Mixing with the people at Hoi Polloi
by The Editor
Canberra was a funny place yesterday. On the 40th Anniversary of the Dismissal, our future king arrived in town to meet with the Prime Minister, who himself is the former Chair of the Australian Republican Movement.
Okay. So, that’s a tad awkward…
While all this was going on, media types and local foodies gathered at Old Parliament House for the grand opening of Hoi Polloi – the revitalised restaurant in the courtyard of the historical landmark.
Indeed, it was an auspicious evening. Only metres from the famous steps where, forty years ago, Australia’s Commonwealth history collided head-on with its democratic present, history was celebrated with levity through the art of cartooning and politically-themed hamburgers.
But more of that in a moment.
Hoi Polloi is the product of a close collaboration between the Museum of Australian Democracy (current custodians of OPH) and Restaurant Associates (part of Compass Group, one of Australia’s largest service providers). The concept was to develop a premier lunch destination within the Parliamentary Triangle – something that rose above the many café offerings.
With its setting in the old Non-Members’ Bar that was, for some forty years the watering hole of journalists and lobbyists, the room is steeped in history. The new fit-out respects this history. While the bar and kitchen pass maintain a contemporary feel, the room is filled with chairs and old tables from the Senate Dining Room. The rich red colour that we’ve all come to associate with the Upper House provides a luxurious feel, while the rough edges of the wooden furniture remind us of the conversations that were held at these tables over the decades.
The night progressed with punters enjoying local wines, Pact Beer and a Robert Menzies martini. Local bartending superstar, Charlie Salvador, extracted the cocktail recipe from one of Menzies’ books, where the ex-PM described filling a glass pitcher with Gordon’s Gin and vermouth ‘by feel’ before stirring and pouring with a twist of lemon.
And yes, the burgers. Chef Andrew Collins guided a bunch of Canberra food bloggers through construction of their own burgers that had to be themed around Prime Ministers. From Bill Hughes to Gough to Hawkey, there was plenty of humorous interpretation. The three winners will have their burgers on the menu for the next month, with the burger accruing the most sales keeping a place on the list for the remainder of the season.
With a beautiful courtyard space and historical context, it’s great to see the restaurant given an overhaul that once again makes it a compelling option for lunch. The menu is available here, and you can make a reservation on 1300 870 433 or email firstname.lastname@example.org