Just as Con Christopoulos was almost single-handedly responsible for reclaiming the Paris end of Melbourne’s city from what looked like terminal decline some decades ago, he too is redrawing the borders west of Elizabeth Street. In territory mired in restaurant touts, with menus pitched mainly to a tourist audience, and otherwise populated by city workers…
While the name XO may convey that most emblematic of Hong Kong sauces (as well as Cognac, if that’s where it takes you), XO restaurant, in the Canberra inner suburb of Narrabundah, is far from confined to a regional cuisine, no matter how cosmopolitan that cuisine may be. XO draws broadly on the cooking of Southeast Asia, which naturally draws in influences from further afield, too.
The approach here is informed by tradition, but not bound by it, with a respectfully eclectic overlay to the menu. An Asian bolognese of XO chicken ragu with udon noodles and a 60-degree egg is a firm customer favourite, as is the Sexy Squid – fried baby squid with sweet chilli salt – and an evolving selection of soft-serve ice creams to finish – think banana and Nutella.
The wine list has a local focus, with producers close to Canberra featuring heavily, though it takes in makers from around the country, too, with a peppering of internationals. In general, the listings tend to the artisanal, with a decent smattering of lo-fi options. Local legend Clonakilla is particularly well represented, with a decade-long vertical of their iconic Shiraz Viognier on show. There are 13 by-the-glass options, and a handful of sakes, while cleansing Asian lagers rub shoulders with domestic craft brews.