In Short: Two Before Ten epitomises what Canberra is known for, the ‘bush’ capital. Backing onto a reserve with a rustic farmhouse feel, the cafe delivers outstanding coffee and accomplished cafe fare. Our tip is to sample a couple of different coffees and dig into the baked eggs!
Two Before Ten makes its home in the bushland setting of Aranda on the fringe of Canberra city. Located at Aranda shops, the cafe utilises an old, rustic, farmhouse-like building. With a bar, café, pizzeria, and even a yoga studio onsite, this is a place to unwind and get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Continuing a theme of great cafes positioning themselves in tired suburban shopping strips, Two Before Ten is now a place where the local community, and visitors alike, can gather and relax. What I love about this place is the building that blends right in with the surroundings, and provides long communal eating tables outside. But its the exotic aroma of coffee beans that lures you in, as the roaster is onsite so you know they take their coffee very seriously. And rightfully so, as it was because owner Chris Dennis was looking for a new place for his coffee roasting operations, that led to the birth of the café and roastery on this Aranda site.
We had come to Two Before Ten with prior knowledge about their prowess with coffee. Coco and Viner Sacha had auditioned their coffee at their Canberra CBD cafe, and was mighty impressed. First of the coffees sampled on our visit was a filter coffee with a single origin Ethopian Guji. A clean and smooth cup of coffee with cherry notes, and a sweeter, tropical, fruity finish featuring flavours of pineapple.
Little Coco and Viner Sammi loves her hot dog sandwich. For her, Two Before Ten’s Twobie-Dog is a must-try; it’s not just your regular hot dog sandwiched between a roll. The sausage used is a mouth-watering Toulouse sausage, topped with a mount of sauerkraut, manchego cheese, and house-made bacon jam, finished off with lashings of yellow mustard sauce on top. The whole masterpiece is served on a rustic wooden serving board, with a side of fresh salad greens. The Toulouse sausage is made with pork mince marinated with gentle hints of spices, while the vinegary sharp flavors of the sauerkraut helps to contrast the rich, meaty flavors of the sausage. The best part of the Twobie-Dog though, is the bacon jam. Not only do you get bits of smoky, delicious bacon in a jam-like consistency that you can spread on your sandwich (or in this case, your hot dog bun), it gives the sandwich the quintessential bacon flavor without going overboard on the meat factor. This is a hot dog roll that has been elevated to another level, and is something from the menu that’s suitable for kids or adults.
When I think of baked eggs, I immediately think of the Mediterranean dish shakshuka, with its delicious red, rich tomato sauce. But once again, Two Before Ten managed to change my perception of what is expected of a baked egg dish. Hidden underneath two perfectly baked eggs with that slightly runny yolk, was a pie-like filling. Instead of a red tomato sauce, Two Before Ten opts for a white creamy sauce, made with tender sautéed leek and mushrooms, flavoured with tarragon and lemon. Topped with some herbs, and strands of enoki mushroom on top, a final surprise element to this dish are the pieces of delicious Gruyere cheese crisp, that add a salty, crunchy element to the dish. Because the sauce is so delicious, you also get a generous slice of toasted focaccia bread to mop up the sauce and ensure that none of it goes to waste. Delicious to every last morsel!
From the toasties section of the menu, we tried the roast chicken sandwich that comes with smashed avocado and provolone cheese, all bound together with an aioli sauce and served with a side salad on a wooden board. The smashed avocado gives the roast chicken a creamy flavor while the cheese provides a sharp, slightly salty, taste. The end product is a delicious healthy sandwich that tastes really good, and ticks many of the food groups at the same time.
If an unconventional sandwich takes your fancy, look no further than the grilled asparagus on focaccia, with poached eggs, baked ricotta, kalamata olive dust and herbs, seasoned with a touch of Two before Ten’s house-blend harissa spice. This is one tasty vegetarian sandwich! The harissa spices and that special olive dust, give the sandwich that subtle Mediterranean feel, without being too overpowering. It’s well balanced, generously seasoned, vibrant, and easy to scoff down with joy.
Two Before Ten also has a great array of desserts that sell out quickly! Looking outstanding and enticing to me was the lemon meringue tart, with the creamy, lemon filling that is not too tart or sweet, and just set to perfection. The delicious filling was encased in a short crust pastry and topped with a mound of white meringue, lightly browned on top to give it a light caramelisation. Done right, this is one of my favorite desserts, and Two Before Ten has definitely done this classic dessert justice.
Another worthy mention goes to the berry tart. It almost reminds me of a clafouti dessert with the yellow filling generously dotted with red berries. Speaking of the filling, it was rich and cheesy, almost like a cheese cake. When contrasted with the tart sweetness of the berries, you get a dessert that ticks all the flavour boxes, and leaves you wanting more of it.
Before heading out, one last coffee was sampled. To test out their blend, both Sacha and I shared a flat white. I enjoyed their Poundcake Blend; it was a rich and flavourful coffee. Light on the roast, it makes for easy drinking. I love the milk chocolate finish and exquisite milk work that lent a perfect viscosity.
After the meal, I would recommend a wander around the premises as the café and the roaster only take up one section of the building. There is also a pizzeria and a section where you can browse and buy local products. On the upper level, there is a transition office space for people looking for temporary work spaces, and on the lower level, is a library and reading room with comfy couches and chairs. After hours, the library converts into a bar! There is also a Yoga studio, should you need to mentally and physically unwind. I would definitely recommend a visit for the good food options, and to also check out the amazing place where the locals have come together to embrace and help build a gathering and hangout place by the community, for the community.