Chocs and frocks in the national capital
From tantalising truffles to discount designer pieces, Canberra’s full of great finds
Beaver Galleries, Deakin: An art space in Canberra’s medical Bruno’s Truffels, Mawson: Bruno’s is enough to drive chocoholics to distraction. There’s no prize for guessing what this store, run by Swiss-born Bruno Ehrensperger, specialises in. There are 50 varieties of melt-in-the-mouth handcrafted truffles in delicious white, milk or dark chocolate, and while the store does a roaring trade at Easter and Christmas, these chocs are irresistible any time of year.
The onsite cafe doesn’t offer much in the way of atmosphere, but the delicious eat-in fare — eclairs, cannoli or a scoop or two of gelato — is difficult to pass up.
If you can’t fit in a sweet or savoury with your coffee, check out the vast array of take-home treats, including freshly baked breads and quiches. For homesick Europeans, Ehrensperger stocks the likes of gingerbread houses, aniseed and honey lebkuchen and dresdner stollen.
Your wallet may be lighter when you leave (the truffles are not cheap) and your frame a little heavier, but Bruno’s is one very sweet reason to venture out to south-suburban Canberra. More: brunostruffels.com.au. Material Pleasures, Fyshwick: This spacious shop, in Canberra’s industrial hub, sources and sells last-season or unwanted new designer items. You won’t find castoffs or past crimes against fashion here. Instead, Material Pleasures recycles contemporary designer clothing, offering a good crosssection of high-end pieces, from an irresistible scarlet Aurelio Costarella satin evening wrap for $160 and a powder-blue Pilgrim jersey dress for $40 to everyday items such as a David Lawrence charcoal woollen overcoat. The store is well laid out, for ease of ferreting out designer discounts. The j umbled bargain bins of many second-hand stores have been replaced by racks of clothing, meticulously arranged according to size, style and type, and all pieces have been cleaned and pressed. The atmosphere is so relaxed it feels as if you’ve been invited to browse through a stylish friend’s wardrobe. More: materialpleasures.com.au. district, a stone’s throw from the Royal Australian Mint, might seem an oddity, but for almost four decades Beaver Galleries has been an oasis in which to view and buy art.
The privately owned gallery has four well-lit display spaces, as well as a peaceful, fern- lined sculpture garden, and regularly promotes the work of Australian artists through its revolving exhibition program.
Beaver is currently showing the work of painter Dianne Gall and construction artist and sculptor Alex Asch, while recent exhibitions have featured pieces from glass artist Brenden Scott French as well as painter and printmaker Belinda Fox.
The gallery’s compact size adds to its charm, and The Palette Cafe, which is licensed, offers a comfortable place to sit and discuss the works, ponder a purchase or enjoy a decadent treat. The gallery shop is well stocked with potential souvenirs created by leading Australian artists, including one-off pieces of jewellery, ceramic vases and handcrafted wooden items. More: beavergalleries.com.au. Bison, Pialligo: Bison’s lovely stoneware and ceramic pieces are sold in Melbourne and Sydney but this outlet in Canberra’s orchard and gardening suburb of Pialligo is where it all began. Attached to the company’s factory, the nononsense, concrete-floored venue has the full Bison range on display and, although pricey, it’s hard not to be enticed by the colours (as evocative as sage, citrus and mulberry). Salad and mixing bowls, olive oil containers and pitchers are handcrafted and blend modern lines with an old-style feel. Mugs are $28 but the Pialligo outlet has a shelf full of seconds, samples and discount lines where it’s possible to bag a real bargain. More: bisonhome.com. Down Memory Lane, Fyshwick: Another gem in industrial Fyshwick, this ramshackle second-hand and vintage store down a dead-end street is ideally suited to a leisurely Sunday-afternoon fossick. It’s a step back in time without the smell of mothballs, and features carefully arranged cabinets stocked with Royal Albert and Wedgwood china, glass tumblers, champagne flutes and 70s-style smoked glass.
The pre-loved fashion accessories are a standout, with velvet and pillbox hats for $30, or seed pearl and garnet brooches.
There’s also an array of Glomesh clutches — just as fashionable now as they were in their heyday — for $ 40, shelves of books (John le Carre novels, fairytales, self-help tomes) and rustic antique children’s racing cars hanging from the beams alongside retro light fittings. More: 34 Geelong St, Fyshwick; (02) 6228 1048. Addicted to Fabric, Phillip: Even if home economics classes put you right off using a sewing machine, this quirky store should not be missed. While Addicted to Fabric stocks a vast range of gorgeous fashion and patchwork cloth — including vibrant Japanese textiles, classy international prints and bright Australian designs — it is so much more than its name suggests.
Novices can pick up kits to whip up a tote bag or a set of felt finger puppets, while the more adventurous might stitch a skirt or a patchwork bedspread from a take-home pack. Classes are offered in subjects including dressmaking, beginners’ patchwork and floral applique. There’s a wide array of accessories, such as ribbons and buttons (I spy a bejewelled ruby and black button that’s larger than a 50c coin, and at $11.25 it’s an inexpensive way to update that tired old jacket). Kids will love the assorted buttons bin where a colourful scoop, suitable for any craft project, costs just $4. More: a2f.com.au Fang Clothing, Ainslie: Finding edgy, exclusive fashion in cookiecutter Canberra can be a challenge. In the inner-north suburb of Ainslie, however, this independent boutique caters to those who want to steer clear of uniformity. The store features predominantly Australian-made clothing that has been sourced from up-andcoming designers in Sydney and Melbourne. It also stocks a range of Elk jewellery and Polka Luka’s resin designs, plus a modest selection of babies’ and toddlers’ gear. The carefully chosen women’s clothing caters to teenagers and the young at heart, and there’s also office wear, including frocks that look as if they’ve marched straight off the set of Mad Men. Clothing is reasonably priced but tends towards smaller sizes. More: 1/13 Edgar St, Ainslie; (02) 6249 1054.
in our Secret Shopper series: Adelaide.
Addicted to Fabric features an intriguing array of textiles and accessories, and also offers classes in dressmaking
Bruno’s Truffels, left, specialises in handcrafted chocolates; the vintage store Down Memory Lane is ideal for a leisurely fossick
Enticing ceramics at Bison