny, the best thing about the new Canberra. Everyone is trying to make a living, but does so in a welcoming and encouraging way.
And the customers have changed too. They’re no longer looking for replicas of the things they’ve seen elsewhere. Instead, they want something different and original. “Canberrans make their own decisions,” says Jenny, and she’s tapped into this because the first reaction many people have when they walk through her door is “this is different,” and that’s exactly what she wants to hear.
All of them will no doubt find their handsomepretty at Jenny’s place.