Highroad is a new cafe that is located in the northern suburb of Dickson, at the entrance to the main Woolley Street that runs through the middle of the town. Dickson is well-known for its wide range of Asian eateries, however this new cafe on the block is also drawing in the crowds. Highroad opened in November 2017 and is run by Canberra-owned Ona Coffee, who source and then create their own coffee blends at their Fyshwick premises (which can be viewed through the window from their Ona Coffee House cafe). They also have a huge following in Canberra with their other cafes The Cupping Room and Ona Manuka. If that's not all, Ona coffee is used in cafes all throughout Canberra, including the hugely popular Espresso Room outlets.
The attraction of this cafe, as well as the coffee, is that it is more than a daytime cafe - it is also open most days for breakfast, lunch, pre-dinner drinks, snacks, dinner and dessert (see here for current hours). For locals who live nearby, there is no need to drive into the city for a hip cafe and restaurant - there is one readily available in their own main street. Once you try it, it may become the only café you ever visit!
Brighten your day with a colourful and healthy breakfast at Highroad
I have personally been meaning to try Highroad since it opened, however each weekend I have been caught up with my own weekend busyness and haven't been able to try out this new Ona offering. On a weekday morning however, when I had a precious half a day to myself, I decided to visit for breakfast before a hike up Mount Majura nearby.
Although I much prefer to visit a cafe with family and friends, there is something decadent about having breakfast by yourself. Not every venue makes you feel comfortable in doing so however, so I was impressed that the staff at Highroad made me feel comfortable as soon as I walked in the door. By 9:30am on a weekday, the place was surprisingly buzzing with people - students, local workers, couples, tourists and visitors. I found a handy table for two with my back to the window and facing the bar, so I could easily sit back and watch the excitement unfold.
The menu at Highroad is extensive, with a full breakfast and lunch menu running until 2:30pm and then the Bar Snacks start at 3pm and the Share Plates and Dinner Menu begins at 6pm. As I had checked out the menu before I arrived, in the hope of finding something light and healthy before my uphill marathon, I already knew I would be ordering their Bircher Muesli - Coconut, figs, strawberries,pomegranate, pistachio and lemon balm ($13). I also ordered a Hitman blend of coffee on the side, as I enjoyed the flavour from my previous visits to GreenHouse Coffee & Co in the CBD - which is another venue that is part-owned by Ona coffee. This over-achieving coffee and cafe business really is taking over Canberra - in the best possible way.
My Bircher Muesli was one of the best I have ever eaten, with soft figs, crunchy pomegranates, creamy muesli and a comforting flavour which made you want to keep eating it forever. Although I wouldn't have swapped my bowl of colourful goodness for anything, I must admit to having meal envy for the range of breakfast dishes getting delivered to the table next to me. I now know what to order next time!
Avocado - Smashed avocado, vegemite ricotta, two poached eggs, herb salad on sourdough ($19). Image: Highroad Facebook
Although the food is impressive, as well as the smoothness of the coffee, another feature of this cafe is its sheer size. As soon as you walk in the door, the height of the ornate ceiling is impressive and the first seating area is extensive and open. As well as a long bar and coffee making area, there are also communal tables and wooden booths, with skilled craftsmanship that make you just want to run your hands over the smooth, curved lines.
At the far back of the room, there is a step to walk up and then there is another large seating area, with tables that stretch all the way to the back of the cafe. Due to the large space, you would expect it to be noisy, however the level of chatter noise was surprisingly quiet, so you could still hear the low beat of the hip-hop music playing in the background. The overall effect was relaxed, comfortable and calming. It was an effort to get up and leave!
Wood craftsmanship in every nook, cranny and booth. Image: Highroad Facebook
If you have tried out Ona coffee in the past, and even if you haven't, then Highroad is a cafe that is worth tracking down. The friendly staff are happy to answer any questions about the coffee and will explain their range of blends to choose from. I found that this cafe had it all - friendly staff, welcoming surroundings, good-sized servings and delicious coffee. The owner Sasa Sestic was crowned the World Barista Champion in 2015 and since then the baristas at Ona have also competed and placed, which seems to drive this group of coffee connoisseurs even further.
The result? Many happy customers - including myself!
Relax with good food and good friends at Highroad, Dickson. Image: Highroad Facebook