Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Visiting Canberra - breakfast at Manuka

Because I was using a conventional camera, I still do not have my photos of Manuka back. But I cannot wait for them. So my story of our Canberra visit continues. You will find the introductory post here, including a full post list in this series.

Saturday morning I awoke much refreshed after one of the best sleeps I had had for a long while. We decided to go to Manuka for for breakfast.

In Visiting Canberra - history I set out a little of Canberra's history.

In Canberra's first period, Manuka and Kingston were the city's shopping centres. When I first came to live in Canberra, Manuka became my centre. Here I had my post office box, my bank.

In some ways, Manuka does not exist. There is no suburb called Manuka. It is just the shopping centre in Griffith. Yet Manuka has always had a presence independent of its formal existence. Today it has become Canberra's style centre.

As we drove out from the hotel to go to Manuka, there was a bad sound from the engine. We got over Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. Then, just outside the Treasury building, a dreadful rattle developed. We pushed the car into the Treasury parking lot and called the NRMA.

As we waited, I looked around. I worked in Treasury for thirteen years. I knew this parking lot like the back of my hand.

In Saturday Morning Musings - Australia's old Parliament House I spoke of the area around old Parliament House. Standing with my back to the Treasury building looking round, the scene was very much the same. Finally, the NRMA man arrived, fixed the car, and we got going again.

At first sight, Manuka was both familiar and different. Thetis Court had been roofed in, but The Lawns still seemed the same.

Cafe society, a feature of modern Australia that I greatly like, had clearly arrived in Manuka. In fact, Manuka appears to be Canberra's breakfast capital. Everywhere you looked there were cafes with the ubiquitous outdoor tables and heaters.

We stopped at Zucchero's in The Lawns. This was a mistake.

Big English style breakfasts are very popular, certainly I like them, but they have to be well done. Too many modern establishments cannot do them properly. An overdone fried egg on top of mushrooms and poorly cooked tomatoes with a some limp strips of bacon is not a proper English breakfast. My own efforts are far better than Zucchero's best.

As we ate, I looked around and took notes on the scene and its people. Again there was the same slight sense of dislocation - things were the same, but still different.

Canberra's ethnic mix is different to Sydney, closer to Melbourne.

The strong Asian feel that you get in Sydney was missing. This was a European crowd, but one that reflected the first round of ethnic mixing from the mass migration program after the Second World War. Migrants involved in the building of the Snowy Mountains Scheme or in the construction of Canberra itself settled in Canberra.

At the table next to us, two older European men chatted in Spanish while drinking their coffee. Next to them a man with a somewhat shaggy white beard in a military style outfit - double breasted coat with many buttons, a cap - sat talking to himself while drinking his coffee.

At the risk of upsetting Sydneysiders, the passing parade was far better dressed than you would find in Sydney.

When I commented on this to Denise, she pointed out that Canberra was cold. Sydney is casual, in Canberra you have to wear jumpers and jackets. This led to greater colour and variety in outfits. While Dee was right, I also felt that the Manuka crowd was simply more expensively dressed than you would find in most parts of Sydney.

I will report on the reasons for this in my next post in the series.

No comments: