The salsa beats are pumping and the smell of empanadas is wafting on the breeze. Crowds of people are tapping their feet while they wait and closing their eyes with pleasure as the take hungry bites of their food. I feel my hips start to sway as the music speeds up (this is distinctly unlike me!) and I chuckle as the staff banter happily with their customers. You could be mistaken for thinking this is unfolding in a cosmopolitan city somewhere in South America but you'd be wrong - this is the regular scene at La Empanada Bakehouse in Gungahlin, the booming northern centre of Canberra.
In some ways, Gungahlin has been a victim of its own success - the rapid growth has led to accusations of it being a soulless, high-density suburbia. The positive though is that Gungahlin has a diverse population and the restaurant scene is catching up with the times. There are some fantastic foodie favourites setting up shop here and La Empanada is leading the pack.
From their humbler beginnings running a food truck dishing up tasty morsels, the team decided to set up their bricks and mortar store in xx. The empanada flavours on offer are a mix of traditional South American flavours (xxx) and modern takes (cheeseburger anyone?). The empanadas are absolutely delicious - the pastry is fantastic and the fillings are punchy and generous. If you're not sure what an empanada is, it's a pastry casing around a filling similar to a pie or a pasty but with a touch of South America flair. The Bakehouse's motto is 'one is never enough' and once you try them, I think you'll agree that is pretty apt.
There's a range of sweets and salads on offer too. As a little bonus, the shop has a selection of South American grocery items so you can stock up on supplies if you're eager to recreate some of the culinary magic at home.
In more good news for empanada lovers across Canberra, you can pick up La Empanada's frozen empanadas at locations across Canberra - for information on where, check La Empanada's website.
Stock up on some South American grocery favourites at La Empanada in Canberra