Kingston and Manuka are boutique shopping and dining hubs for classy Canberrans. Kingston’s mix of cafes, eateries and bars makes it a popular place for young professionals looking to wind down at the end of the working week. It’s also one of the most sought after brunch destinations in Canberra where a handful of bakeries and bistros do a busy trade on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Nearby Manuka kicks-up the class a notch to cater for Canberra’s most sophisticated clientele. Peruse high-end boutiques and sip coffee during the day or settle in for fine-dining and cocktails at night.
A day in Kingston starts early with the opening of gourmet bakeries from 7am. Early risers should head to Silo Bakery and Café on Giles Street to discover the delicious baked goods that make it Canberra’s best bakery.
Equally worth an early start is Penny University Coffee Roasters. Just around the corner on Kennedy Street it too offers baked treats and quality coffee to help ease your way into the morning. If you’d rather hit snooze don’t worry, both places cater for brunch well into the morning, but be mindful you’ll have to wait for a table if you’re after a late breakfast on the weekend.
Speaking of brunch, Me & Mrs Jones, is another popular choice for a long breakfast. Decorated in the style of the mid-1920s it’s full of character to enjoy while polishing off your banana bread French toast.
After a lazy afternoon, Kingston picks up the pace again at night. The area is one of a few in Canberra known for its restaurant culture with dinner spots covering Italian, Tapas, Indian and Vietnamese. Friday nights also see an influx of young professionals to the neighbourhood’s handful of bars and pubs. The Kennedy Room will have a dance floor by around 11pm while The Durham and Little Brooklyn also keep the drinks flowing late.
If Kingston doesn’t satisfy your foodie and beverage cravings, head a few minutes south to Manuka. Bigger and pricier than Kingston, it also offers more shopping options if you’re on the look out for designer threads and homewares. There’s also a cinema for those wanting to check in the latest blockbusters.
If you’re exploring Manuka by day make sure you wind your way through the arcades and laneways that link Franklin Street to Bougainville Street so you don’t miss the small businesses off the main drag. The restaurants are concentrated along Franklin and Flinders Streets and range from Korean Barbeque to Spanish to Japanese cuisine.
Public Bar is Manuka’s busiest nightspot, particularly on Friday nights when public servants and white-collar professionals head in to celebrate the end of the working week. But our top pick of the nightspots is Spanish-themed Charlie Black on the corner of Furneaux and Franklin Streets.
As a general rule, Kingston and Manuka aren’t the most favoured destinations of the budget conscious. While you do get quality goods and services for your money, expect to pay mid to high-end prices for food and drink.
Having said that, it costs little more than pocket change to enjoy an excellent coffee or caramel cronut so you’ll always be able to afford a small piece of luxury for small change.
If you’re in Kingston, ordering takeaway from the bakery and having it on the grass in Green Square is a lovely way to enjoy the neighbourhood in summer, and much cheaper than having a sit down meal.
You should also take note of weekday meal specials offered at most restaurants in both precincts; in particular the half-price mussel deal at Little Brussels Belgium Beer Café on Tuesdays. Also be on the look out for the early evening drink specials on offer at most bars and pubs.
If you think it odd that the two retail precincts of Kingston and Manuka were established so close to each other, you’re not alone. Back in the 1920s when leases were being sold to establish different business centres in Canberra, Sir John Sulman, the Chair of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, was away during the crucial decision making period. As a result, businesses were given approval to set up shop in two different precincts barely a minute or two away from each other. Upon his return, Sir Sulman, who had envisaged Manuka as the dominant commercial centre south of the lake, lodged his disapproval of the decision but was unable to change it. What is now modern-day Kingston was originally known as Eastlake. The area was originally set-aside as living quarters for construction workers who occupied more than 100 portable wooden cottages. These were pulled down after the Second World War and today housing is typified by medium-rise apartment living. These days around a third of residents work in government administration.