Name: White Eagle Club
Address: 38 David St. Turner. 2612
Ph: 02 6248 8563
There really are a surprising number of restaurants in Canberra, of varying quality. Some are very good, and the number is growing all the time. And yet, Canberra is not a restaurant town.
We have a smattering of cafes around, and slowly we are starting to get the occasional good coffee. But we’re really not a café town.
Despite a few good examples of each, we are also neither a pub town nor a bar town. Which begs the question, what sort of town is Canberra?
In this town there is one sort of establishment that is almost ever present. Canberra is a Club town.
From the mammoth-like Southern Cross, through the Tradies and Vikings, to sporting clubs and the myriad of smaller nationality based versions, this city is riddled with clubs. You pay your usually very small membership fees, then drink cheaply and eat food of varying quality.
But the national clubs are by far the most exciting. They are like visiting your grandmother’s house, if you suddenly discovered that you were adopted from a random foreign family. The décor is strange and often a little ridiculous, the company is noisy, and the food is basically just good, old-fashioned home cooking.
It is that ethnic home cooking that makes these places so great.
The White Eagle Club, a bastion of great Polish beers and meat, is a perfect example of this. Sitting on a table under a leaf-covered chandelier and matching ball of greenery, the room was completely absurd. But when you’re drinking brilliant Zywiec beers at a mere $6 a bottle with a group of friends, it’s hard to worry about things like that.
Food wise, everything is kept traditional, with dishes like warm, thin Polish style borsch being very popular.
Some very smooth Steak Tartar, served classically on finely diced onion and gherkin with an egg yolk on top, was refreshing and simple. The egg gives lushness to the meat, melding with the tang from the vegetables. While not the most thrilling mix of flavours, and less to my tastes than the more complex Asian versions, it still makes for a good foil to the beer.
Pierogi, a type of dumplings, in this case are filled with an overly processed meat and cabbage filling. While they have a decent flavour, with an extra taste coming from the stock it has been cooked in, the texture is a little slimy, verging on unpleasant.
But the main show here comes from the stews. Goulashes and hunters stews, rich and meaty, are sloshed on to plates with various options of starch, such as gnocchi, potato pancakes or small scoops of mash. The presentation is as plain as is possible, without even a wink to modern plating.
This is comfort food to the extreme. The meatiness of the stews make for a warming and punchy meal, particularly when you bite into a piece of sausage.
That is the beauty of these clubs. They have absolutely no pretention. Whether Polish, German, Greek or any of the other ones around town, these clubs are at the heart of the Canberra community. They aren’t the most impressive food in the world, but that doesn’t stop them being special.
I still love my restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars. But sometimes it’s not too bad to live in a club town.