Relaxed but sophisticated share-plate dining from Sean McConnell – drop in for a quick bite and a glass of something eclectic, or settle in for the long haul with a group and order everything to share.
The nuts & bolts
Rebel Rebel opened on a rather unassuming corner of the edgy NewActon precinct in September 2019 and, practically overnight, became one of the city’s essential restaurants. Not that that should have been any surprise – chef/owner Sean McConnell (brother to the two Melbourne McConnells, Andrew and Matt) is one of the capital’s brightest stars, and his tenure at nearby Monster Kitchen and Bar ushered in a new wave of refined casual dining in Canberra that continues to this day.
In many ways, Rebel Rebel (which McConnell co-owns with his wife, Jenny) picks up where the chef left off at Monster. The eye-catching interiors, designed by architect Sam Rice, are framed by recycled timber beams and very much in-line with the rock soundtrack that would make Bowie proud. A very flexible dining format accommodates guests from lunch through to dinner on weekdays and throws in breakfast service on the weekends. So, if a full-blown meal isn’t on the cards, know that dropping in unannounced for a quick glass of Domaine de la Bretonnière Muscadet over a half-dozen Rusty Wire oysters with lime and long pepper is very much an option.
The menu consists of a dozen or so dishes meant for sharing that highlight top-quality Australian produce with occasional nods to the Iberian Peninsula, southern Italy, parts of Asia and the Indian subcontinent along the way. Dinner might begin with parmesan cannoli or fried quail with harissa and lemon before moving on to a springy dish of broad beans and asparagus dressed in ajo blanco. Blue mackerel, meanwhile, finds favour alongside romesco, capers and iceberg lettuce, while curry leaves and smoked yoghurt round out a generous hunk of roasted pumpkin.
Wine treads a similarly non-conformist path, with minimal intervention being the guiding principle. By-the-glass options are kept nice and tight, while the bottle selection runs to 80 or so labels with zigs and zags aplenty, pitting local heroes like Ravensworth, Eden Road and Lark Hill up against big names from the Old Word and occasional jaunts to New Zealand, Georgia and even Japan.