The Bearded Bean is a little café that makes a big impact. Walking up Genge Street on a sunny but crisp autumn morning, I could immediately see how buzzing it was. Nevertheless, the staff were friendly and had everything under control. They were clearly prepared for the morning coffee rush, a daily occurrence when office buildings surround your café.
Head chef Joe popped his head out of the kitchen to greet us, as well as about ten other customers waiting for their takeaway. I immediately loved the friendly atmosphere of this café. Joe knew the names of pretty much everyone who came through the doors while we were there. When I asked him about his regulars, he said he has ‘about 200’, and he loves the fact that he really gets to know the people who come to The Bearded Bean.
Despite the small space, the café doesn’t feel cramped and in fact, allows Joe to be able to know his customers as well as he does. If he was in a bigger place, Joe told me, he would be stuck in the kitchen in the back somewhere, rather than able to pop his head out at any time when he hears a familiar voice. This welcoming and friendly attitude definitely shows in his cooking, and we were treated to three delicious dishes on this day.
When this steak burger came out, our jaws pretty much dropped. Look at the size! Look at those chips! It all seemed too good to be true. Then we tasted it, and I honestly have not stopped thinking about it since. The meat was cooked to perfection. Tender and full of flavour, it checked all the boxes. As did the other ingredients: rocket, bacon, shredded beetroot, aioli, and melted brie. Served in a fresh Turkish roll, nothing could make this dish any better. Except, perhaps, the chips on the side. Dubbed ‘beer battered bad boys’, these chunky chips were the perfect complement to the burger. They were crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, just the way a chip should be. This dish is a Mediterranean style burger, and Joe calls it “a classic with a twist”. He came up with the idea when he wanted to take a dish that everyone knows and loves – the burger – and elevate it. This is often his approach when creating new menu items, such as what we were served next: the corn fritter.
The Corn Fritter
The presentation of this dish was everything it should be: eye-pleasing, colourful, and it also smelled delicious. There is currently a fritter dish on The Bearded Bean menu, but the one we were served was a little different. Chef Joe came up with it a few weeks ago when he was deciding what to have for lunch, and it was such a hit with the rest of the team that he wants to work it onto the menu soon. The current fritters on the menu are popular, but there’s no doubt that the addition of the smoked salmon and poached egg will be even more irresistible. The bright pink beetroot yoghurt was the first thing I noticed and was the perfect accompaniment to the other elements of the dish. The eggs were perfectly poached, with two runny yolks, and of course made for a classic combination with the melt-in-the-mouth smoked salmon. The corn fritters themselves were too good to share! Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, with little corn kernels throughout which added pops of sweetness. The green on top of the eggs? When I saw it, I thought it was guacamole, but it turned out to be pea puree which was a surprising but enjoyable addition. Scattered around the fritters was a hazelnut dukkah which added a little bit of crunch. These fritters make the perfect savoury breakfast dish, definitely something to try if you feel like you’ve had one too many eggs benedict.
The Poached Pear Porridge
At first, I was slightly hesitant about trying the porridge since I’m not usually the biggest fan, but I can now say I’m a convert, at least to this one served at The Bearded Bean! Joe calls this his ‘secret porridge recipe’ and I think that’s what made it so special. The porridge was served with stewed rhubarb, seasonal fruit (ours had blueberries) and a poached pear on top. As you can see in the photo, this pear was a beautiful ruby red! It’s poached in a dyed sugar syrup, which makes for a much more eye-catching and appealing dish. The red pear complements the other colours in the dish and looks almost too good to eat. This dish looks rather autumnal, which is perfect for the current Canberra weather! Once we’d stopped ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over the presentation, we tried the porridge. The pear was soft and beautifully cooked. The porridge was smooth and creamy. The pear syrup had been reduced into a glaze and drizzled over the top, which added just the right amount of sweetness. While the mixed nuts of pistachio, hazelnuts and almonds added crunch and a different texture to the dish. This porridge truly is a classic winter warmer breakfast that will satisfy your sweet tooth and keep you nice and full for the morning, giving you a perfect start to the day.
Of course, The Bearded Bean wouldn’t be a café without delicious coffee. There are five different blends to choose from, including the award-winning house blend, Guatemalan, Peruvian, Vietnamese, Brazilian and Colombian. Something that I’ll be heading back to try is one of the speciality hot chocolates – there is a whole menu board dedicated to the different flavours! Each hot drink comes with a homemade biscuit, which is a sweet touch. With all types of milk available, everyone can get something warm to drink at The Bearded Bean no matter what your preference is.
Overall, The Bearded Bean strives to have dishes on its menu that are ‘simple, with a twist’. Joe says his aim is to show that you can make new delights from classic favourites, just by adjusting a few ingredients here and there or trying something different. Another plus about the menu is that everything can be made vegan and/or gluten-free. Joe also tries to showcase and celebrate seasonal produce and ingredients.
Make sure you introduce yourself to Joe and the team: after trying the food, I’m certain you’ll become a Bearded Bean regular too.