In case you didn’t know, The Commons Street Feast is a food truck festival being held in Commonwealth Park, Canberra, from 9 to 18 December 2016. It’s an exciting time with this being the first of several food festivals being held across the capital this month (more on that later).

Despite the fact that gates opened 25 minutes later on opening day than the advertised opening time due to having to usher out a forklift and other contractors, I was impressed by the number of seating options available. Lots and LOTS of picnic tables, not just down the middle strip, but to the sides underneath the shade of trees. There is also plenty of grass for those that wish to bring picnic blankets. Deck chairs are available to be hired onsite starting at $10 a chair, and I think it gets cheaper the more chairs you hire.

Based on the vendors on The Commons website, I kind of knew which food trucks I wanted to hit up. My first choice was to try Gelato Messina’s soup kitchen gelato. This was an easy decision as it was the first stall closest to the entrance. Messina’s International Soup Kitchen was a concept introduced in Melbourne earlier this year. Four flavours of gelato encased in a super cute bespoke tin representing four countries of the world. All tins are $9 each.

The four flavours are American Chow Don, Faux Pho, Zuppa Duppa, and Black Forest Bisque.

The zuppa duppa was my first soup tin as the main flavour was hazelnut gelato, and I looove hazelnut gelato. This also had strawberry preserve, pistachio crunch and amaretti biscotti in it. My favourite so far!

I really loved the crunchy pistachio bits. So good. My philosophy is to try dessert first (and to also avoid queues later on). As it was 4.30pm, it was the perfect time for it. However, the mountain of already prepared soup tins stacked in the fridges meant the lines moved quickly.

The faux pho was had on a different day. Filled with salted coconut sorbet, kaffir lime marshmallow, lychee meringue and chilli cashew crunch. I found that there was mainly coconut sorbet in the tin, until I dug my spoon deeper to the bottom to find the cashew crunch and gooey marshmallow. The cashew crunch was rock hard and I had to actually lift the whole thing out with my spoon and bite into it as it was too hard to cut through with a spoon. Although I can see the careful balance of flavours – the chilli counteracted by the cooling coconut sorbet, it just didn’t do it for me. Plus I’m not a chilli in my ice cream / sorbet fan. Unfortunately I couldn’t taste any lychee. Two more flavours to go…

The next food stall I wanted to try comes all the way from Sydney – Mary’s Newton. There were already several people queuing up and waiting for their order after I’d finished my gelato soup tin.

Vegetarians can enjoy Mary’s with a veg burger available.

The Mary’s Burger ($14) had a beef pattie, cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion in a glossy bun. That bun was so soft and beautiful. The beef pattie very juicy, beefy and oh-so moreish. The perfectly melted cheese wrapped around and hugged the beef pattie, never letting go. The super fresh lettuce and red red tomato were great. The perfect portion of finely chopped onion was spot on. A classic beef burger done well. It was actually smaller than it looked when flattened down to bite into. I was still a little hungry afterwards!

On a separate occasion, I had the cheeseburger ($14) consisting of the same beef pattie, a slice of cheese, pickles, tomato sauce and that same bun. I preferred the Mary’s burger to the cheeseburger, but only because I’m not a fan of pickles. The cheeseburger seems to be a very popular choice.

I was drooling when I saw someone walk past with Mary’s fried chicken wings so I had to order that too. The 2-wing pack for $8 was expensive but YOLO. The wings were nice and crispy at first, but then I noticed the crispy bits soon flaking off and dropping away (and my brain shouting no no!). The chicken was super succulent and juicy. Good wings but it lacked any flavouring (this ain’t your KFC seasoning).

Mary’s devas tater tots ($10) were golden, crunchy and piled high, covered with a slice of cheese and a spicy bean mix. This was easy to share at the table and completely polished off. A crowd favourite.

MEET was another food truck I wanted to try which would only be available in the first week of The Commons. There’s now news that MEET is extending its stay until the end of the week. I was there shortly after gates had opened and they didn’t have any other meats ready at the time except for the beef short rib.

