Review: East Hotel, Canberra

Play, Travel / 2 September 2022

East Hotel have created a comfortable and inviting hotel that you’ll wish was your second home.

Situated in the heart of Kingston, the capital’s oldest suburb and a bustling hub of culinary and cultural adventures, is East Hotel, Canberra’s 140-room boutique design hotel.

The family-owned establishment is run by brother and sister team Dion and Dan Bisa. The Bisa family have a background in property development and construction however East Hotel is their first hotel venture. The hotel has been styled to ensure the comfort of apartment living. The living room is spacious, the kitchen is fully-equipped and our bathroom even had a jacuzzi bathtub, perfect for an indulging soak. Rooms are designed for both business travellers as well as families with bunk beds for children. Kids even have their own mini-bars, stocked with popcorn, cookies and rice bubbles. There are also considerate little touches, like offering lollies in the foyer.

Family is important to the Bisa siblings and both dining venues are named in homage to their parents. Joe’s Bar: after their father, Joe Bisa, a first-generation Italian-Australian. While Agostinis restaurant is the family matriarch’s maiden name.

Whilst Canberra’s dining scene is pretty impressive, at East Hotel there’s no need to venture out as the hotel offers delicious food and drink venues.

Joe’s bar is cosy and quirky. It has been designed to include a number of conversation starter pieces including a floor-to-ceiling concrete curtain and lots of decorative vintage and Venetian glassware. Known as the “Politician’s whiskey bar” (it’s well-visited by the staffers of Federal politicians), it has an extensive drinks menu with over 20 gins, a wall of whiskeys and numerous versions of Italian aperitivos, martinis and negronis plus cocktails, wines, beers and non-alcoholic options. Initially overwhelmed with choices, we soon found a few favourites namely the Midnight Breakfast ($19), consisting of Malfy Gin con Limone, Limoncello, blueberry jam, lemon, aquafaba (water-bean) and syrup. And the Muscat Margarita ($20) – Tequila Fortaleza Reposado, pavan, lemon, lime, grenadine, pink peppercorn and bitters. 

Luckily, the watering hole also offers a tasty menu of nibbles and pizzas (rossa and bianca).  Highly recommend the Ricotta e Miele ($16), buffalo ricotta, macadamia honey and basil oil, which will have you ordering more bread to mop up the sweet cheese remains. The pizzas are made using Neapolitan technique whereby the dough is left for 72 hours before being fired up in an authentic pizza over imported from Italy. We ordered the delicious Nera pizza of pork and fennel sausage, cavolo nero and chilli ($25). 

If you love Italian food, then don’t miss dining at Agostinis’ restaurant. Booking ahead is highly recommended but just because the restaurant will likely be full, don’t think you’ll be waiting for service; there are 20 chefs for the 150-seater restaurant. 

The menu is inspired by the traditional cuisine of northern Italy. Everything is made in-house and most of the produce is sourced locally or regionally. Even the olive oil is sourced from award-winning producer Fedra Olive Grove in nearby Collector.

To start, we ordered the signature dish Frico ($20). Based on a peasant dish from the Friuli region of Italy, the morish delight of Montasio cheese and potato is shaped into a pancake and roasted into a crunchy and too-easily devoured dish. After the glorious Frico we needed some freshness and the simple salad Di Radicchio ($16) with fennel, orange and dill helped break up the meal. 

As it was a cold wintery eve, friendly Executive Chef Francesco (Frankie) Balestrieri, suggested we try the Zuppa of Tortellini in Brodo ($25), with taleggio and mortadella tortellini, served in home-style chicken and goat broth, topped with truffle shavings ($5). And for our main, share the freshly made pasta was cooked to perfection in the Pappardelle Alla Capra ($30). Thick and silky ribbons of pasta tossed with slow-cooked goat roasted with white wine, tomato passata and thyme. Frankie is worth listening to.

Finally, rounding off our feast we finished with thin crispy piccolo cannoli shells filled with sheep milk ricotta and pistachio.

The wine list pleasingly offers a number of Italian varieties. We went with the 2020 Bera Barbera d’Alba ($65), a medium-bodied, earth red with ripe black cherry and spicy cinnamon notes.

While the food is traditional the design is anything but. There are no red and white check tablecloths; this restaurant stands out, from the bright pink neon sign ‘You had me at Pizza’, to the bold design of leopard-print booths. I also loved the touches of Italian flair with the distressed, hand-dyed rope hanging from the ceiling to resemble handmade pasta hung out to dry in the sun.

Conveniently, the restaurant Muse is located adjacent to the hotel. The space doubles as a bookshop and sells new and second-hand books. The all-day breakfast menu offers light classics and ‘more substantial fare’. My companion went with the classic rolled oat porridge with Turkish apricot compote, pistachio praline, pomegranate seeds, Greek yoghurt and cinnamon ($17). Whilst I opted for the substantial smashed avocado toast, poached eggs, ricotta, chilli jam, pepitas, puffed rice and spice mix ($20).

I’d also be remiss to mention the wonderful and welcoming staff at East Hotel and adjoining eateries. The team at East go out of their way to ensure guests are looked after, from the hand-delivered pillow selection service to taking the time to discuss local Canberra attractions you might want to check out while visiting. East Hotel have created a comfortable and inviting hotel that you’ll wish was your second home.

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