Address: 1/15 Edinburgh Av, Canberra (ACT)
Ph:02 6262 8683
Hours:Monday – Sunday, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The birthday dinner is an interesting beast. With often a large group, sometimes not all knowing each other except for the central birthday person, it is difficult to decide exactly where to eat.
Do you go formal or casual? And what cuisine is going to keep everyone happy?
For a friend’s recent 29th, the decision was made to try Bicicletta, the new place at New Acton. Somewhere between casual and formal, with a bar attached, serving that ultimate party food, pizza. And with the same owners as Pizza e Birra in Sydney, it has excellent lineage.
The décor of Bicicletta is wonderfully, if eccentrically, styled, taking the natural look of the old room and adding a few twists. Between the rundown wall, light globes dripping from ancient faucets, umbrella lampshades patterned with the eponymous form of transport, and simple brown paper on even simpler tables, this is one of the most interesting dining rooms in the city.
The bar was slicker, but still cosy, with a wall of books and posters, long couches, and mirrored tables. The drinks list was solid, if heavy on the traditional cocktails. However, the admittedly well made cocktails did take a while to come through. Even still, I plan to return to the bar for a game of Scrabble some Sunday afternoon.
On the bar sat two heaped plates of bite-sized chunks of pizza bread, some plain and some with tomato. These were crisp and salty, with a touch of chewiness. Exactly what great pizza bases should be. It was hard to not be excited for the real deal.
Once we left the bar, we seated and started to order. The staff were friendly, but far from perfect. At an Italian restaurant, I don’t necessarily expect the staff to be able to speak Italian. But I do expect them to know enough to be able to know what we’re ordering when we call the dish by the name on the menu. When someone says, “I want the tagliatelle”, the waiter should understand what that means. It’s about knowing your product.
Following this up, the wait for the food was appalling. It took well over 45 minutes after ordering for food to arrive, and I was getting hungry. We were most of the way through our wines, a 2010 Totara Sauvignon Blanc and a crisp Italian white that completely slips my mind, before any dishes reached the table. It was extremely irritating.
The pizzas were, it has to be said, rather good. As with the foccacia, thin, crispy, with that touch of firmness, and tasting of really good bread. Excellent, and light years away from the bland, thick, doughy bases that are usually found in Australia. The toppings were well done, although not often as strong in flavour as expected. The Speck pizza, with speck and cherry tomatoes and three types of cheese (mozzarella, parmesan and provola) was gently salty, with a fresh hit from the tomato. A nicely subtle vegetarian pizza, the Zucca, had very thinly sliced slices of (unfortunately out of season) pumpkin on a lovely, sweet tomato sauce, pine nuts and goats cheese, but sadly then was smothered by a deluge of limp rocket.
They were all beautifully, if subtly, flavoured, even if there were a few more ingredients than necessary. Exciting pizzas.
The other dishes on offer were accomplished, but less than exciting. A tagliatelli with duck ragu was pleasant, but didn’t have the richness you expect from it, although this may have been a concession to the season. The Tagliata, a tender and rich piece of beef sirloin served with little roast potatoes and a salad was a great piece of meat, but not to the standard of the pizza.
Desserts were generic and no more than par for what they were. The tiramisu was a strong coffee flavour, with little else. It didn’t pick me up at all, letting down the whole meal.
Bicicletta is well on its way, but it still has far to go. Working on the service would be the most important thing, and the desserts need a lift. But the pizzas are good, and that’s something that Canberra needs. I’ll go back, birthday or not.