It’s safe to say that TFE Hotels has produced two of the best looking venues in Canberra. Barely 18 months after their amazing refurbishment of Hotel Kurrajong, the dynamic company has thrown open the doors of Vibe Hotel at Canberra Airport.
The stunning exterior sets the scene for the experience of entering the foyer. Sitting in Helix Bar & Dining on the south side of the ground floor, it’s fun to watch new arrivals as they spin around with eyes and mouth wide open to take in the soaring atrium with its Guggenheim-like balconies.
Helix, much like Chifley’s Bar & Grill at Hotel Kurrajong, is under the stewardship of Executive Chef Mick Chatto. With 25 years’ experience in Canberra, and a slew of awards under his belt, the modern Italian-inspired menu has plenty of amazing treats on offer across large and small plates and desserts.
To kick off a meal beside the large windows that frame the restaurant, we sent for the Fior de Barata. With heirloom tomato, lemon and olive oil the dish is essentially Helix’s take on a Caprese Salad, but swaps the basil for baby beetroot leaves. The mozzarella is mixed with cream to produce a rich Barata cheese that exhibits a slight sourness to counter the sweetness of the fresh and flavour-packed tomatoes. It’s a great way to start a meal, with limited ingredients presenting complex flavours.
If that starter exhibited subtle complexity, the Octopus with shaved fennel and radicchio is a huge slap in the face with sharp, strong salad providing the perfect foil for the fresh octopus that has been braised in white wine and garlic then treated with mustard and vino cotto dressing. It’s strong and bold and finished with dill to round out a striking dish.
Tonight, the Market Fish of the Day is baked Kingfish. The accompanying half of lemon has been caramelised across the flesh to add an extra dimension to the citrus hit. Matched perfectly with a crisp white from the wine list (we liked the HaHa Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand). But it’s the little touches – the baby capers and black olive crumb – that bring added depth to make this more than just a slab of fish. With parsley butter that brings a viscous mouth-feel, this is a light and satisfying main.
The Confit Duck showcases the classic technique through layers of flavour in both the skin and the flesh. While some might be tempted to simply pair it with Pinot Noir, Chef Chatto has looked to Cabernet with it’s great presence of black fruits for a great reduction.
For dessert, a great place to investigate flavours that aren’t so sweet is the Date and Macadamia Tart. Sticky, chewy and filled with a deep and complex taste, it’s a dish you’ll want to share. The ice-cream adds a naughty touch as the warming memories of the famous liqueur contrast brilliantly with the coldness of the ice cream. If not, hit up the Crème Brulee with almond biscotti that comes in a tub big enough for two (but you’ll definitely want to keep to yourself).
With an ever changing menu it’s fair to say that you’ve never eaten food like this at an airport. The combination of an amazing building coupled with Michael Chatto’s engaging and delicious menu at Helix Bar & Dining means there’s a special feeling around Vibe Hotel Canberra Airport.