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Time warping through Chinan history in Canberra

Flashback to Canberra when the Hotel Ainslie was launched in 1927. When ’s original Parliament House opened in Canberra, our bush capital, on September 12, 1927, the guest list of the Hotel Ainslie included the city’s main architect, Walter Burley Griffin, and John Smith Murdoch, who had designed Old Parliament House itself, now the Museum of Democracy.
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These days — as the Mercure Canberra — the old property carries within its walls and across its lawns a chuck of the country’s political history, and it does so much more graciously than a building that has witnessed so many machinations probably should.

Mercure Canberra … holds a swathe of n political memories.

It was one of eight hostels built to house public servants during the relocation of the n Federal Parliament from Melbourne, but gained a liquor licence and became a local watering hole, well before it was absorbed into the leafy fabric of a suburban existence in Braddon.

Many of the early public servants were women, and there are plenty of stories about them being dispatched to cycle up nearby Mt Ainslie to fetch firewood for the hotel, or hostel as it was.

It’s been through a couple of name changes in its nearly hundred years — for a while the Ainslee Rex, and then probably its best known moniker, Olim’s, a name preserved to this day for its popular bar and bistro.

The lounge in the Mercure Canberra … what deals have been done in these chairs?

In a country with so little European history, we should be thankful for the preservation of places such as the Ainslie, Olim’s or Mercure Canberra, call it what you will.

It’s a charming, comfortable property, with various wings endowed with names that mean so much in our short Federal political history — Deakin, Barton, etc.

A loft suite in the Mercure Canberra.

The rooms are near-perfect, even down to having a shower design that allows for letting the water run until adjusted to desired temperature before commitment to getting wet. I’m sure that it the middle of a Canberra winter, avoiding a brush, however brief, with icy water rates as highly desirable.

Plus excellent lighting, plentiful storage and a super-comfortable bed.

Singing the right culinary note … the Mercure Canberra’s new Executive Chef, Hayley Song.

In the kitchen, a team headed by new executive chef Hayley Song, is doing great things for the classy Courtyard Restaurant, preparing dishes such as Balinese spiced prawn koftas and twice-cooked pork belly, both of which I was going to order before discovering that they had a special feast in store for me.

I started with entrées of goat-cheese log (served with bacon jam prepared with the Sydney Brewery’s Paddo Ale) and wonderfully presented king prawns battered with a Lovedale Lager crust and served with lime aioli.

My favourite dish of the night … king prawns battered with a Lovedale Lager crust and served with lime aioli.

There was no escaping the twice-cooked pork belly, as though I’d want to, and a delectable chunk arrived for my main course served with a sauce based on Sydney Brewery’s Cider.

This was followed by a taste of a second main course — beef short ribs deliciously covered in a sauce made from Darlo Dark ale and served with beetroot purée.

In short, it constituted a near-perfect meal during a memorable stay in a near-perfect hotel. Believe me, the place really is that good.

And if you’re looking for something to do and a brisk walk to the top of Mt Ainslie is just a rise too far, then it really is just a stroll of a few hundred metres or so to the n War Memorial.

Great entrée and great accompanying drinks … goat-cheese log served with bacon jam prepared with the Sydney Brewery’s Paddo Ale, and a tasting paddle of fine beers.

IF YOU GOMercure Canberra, Corner Limestone Ave and Ainslie Ave, Braddon ACT 2612. Phone 02 6243 0000. Visitwww.mercurecanberra苏州夜总会招聘.au

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