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The Bench Room Cafe, National Film and Sound Archives

Home > Canberra > Architecture | Cafes | Lunch | Museums | Rainy Day
by Sue W (subscribe)
New to Canberra, I love exploring this city and the secrets that it holds with my family.
Published June 17th 2015
Update April 23rd 2017
This cafe has now been replaced by Food By Chatz.

A warm Cafe with a sunny courtyard for your weekday coffee
Nestled inside the "National Film and Sound Archive" is a newly opened Café "The Bench Room" which is an inviting and homely café with a funky edge. With comfortable chairs, bench seating under the window and friendly owners, it is a welcoming place to go for a coffee or lunch. The décor matches the historical nature of the Archives, a mix of new and funky pieces from the past.

It is important to note however, that this Café is only open Mondays to Fridays due to the Museum opening hours.

The Bench Room, National Film and Sound Archive, Acton, Canberra
Only open a month, this café is cosy and welcoming - The Bench Room.

The menu consists of toasties, sandwiches, soups, light meals, hand made cakes and pastries and the usual variety of coffees. I tried a roast beef, cheese and tomato relish toastie ($7) with thick cut bread and oozing cheese. As the owner said, "It isn't a toastie unless the cheese is dripping!". So true.

The Bench Room, National Film and SOund Archive, Acton, Canberra, ACT
Oozing cheese...the perfect toastie.

The Bench Room, National Film and Sound Archives, ACT
A welcoming sight on a cold winters day - photo from their Facebook page.

One of the best features of this Café, besides the food and friendly owners, is the outside courtyard. The building itself is heritage listed (built in 1930) so the courtyard has a quaint, historical feel. As the courtyard is in the centre of the building, other diners told me that it was an ideal place to sit on a sunny day as it is protected from the wind. Surprisingly large, the courtyard has chairs and tables outside, as well as tables and couches along the covered walkways.

With so much history here to explore, it is interesting to note that this garden courtyard was opened by Mrs Hazel Hawke back in 1991.

The Bench Room, National Film and Sound Archives, Acton, ACT
Although it was raining when I visited, this courtyard is an idyllic spot to sit on a sunny day.

The Bench Room, National Film and Sound archive.
Outside seating, under cover.

The Bench Room, National Film and Sound archives, ACT
Comfy couches to lounge in.

The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia is only open weekdays, which is unfortunate for this Café as it would be a popular weekend Café and courtyard. Whilst I was there however, the cafe had started to gain some regulars from nearby offices who were coming in for coffees or lunch in their break, as well as tourists who were exploring the building.

National Film and Sound Archive, ACT
The National Film and Sound Archive.

The National Film and Sound Archive is an interesting building, containing a mix of styles including Art Deco, popular in the 1930's. As you walk around there are Australian animals carved into columns, around the front door and when you look up in the foyer you can't miss the stain glass platypus.

The National Film and Sound Acrhive
Look up when you get to the foyer.

The Archives includes a little movie cinema (at the time of writing it was showing free movies from the war period), an exhibition space (at the time of writing it was displaying "The Front Room" where you can chill out on the beanbags and couches whilst listening to dramas on an old radio, listen to music on headphones or watch TV on the 1960's tv set) and there is another exhibition area currently being renovated.

Step back in time in The Front Room exhibition.
Step back in time in The Front Room

Although not a huge place to explore, it has some interesting rooms to poke around in and also admire the architecture of the time. For people who remember the war years and the changes over time, the Archives will be a treasure trove to explore. Make sure you pick up a copy of the talks, movies, music nights and events they have on offer.

Unfortunately there isn't any activities for the kids, so it is more a place for adults to come and relax and reminisce.

The Café and courtyard area is a highlight of the Archives to enjoy before or after your visit.

So if you are in the city during the week – either working nearby or as a tourist to Canberra, this Café is definitely worth visiting.

For the cheesy toasties alone, this café is a winner.

The Bench Room, National Film and Sound Archive, ACT
A hidden surprise inside The National Film and Sound Archive.

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Why? A coffee and lunch in their sunny courtyard - a relaxing way to spend your lunchbreak.
When: Cafe open Monday - Friday only 9am - 3pm. Archives open 9am - 5pm. Closed weekends.
Phone: (02) 6248 2181
Where: 1 McCoy Circuit, ACTON
Cost: Free entry.
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