Do you fancy a succulent steak dinner? Then, the ‘Kingo’ (as Canberrans fondly call the old Kingston Hotel) could be the place for you. Mr D. and I recently attended a good friend’s birthday bash there and had a blast. It was the first time I had visited the old dear (the hotel that is) in many years, and I was pleasantly surprised.
When I was a uni student in Canberra many moons ago, the Kingo was one of those places you went when you wanted cheap beer, cheap grub and a game of pool. The Kingo still delivers these, but the decor is so much nicer than I remembered. The 1920’s heritage-listed building is looking pretty good these days.
The Kingo is renowned for its cook-your-own steak bistro. Call me a snob, but isn’t the whole point of going out for dinner so you don’t have to cook your own food? I was relieved to find there was quite a decent steakhouse in the room next door with no self-cooking required, which is where we were headed.
In fact, the steak was beautifully cooked. When it arrived, the steak was medium-rare to order, tender and juicy, and full of the beautiful charred flavour you can only get by cooking on a proper chargrill – delicious!
Served with crispy fries and fresh salad, the decent-sized angus scotch fillet proved good value at $29 per serve. I particularly liked the fact that our chosen sauce was served on the side, as there’s nothing worse than soggy chips (and everything else on the plate) drowned in the stuff!
The dessert menu was basic pub food, but done well. We both ordered the individual pavlovas with passionfruit syrup (Mr D. didn’t want to share!). There was a conspicuous absence of fresh fruit unfortunately. But the pav itself was lovely and fluffy in the middle, with a very light, crisp crust. I watched the couple across from us devour a sticky date pudding, which looked pretty scrumptious as well. Good value again at $7 a serve.
Now for a bit of trivia! The Kingo is rumoured to have been home to some Cold War espionage activity in the 1950s. ASIO agents supposedly based themselves at the hotel so they could monitor KGB spies visiting the Soviet embassy across the street.
For you political history buffs, the Kingo is infamous as the place where the ’36 Faceless Men’ of the Labour Party met in 1963 to develop their party manifesto. These were the unknown officials who ran the party. Menzies used knowledge of this meeting to his advantage to create a perception of secrecy and lack of accountability around the then Labour Opposition. He held onto power in a thriller of a Federal Election later that year, winning by the narrowest of margins.
The Kingston Hotel
73 Canberra Avenue
Open 7 days for lunch and dinner
What’s your favourite steakhouse?