We only had two hours to explore Canberra on our drive back from Sydney towards Melbourne. Over the years I had heard many stories about the capital city, not very many of them complimentary. I remember reading a travel book where one author wrote that when he arrived in Canberra for the first time and couldn’t find anything exciting happening or anything interesting to see, he ended up going to the nearest pub and got drunk. So my expectations were not particularly high.
But he was wrong, Canberra was a very pretty city and at least today, everything was buzzing. It isn’t at all dynamic, at least at first view, as Melbourne or Sydney. Instead it just has this little town feel, quiet and clean, with everything right where it is supposed to be. I wondered if that meant it would have good hot chocolates or dull hot chocolates, so I did a bit of research and the name Urban Pantry kept coming up as the place to go.
And we weren’t the only ones. Urban Pantry was full today for lunch and everyone looked, like everything else in the city, very clean and serious and put together nicely. Most people were wearing suits and one by one as they went to the cash to pay they each had accents form different parts of the world; an American, then a Danish man, then a woman from Singapore. This spot is not far from the area which is filled with large embassy houses, each designed to look vaguely like a traditional house from that particular land.
The inside was welcoming and takes its design cues from the neighbourhood’s leafy streets and heritage listed buildings. They had a wall covered in baskets full of freshly baked bread and lots of delicious looking sweets and a menu full of locally produced ingredients. Staff were friendly, although they seemed to be having more fun talking to each other than serving, which was from our table quite entertaining to watch.
The menu lists not one but a whole list of hot chocolates; milk, dark, white or even chocolate overdose, all Belgian chocolate. You also had the option of having it in a cup or a mug, both with different price tags. We both ordered the dark chocolate in a mug. Now, many rave about this hot chocolate and I can see why, but today it just didn’t work with us. The mug that came was filled with hot milk which didn’t taste at all like chocolate. After a few sips we realized that they put actual chocolate at the bottom of the glass and that we had to mix it ourselves. Ordinarily I would love something like that, but in this case it was tricky because there just wasn’t any room in the mug to mix the chocolate properly. The chocolate used, which I ended up eating directly, tasted more like a milk chocolate than a dark chocolate…something in between the two. When we asked what kind of chocolate it was we were told it was Cadbury chocolate pieces (not so Belgian really).
So I will keep mixed memories of Canberra. It was a beautiful little city and Urban Pantry is definitely a fantastic spot with a very popular hot chocolate.
Verdict: Urban Pantry looks and feels great. Their hot chocolate is also good, great idea, just tricky to enjoy properly. Maybe a bigger mug, or even serve the milk in a separate little container to make it easier to mix? Urban Pantry, 5 Bougainville St, Canberra, Australia