Breakfast under the gum trees at the Botanic Gardens
Pollen is an aptly-named cafe that is located at the entrance to the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Acton. This quiet haven away from city life, is located less than 10 minutes from the centre of Canberra's CBD. Although this cafe has only been open for several weeks, it has gained a strong following each weekend with friends and couples enjoying a meal together, before exploring the gardens. The Australian National Botanic Gardens have the largest living collection of Australian native flora in the country. Although spring is an ideal time to visit the gardens, it also offers plenty of other attractions for the rest of the year. Pollen cafe has quickly become one of these attractions, with its beautifully-styled decor and healthy food menu. Surrounded by native plants and tall gum trees towering above, the leafy ambience makes it a popular weekend escape.
When you first walk into Pollen cafe, the decor is light, fresh and modern, with a shabby chic, homely feel. With white as the predominant colour, it feels airy and natural, which is perfect for its botanical surroundings. There are inside tables to choose from (with heaters on the ceiling in winter) and also a large undercover outdoor dining area, which has heaters and blankets to put over your legs in the cooler months. There are also wide umbrellas and plenty of tables further out on the patio, with tables both in the shade and sun. If you are just stopping in for a casual coffee, they have high-backed white wicker chairs to relax in, with coffee tables nearby.
The menu at Pollen is fresh, healthy and full of flavour, however it is a little on the pricier side compared to other cafes in Canberra. On our family's visit on a cool Sunday morning, we found a table by an outdoor heater and were happy to sit there awhile and enjoy its radiating warmth. We then went up to the counter to order and although there was a long line, it didn't take long for the meals to arrive afterwards. The hot coffees on a cold morning were particularly comforting and the bircher muesli was literally bursting with flavoursome berries and creamy muesli. When looking around, other meals taken out to surrounding tables looked generous in size.
The Breakfast menu has a wide range to choose from and is served all day. There are also various lunch and light meal options for later in the day and because Pollen is licensed, you can enjoy it with a glass of wine or beer. If you are just stopping for morning or afternoon tea however, they also offer a tasty range of cakes and slices from their display window.
A delicous Bircher Muesli to start the day ($14.80)
The cakes in particular are popular with families, with many tables with kids sharing a slice of cake, while Mums and Dads enjoy a well-deserved coffee. The cakes are $8 a slice. Unfortunately, the Pollen menu doesn't have any options for kids, so the cake display is a popular choice (our young daughter was more than happy to have a chocolate brownie slice!) Another point to note, that isn't mentioned on the menu or at the cash register, is that there is a 10% surcharge on Sundays.
For those visiting the gardens, Pollen is a relaxing place to have a rest or to enjoy a coffee before the start of the day. The previous cafe in this location (Floresco in the Gardens) was more casual, with family-friendly options, however Pollen is a different experience with a sophisticated menu and attractive decor for a more adult clientele. It is the ideal place to meet up with friends for breakfast or for a romantic meal for two under the gum trees. For our family, it will be an enjoyable place to visit next time we take visitors to the gardens, to rest our weary feet and recharge with a delicious coffee or smoothie in the sunshine.
Before you leave, why not take a quick walk through the Rainforest Gully, which is literally steps away from the cafe on the other side of the main path. Explore its boardwalks and marvel at the height and age of many of the trees and ferns that (surprisingly) grow there. It is a relaxing way to end a visit to Canberra's native gardens - the perfect city escape.