Joe's Bar in East Hotel

The East Hotel's bar-restaurant, Joe's Bar, has becomea drawcard in its own right.

 

Joe’s Bar is a curious and beautifully designed meeting place in which to enjoy a superb, contemporary Italian cocktail and a meal to remember. 

Joe’s inspirational Italian Chef Francesco Balistrieri has built his reputation around the perfection of well-loved traditional Italian cuisine, with his Roman background shining through in everything he does. This love and devotion to the great heart of Italian food is reflected in the Joe’s Bar cocktail list, which has a strong Mediterranean influence and a respect for the elegant simplicity of flavour combinations.

Chef Francesco has a particular affinity for the Negroni (second from right, above) with its bitter and sweet balance and overtones of orange. Indeed, the concept of the aperitif style cocktail is to stimulate the appetite prior to enjoying a meal, and Chef Francesco’s menu is all the better for one (or two!) of the wonderful, traditional Italian cocktails available at Joe’s Bar.  

The Joe’s team are constantly looking to create new and fresh takes on cocktail classics as well, with an impressive range of innovative and delicious cocktails to suit all tastes whilst the Italian theme is reflected across the beautifully curated wine list and beer selection. 

Apple-Ginger Tini, in which vodka, apple schnapps and ginger syrup are shaken over ice in a Boston shaker before being strained into a martini glass and garnished with fresh mint and dried apple, is one example. 

The bar-restaurant cleverly opens on to the street so it attracts locals as well as in-house guests.

Italian-born Chef Francesco Balestrieri is leading the latest food trends in Canberra with his creations at Joe’s Bar, bringing to it his authentic take on Italian cuisine and reimagining bar food in Australia’s Capital City. The bar serves as a perfect backdrop to the incredible wines and cocktails served at Joe’s and enjoyed by locals, international visitors and politicians alike.

 

At Joe’s the underlying principle is that produce is best served in season and as fresh as possible. Chef Francesco's menu has been specifically created for diners to share, and to complement the amazing wine selection with family and friends. 

Before dinner, Chef Francesco sat and talked to us for some time and we asked him some questions:

We discovered that an amazing quirk of fate brought him to Australia a few years ago, and led to him meeting his future wife. Now very settled in Australia, his Italian roots make him most comfortable serving quintessentially Italian dishes. 

What does he like to cook? His eyes light up when he answers 'pasta'! and then starts to dream of dishes such as 'wild boar and pappardelle'.

Yet he has a light touch too, as he showed in the first dish we ate that night: wafers of smoked trout, shaved fennel, flower petals, and herbs including chervil, delicate and the perfect beginning for the richer dishes to follow.

The menu has offerings ranging from crunchy breaded green olives, stuffed with pork and veal with toasted fennel seeds and fresh rosemary and a stunning range of antipasto options through to more substantial dishes like tagliata di manzo con salsa verde – grain-fed scotch fillet, served with salsa verde and sweet potato; handmade gnocchi and a memorably authentic Italian lasagne.

 

Our visit coincided with Canberra's annual winter truffle festival and, even though it was very early in the season, Chef Francesco had secured a few  of these precious black gold discoveries for his diners.

Our first dish was airy pillows of freshly made gnocchi tossed with Italian sausage pieces and bathed in a rich sauce before being liberally scattered with truffle shavings.

Chef Francesco also told us that his aim at Joe's is 'to make it different to every other Italian restaurant in Canberra'. He is planning three months of truffle dishes during the season in Canberra, and there will be a special 'truffle dinner' each July.

A sublime snow-white mushroom risotto, deftly lifted with the addition of lemon thyme, was liberally topped (of course) with paper-thin shavings of local black truffles. Ah - the aromas!!

During this meal de also brought us a slate platter holding toasted sourdough and a magnificent burrata (a fresh pouch of mozzarella filled with cream) made, we were told, about 40 minutes from Canberra. During our talk, Francesco had expressed how keen he was to source as much local produce as possible, and this was just one example of how successful he has been in doing that.

Those with a sweeter inclination are not ignored either, with specialties such as the chef’s spectacular semi-freddo drizzled from height with spiced hot chocolate sauce. Our sauce came laced with chilli for an even greater effect!

 
 

Sally and Gordon Hammond travelled independently to Canberra, but were hosted by East Hotel for dinner at Joe's Bar and overnight accommodation. All observations remain their own however.

 
 

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