Photo: Tilley’s website
Whatever their opinion, everyone in Canberra seems to know Tilley’s Devine Café Gallery. On the leafy corner of Brigalow and Wattle Street in Lyneham, Tilley’s is a Canberra institution. The first thing you’ll notice, once your eyes re-adjust to the low lighting and dark decor, is the old school charm and smartly dressed waitresses skillfully dodging and weaving between tables. The soft jazz that plays over the speakers adds to the lively atmosphere. For a newcomer, it’s a little confusing that there’s no sign telling you to seat yourself and order at the bar, but you’ll feel right at home every time after that.
I visited Tilley’s twice over the course of a couple of weeks, trying out both the breakfast and lunch menus. I went for a classic each time – the English Breakfast and then the Organic Beef Burger. The English Breakfast came as a generous and beautifully stacked tower. The toast was topped with two poached eggs, smothered in tarragon hollandaise next to chipolata sausages and baked beans. Beside that lay hash browns and bacon placed on a bed of sliced field mushrooms and a small garnish of greens to complete the visual feast. The hearty meal was delicious, and the variety of tastes and textures made the dining process fresh and interesting throughout. My only relates to the strips of thick cut bacon, of which, parts were overcooked and dry. Everything else was perfect.
The burger, however, was less impressive. I’m always on the lookout for a good burger and was really hoping for Tilley’s to be The One. The Organic Beef Burger had an excellent but perhaps overblown description of its ingredients: ‘250g ground beef patty, swiss cheese, fried onion rings, Tilley’s tomato pickle, American mustard & rustic salad, with New York Fries’. Albeit very fresh, the ‘rustic’ salad was nothing more than the typical onions, tomato and lettuce you’d expect on any burger. Having lived in New York for three years without ever hearing the term ‘New York Fries’ before, I wasn’t sure what to expect from that addition. Turns out they were pretty much the same as you’d get at your local fish and chip joint. The texture of the beef patty wasn’t great either – the beef was nearly minced to the point of it being blended, making the patty mealy and dry. The 250g might be a selling point for some consumers, but I would have rathered a smaller patty that was juicier and well-seasoned. The best part of the meal? The two onion rings that were crisp, tasty and cooked just right.
There are a few other small gripes. In the corner booth where I was seated quite a few flies got trapped by the lack of airflow. On another occasion, the fixed table was too far from the booth seating to make for comfortable eating. I’m also not too keen on the 50 cent card surcharge, though the 10 percent surcharge on public holidays is pretty standard. What I do love and appreciate about Tilley’s, however, is that there is something for everyone. It’s a great place to catch up with friends or sit with a newspaper by yourself. For students and those who care about value for money, I’m not sure if I would recommend the overly ambitious lunch menu. It tries to cover too much ground – there are plates ranging from Thai curry, to Schezuan Salt and Pepper Squid, to pasta. However, brunch at Tilley’s is a great way to treat yourself once in awhile, and a great place to take your parents when they’re visiting and kindly covering the bill.