A and I had dinner with Erin from Mouthless Mutters a few weeks ago. Erin suggested we meet at Eightysix in Braddon, which had been on my wishlist since our arrival in Canberra.
Thinking back on it, I think the reason why it’s taken A and I such a long time to visit Eightysix was the conflicting stories we had heard. We had heard that the prices were high, but mainly that the service was dismal. In comparison, it was being pegged as the best dining establishment in Canberra. Thankfully, I have finally tried it for myself and can add another version of events to the never ending pile of those who love or hate Eightysix.
When we arrived, our waitress was keen to get our evening underway (as we needed to be out by 8.30 for the next sitting). She suggested to us that we order a few entrées to share, with three other plates to share for our mains. The three of us looked over the menu, which is featured on large blackboards that cover the side wall of the dining room. Luckily for A and I, Erin has excellent vision so she was able to tell us the items which were on the very far side of the room. I learnt from Erin that when Eightysix no longer offer a certain dish during the evening, it’s scratched (or ‘eightysixed’) from the blackboard menu.
The first dish to arrive was the pickled pork terrine with ravigote ($18), which also came with chargrilled bread. This terrine was delicious and was an excellent start to our meal. The chargrilled pieces of bread were the perfect accompaniment to the subtle flavour of the pork and ravigote.
Erin and I each ordered a duck bun ($8 each). For the relatively small size, these buns are pricey however they are more than worth it – they taste fantastic. The pickled cucumber with the duck and the soft, steamed buns make for an excellent combination of flavours.
There was an extended wait between each dish, which is due to Eighty Six ‘spacing’ of dishes. When the corn with parmesan and lime ($4) and the cauliflower, mint and raisin salad ($16) arrived, with no sign of our meat dishes arriving, we decided to ask if they would be waiting until we finish the cauliflower dish, as I wanted to pair this with our beef cheek dish. One of the waitresses was really helpful and said that it would be at our table shortly.
When the Guinness and house-mustard beef cheek ($32) dish arrived, I was impressed. The beef cheek looked moist instead of some dry cheeks I’ve tried in the past, and the side salad looked exceptionally fresh. The taste also impressed, with the house-mustard adding an interesting flavour to the beef.
The night’s pièce de résistance for me was the Blackened chicken with buttermilk coleslaw ($36). The dish consists of two Marylands that are covered in an incredible southern barbeque-type sauce that is then served with a buttermilk slaw that pairs perfectly with the blackened chicken and adds a bit of texture and contrast. I spent a bit of time exclaiming at how good this dish was, but only with a small collection of words. So much deliciousness!
Erin and I decided to finish our night off with the famous and iconic Eightysix Popcorn Sundae ($15), featuring popcorn, popcorn ice cream, caramel sauce and peanut brittle. I really enjoyed this dessert and can definitely see why it merited the cover of Gourmet Traveller – it’s unique and actually works in so many ways. Unfortunately, the popcorn pieces were stale in my sundae which took away a little of the wow factor.
In regards to the service, I thought that overall, it was actually quite good. We had one waitress who was helpful and friendly, but then there was one who was pushy and slightly rude. The venue itself is minimalist, with an open kitchen and the floorspace packed with tables. These two aspects are the reason why Eightysix is noisy, but in saying that, I find that atmospheric and shows how much Eightysix is booming in Canberra.
Overall, I loved the food at Eightysix and thought it was worth every penny. You won’t hear me complaining about the price!
Update: I returned to Eightysix for brunch a few weeks later. You can read about that experience here.