It’s no secret that Mercure Hotel Canberra is steeped in history, but the heritage-listed establishment is keeping tight-lipped on a secret of its own – Olims Bar & Bistro.

Nestled among the greenery of Limestone Avenue and originally built to provide accommodation for public servants relocating to Canberra to support the transfer of the Commonwealth Parliament, Mercure Canberra is historically significant for its important role in the development of North Canberra and the forging of its community identity. It is one of the few remaining government accommodation structures from Canberra’s first stage of development in the 1920s.

Olims is located on the ground floor of Mercure Canberra and boasts a large beer garden overlooking Mount Ainslie. It is the perfect place to meet with friends and family in a relaxing pub atmosphere.

On offer is a classic bistro menu that locals and visitors alike have grown to know and love, including the best selling chicken schnitzel. If you’re looking to mix things up, come in and check out Olims’ daily blackboard specials. The family-friendly venue also provides parents with much respite with a great selection of kids’ meals, including a mini-sized chicken schnitzel.

We dropped in to Olims one sunny afternoon to enjoy the pub grub that Canberrans have come to expect, and were pleasantly surprised when all our expectations were blown away.

Service started with a bang as we were served the Fried Mozzarella and Pepperoni Sticks. The spice on the pepperoni combined with the oozing cheesy goodness of the mozzarella filling was the perfect pair, funneled inside a crispy shell of flakey pastry. Stacked enticingly on a bed of fresh sprouts and beside a sweet chilli dip, this entrée was an exciting depiction of what was to come.

The Mini Chicken Satay Skewers with peanut and chilli sauce followed and was a stand-out in our eyes (and taste buds!). It’s funny how a certain smell or taste can whisk you back to a different place or trigger a fond memory – for me that was the streets of Thailand. Authentic Thai cuisine has always been a favourite of mine and Olims’ satay skewers sure rivaled that of the real thing.

The sauce was delectably sweet with a pleasant chilli kick that balanced out the tender chicken pieces. Be warned, this dish is very more-ish and will sure have you licking your fingers for more! My tip is best not to share.

On to the main event, the Buffalo Chicken Burger – need I say more!? Tie your hair back and take your rings off for this one ladies. The buttermilk and chilli marinated chicken thigh sat atop succulent layers of lettuce, tomato, pickles, blue cheese, ranch dressing and home-made barbecue sauce.

As someone who usually turns away from blue cheese, this burger changed me – to say the least. The surprising addition added a flavour that was creamy and not overpowering at all. In fact, it brought the entire burger together and seamlessly married all the textures and tastes.

For the health conscious, Olims has a range of light and guilt-free dishes, including the Prosciutto Wrapped Atlantic Salmon served with warm quinoa, steamed greens and a lemon butter sauce.

The gluten-free dish comprises crunchy textures of perfectly salted pan-fried prosciutto and salmon skin. The pops of quinoa on the palate creates a delightful contrast to velvety sauce and selection of veggies.

What better way to top off our Olims experience with an all-Australian classic dessert, the Sticky Date Pudding with ice-cream. The varying temperatures of the dish is sure to create an explosion of goodness at first bite.

The pudding is drizzled in a delicious caramel sauce, with strawberries and a berry coulis that cuts through the richness of the pudding. The mint garnish adds a refreshing hint of flavour, while the ice-cream is plentiful and combines all the elements together. Make sure you get a bit of everything on your spoon to really make your taste buds sing.

If you haven’t rediscovered this hidden gem as of late, make Olims Bar & Bistro your next stop for a bite to eat and challenge the conventional conception of pub and bistro dining. We promise you will leave with a happy belly and a new go-to.