Last Thursday afternoon flames licked the Canberra sky.
In a local version of the Deep Purple song, there was smoke on the water as one of Canberra’s most exciting food and drink precincts was destroyed by fire as the historic New Acton Pavilion building burnt. It spread through three restaurants in a very small amount of time. The cause of the fire is still somewhat in question, but the devastation cannot be denied. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
The New Acton building was built in 1927, and was a lovely old place. It is always sad to lose nice old buildings, however they go, but to me the real sadness comes from the loss of the places inside, of what has made the place worth visiting.
My heart goes out to everyone involved with Parlour, Flint, and Bicicletta, all of which were valued additions to the capital dining scene. When something you have worked so hard on gets destroyed it is always incredibly difficult.
Parlour has been one of the few high-end bars in town. Modern splendour was the name of the game, with glorious wines in plush surroundings. This was a room that buzzed, that deserves to be filled with people. Which makes the photos of the caved in roof and the floors strewn with rubble more distressing.
I always found Flint a little unsure of itself. They always had stunning local ingredients, but then didn’t always seem to know what to do with them. But they did try hard, and always put on an enjoyable meal in a gorgeous setting. When they kept things simple, the wonderful fish and pork they were able to get their hands on made for some good eating.
Still only very new, Bicicletta was a part of the recent boom of great Italian in Canberra, and they are the ones I will miss most. Possibly my favourite décor in town, their mix of industrial chic and rustic Italian with a touch of whimsical umbrellas just appealed to my tastes. On top of that, their thin and crisp pizza bases were spectacular, delivering simple Italian fare. The place felt fun, and was due for a lot of success.
All three restaurants have plans to rebuild, and I think we all hope they succeed. They may not have been the world’s most exciting restaurants, but they were a part of the cultural makeup of the city we live in, and they will be missed.
And one day when they reopen in a New New Acton, I will be there on that first night, ready to spend some cash and help them back on their feet. I am sure all of you will be too.