In Short: ONA Manuka provides the idyllic ambiance to take in outstanding coffee and superb cafe fare. Our tip is to carefully peruse the coffee menu as there are so many interesting choices including 3 milk coffee blends. The benedict or fritters are hard to beat.
There’s nothing better, than spending a morning with your best friends in one of the city’s premier cafes without having to worry whether we have overstayed our welcome or if there are impatient diners waiting to jump into your chair. That was our experience at ONA Manuka. It was not my first visit, far from it, but with the almost full crew of Coco and Vine present, it was the prime opportunity to taste a flight of coffees and sample ONA’s best food creations.
I first chanced upon ONA Manuka on a crisp winter’s morning in 2012. A group of us had been on a trip down from Sydney shooting the iconic Canberra locations like Commonwealth Bridge, Government House, and Orroral Homestead. Our group of coffee-deprived photographers struck gold at ONA Manuka. I still remember the original comic-themed menus and, at the time, we remarked that the food and coffee was as sublime as the best you could get anywhere in Sydney. Little did we know that ONA would go on to grab headlines with owner Sasa Sestic, and his proteges, being hailed as some of the best baristas on the planet.
ONA’s Manuka cafe is one of a host of cafes dotted around Canberra that is managed by the ONA group. They spread their wings to Sydney in 2018, and we really enjoyed visiting their Marrickville cafe on opening day. It’s a relaxed affair at their Manuka venue with diners enjoying the sun during summer, and camping inside during the winter months. You also have the opportunity of grabbing your coffee and chilling out on the lawn and taking in the village type atmosphere.
Both Steven and I judge the standard of the coffees at a cafe by ordering a flat white to start things off. It’s no different here, and twin flat whites are placed adjacent to one another. In appearance, they mirror one another; a good sign to the consistency of each cup. Drinking the Black Betty, it brings out the superlatives. Exquisite taste to the last drop, we both enjoy the depth and body of the coffee. It’s smooth with a generous rich chocolate finish. I have tried all three blends available at ONA, and Black Betty stands out for it’s accessibility. It’s sweetness and flavour has a broader appeal, especially when made by an ONA barista!
While I will go for a flat white, whether it be a 43 degree or 14 degree day, on a warm spring day Sonia went straight for a cold brew. Her coffee was served in a tall glass with the coffee poured over ice. It was a refreshing coffee that, like the flat white, was smooth to the last drop. Acidity is negligible, and there was a beautiful caramel finish.
On the food front at ONA Manuka, there is something to please everyone. I went for fritters. I was lured in by the jalapeño, and was not disappointed. I enjoyed the heat that penetrated through the emmental and potato. The fritters were light, fluffy, and perfectly crisp on the exterior. Each fritter was dressed with the perfectly formed poached eggs that draped their yolk over the fritters. Combined with the herb aioli it delivered a rich and satisfying breakfast.
Not even 12 hours earlier, Steven had polished off a slab of pork belly at Baby Su and yet, he couldn’t resist another pork belly offering with the eggs benedict with pork belly. It was an indulgent dish; silky smooth hollandaise with a mustard kick, partnered with the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly. Add to that perfectly poached eggs, and it’s a delicious, comforting plate of food. The greens of cavelo nero that were seasoned perfectly provided a textured dimension.
Showing the boys up was Sonia and her choice of a healthy chia pudding. A supremely light breakfast offering which was beautifully balanced and not too sweet. Sonia loved the textures with nuts and dried fruit providing a contrast to the smoothness of the soaked chia. Berries provided a tartness which freshened up the whole eating experience. It’s a delightful, yet guilt-free, offering if you are looking to refuel after a heavy workout.
To wash down our delicious meals we went for another round of coffee. I sampled an Ethiopian Guji Sidamo filter coffee that was made through using a pour over method. The result of the slower process of a pour over resulted in a coffee with a black tea intensity with a finish of peaches and strawberry. It’s refined and super smooth.
A playful finish to our morning was an iced coffee. Presented with a syringe filled with panela, it’s glass of coffee filled with ice. There’s the intensity of the coffee with a similar flavour profile to the flat white. The panela injects it’s natural sweetness to the coffee and is the just the tonic as the temperature begins to climb. It’s the perfect summer drink for those who love their coffees with a bit of milk and ice.
A couple of hours had passed before we knew it, we could have stayed all day! ONA Manuka may be more relaxed in its approach, but the excellence in the coffee and food is not diminished one bit. You can chance it on the weekend but be prepared to come early. My tip is take a day off and come enjoy a morning during the week, you can thank me later.