Type: Restaurant, café, bar
Meal: Before-hours dinner
Food et: Calamari (tapas) and steak sandwich
My brother (A) and I decided to hit up Cream for a quick bite to eat before an early movie session. Seriously, who starts a movie at 6pm – that’s too early for dinner, and then it’s too late for dinner afterwards (or if you’re like me, you’ve eaten every piece of popcorn in the vicinity and are too full for dinner).
There doesn’t seem to be many quick pre-dinner dinner options around the area, Babars is open with a limited menu (pizza) and Kingsley’s Steakhouse is not the kind of place you go to scoff a meal down. Usually Sammy’s or Wagamama’s would have sufficed, but we’d both OD’d on Asian food in recent times and wanted to try something tasty, but a bit more laid back.
Cream is nestled on the corner of Bunda and Genge streets, pretty much directly under the Dendy wing of the Canberra Centre. The café is modern in it’s lay out, with bar like benches and stools mixed in with the more traditional café setting. There is a coffee bar in the middle, underneath a beautiful feature light. The space is bright and trendy, but not too pompous.
Cream does good coffee and drinks, but I am partial to their cold drinks – specifically their fruit frappes. Tonight I decided on the “Passion Paradise” which is a blend of lychees, pineapple, passion fruit and lychee juice. I liked it, it’s really cold and refreshing, but it was a little sweet for my usual tastes.
Cream does a limited menu before 6pm, consisting of tapas and burgers. I’ve previously come here before an early movie, and a friend and I had shared the tapas tasting plate – something I highly recommend – but tonight A and I decided to get the burgers.
I ordered the steak sandwich, which has a tender sirloin, lettuce, tomato, free range egg, aioli, caramelised onions and is served with shoestring fries – however I opted to omit the egg. Seriously, Australia …
I used the word ‘tasty’ a lot when we were there and I’ll continue that trend in this post – this sandwich is tasty! The steak was tender and not too tough, which you see a lot on steak based burger/sandwiches. The onion was caramelised well, nice and soft, and had a nice flavour. The salad was crisp and plentiful – I hate it when you get one piece of lettuce! The bread holding the whole thing together was toasted Turkish bread that was fresh and hot, soaking up the juices from the flavoursome insides.
Shoe string fries are my very most favourite type of fries, so I was pretty much in chippy heaven! They were done perfectly - crispy, but not burnt, and with the perfect amount of saltiness. One thing my brother did suggest, and I agree, is that the chips be served with an aioli or some kind of dipping sauce – there are a whole lot of chips on that plate, and eating them plain can get a bit tiresome.
A ordered the Chicken Burger which has a free range breast with lettuce, tomato, bacon, pineapple relish, paprika aioli and is also served with shoestring fries.
A was really happy with his burger, and said “there was the right amount of sauces on the burger and it wasn’t too sloppy”.
We decided to get the calamari as a side, because when I’d had it in on the tasting plate previously, it stayed with me and I wanted to try it again. The calamari is dusted in spices and served with a mango lime relish.
The calamari was well cooked (not too rubbery) and the spices really gave it another dimension. The mango lime relish is a fantastic accompaniment to the dish, and is tangy and sweet. It can be quite strong, so don’t dunk your whole calamari piece in it. I think it would have worked better as an aioli than a relish/chutney.
The service at Cream is good, but not great. The staff are young and always seem to be busy, but after they seat you and take your order, that’s the last you’ll see of them - you pay at a counter and you’re on your way. The food was served quickly and, in fact, our entire meal took a total of 30 minutes from sitting down to walking out the door. Perfect for the pre-movie rush!
Verdict: I was really happy with our visit to Cream, the food was tasty and fresh, the menu was hip and inventive, and the place has a trendy, but welcoming atmosphere. I’ve heard some people call Cream “pretentious”, but I’ve never encountered an ounce of that. Hell, I was wearing thongs and I felt at home!