When a friend suggested I check out her favourite café at her local Jamison Shopping Centre, north of the city, I had no idea I would be walking into one of the busiest cafes in Canberra. The café was wall-to-wall with happy locals, with a short line out the front to get in. Due to the crowds there was a host at the door with an earpiece in her ear, coordinating empty tables to keep the line moving. Impressive and organised.
Peering into the café, there is a glass display lit up with vibrant cakes and desserts all lined up in rows, radiating deliciousness from within. It is these colourful sugar creations that draw people in, like moths to a flame, so there is no choice but to surrender and walk in to admire these decadent delights .
Beautifully hand-crafted desserts made by owner and pâtissier Ricardo De'marco
It didn't take long for a table to become free and we were given a table number to go and track down. We requested an outside table close to the conveniently-located playground just outside the café, which our daughter was eager to try out. With Reserved signs on all the tables closest to the playground, it is obviously a handy place for families to enjoy a meal and keep an eye on their kids at the same time.
Outside seating, with plastic awnings for cooler weather
There is also a large inside seating area, with floor to ceiling glass windows on two sides so it feels airy and spacious, even when busy. This is where you can admire the desserts from afar and enjoy the smells from the kitchen as you await your meal.
The menu is extensive, with a variety of choices for an All Day Breakfast or Lunch, as well as a separate Specials menu to peruse. All the meals were less than $20 on their new Autumn Menu and judging by the beautifully presented, large servings of meals coming out of the kitchen, it is easy to see why this café is so popular.
The menu includes salad bowls, burgers, gourmet sandwiches, tarts and a range of hot and cold options to choose from. For drinks there is a whole page of choices with teas, freshly squeezed juices, milkshakes and a range of tasty options to warm you up or cool you down.
Chicken Burger - Southern Texas style buttermilk fried chicken, Pendle Hill bacon, Apple slaw & Ranch dressing ($16.95) with a side of chips ($3) and freshly squeezed orange juice ($6.90)
As well as an extensive menu there is a good selection of food items on the Kids Menu and delicious milkshakes in flavours that kids (and adults!) will enjoy. As we sat at our table, the staff kept bringing out kids-sized milkshakes one after another, so of course our daughter wanted to give one a try. We ordered the Oreo and Peppermint version and her eyes lit up in a sugar and flavour hit like no other. When I took a sip to have a try it was almost tempting to keep sipping - it was simply delicious. These little green Ricardo's cups kept coming out the door for kids who had obviously been here before and knew what to ask for. Smart kids.
This successful café has been serving locals for over 8 years. With quick customer service, large servings, delicious food, decadent cakes and a playground to entertain the littlies, it seems that Ricardo's has found what Canberra has been looking for. With this success, Ricardo has also opened up another eatery on the south side of Canberra in Woden, called Space Kitchen. This restaurant is a different style to Ricardo's, with dark panelling, long bar and city-like vibe - however it still has their trademark displays of decadent desserts and vibrant coloured creations.
When I told my friend that I had been to her favourite café, she asked when we would be going back. It seems that this café has that affect on people - the buzz of the place is infectious and everyone there was having an enjoyable time. Perhaps it's the food, or perhaps it's the coffee, or maybe it is just that Ricardo's is a comfortable place to spend some time with friends and family enjoying the ambience. All I know is that my friend was right. We couldn't leave without taking one of these creations home - and we have already planned on when we are going back to try another!