I decided to try the short rib anyway ($22) which came with a choice of 2 sides. I chose the cassava chips and the potato salad. I had a choice of BBQ sauce or mustard and I chose the BBQ sauce. This only took about 5 minutes before my name was called. The short rib was MASSIVE. One huge chunk of meat. I guess for $22, a second short rib would have been great, but honestly I couldn’t finish the one. The beef was so tender and pulled right off the bone. So delicious. The cassava chips were very crispy and golden on the outside but a tad fibrous. They were very chunky and not the thin chips I had envisaged. I chose the potato salad purely because it was cold and I needed it on a 33 degree day.

For Belgian waffles, De Wafel is the food truck to head to. There’s a choice of six sweet dessert waffles ranging from $6.50 to $12.50.

Instagram showed me a seventh waffle – the Tim Tam Surprise ($12.50) which was a special for the event. The sign for the special waffle was just brought out as I headed to the counter to ask about it. I had a choice of a light and crispy waffle, or a sweet caramelised sugar waffle. I chose the light and crispy which was topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, crushed Tim Tams, and chocolate and caramel sauce. This was pretty tasty but I couldn’t help thinking it was missing lashings of Nutella. I believe De Wafel’s last night at The Commons is tonight (Wednesday) so better get in quick.

Canberra’s own Pialligo Estate has set up shop selling meat and cheese from one stall and wine at another stall. It looks pretty cute with sun chairs and rugs available on its ‘front lawn’.

I chose the mixed meat platter ($15) which came with chicken breast, spicy smoked pork and duck. It also came with two pieces of bread on the side. The duck was my favourite and I’m going to need to buy more of that out at the smokehouse.

One of my friends tried Sakura on Wheelz offering Japanese food such as various ‘don’ rice bowls, sushi and deep fried finger food such as gyoza, takoyaki and tempura.

He ordered the chicken katsu don and mentioned it wasn’t filling enough on its own so he had to go for seconds afterwards.

Some other food trucks include Rolling Schnitzel which will be at The Commons until the end of the week. The snack pack looks interesting – fries topped with chipped up schnitty and your choice of sauce. Mmm gravy….

Happy as Larry serving (I hear) some awesome Margherita pizzas.

Smokin’ Grill Barbeque also offers beef short ribs for $20, nachos and beef and pork rolls.

Bao Stop is back offering a similar deal as the Night Noodle Markets. The bao trifecta for $20 or Peking duck fries for $15.

Bao Stop has also created ‘Ribbies’ offering American-style racks of BBQ pork ribs in either a char siu sticky red sauce or BBQ Hoisin sauce. This had its maiden launch in Canberra (yay!)

There’s also:

  • Yalla Yalla for Lebanese skewers, sambousek, hommus and mixed plates
  • Thai in a box for noodles, fish cakes and coconut ice cream
  • The Grace Caravan for cakes and other sweet treats (gluten free and vegan available)
  • Vutu for Nepalese curries and momos
  • Kransky Brothers for sausages and Korean chicken rolls

As mentioned above, some food trucks will be leaving either today or tomorrow, but they will be swapped in with some brand new food options! The Commons website has the list of new vendors. What I’m looking forward to next is the Nutella Burgahh by Fritto & Co…how good does it look?

And the Beef Pho Banh Mi by Mama Linh’s…

The funky looking pyramid is actually a bar, the Melbourne Martini Bar, and apparently the espresso martini’s are the bomb.

There are other stalls selling alcohol such as Capital Brewing Co, Pact Beer and Little Creatures. Most soft drinks are $3-4 at the food trucks and come with ice. Water has to be bought but there are free water refill stations around the enclosed area.

There were plenty of butlers around on day one getting a quick briefing. I believe there are a few sessions left if you want to hire butler to grab your food for you. Butlers have special access (so no queues) but it means you can sit, people watch and relax. The rate is $50 an hour for up to 4 people. Just book online.

After dining at The Commons a few times now, always early after the gates opened, I’ve noticed that there hasn’t been a huge crowd like the Night Noodle Markets earlier this year. No massive queues. The biggest queue was maybe 4 people in front of me at Mary’s. I haven’t had a chance to go at night yet, so there might be more of a crowd then. Prices are not the cheapest but I love the wide variety of food options we wouldn’t usually get.

Things to note:

  • The Commons is a cashless event. Just tap your card and go.
  • Bring sunscreen, your hat and sunnies (though you may not need it with the forecasted rain for the rest of the week).
  • If you want to ride your bike in, there is a bike lock up right near entrance (inside the gate).
  • If you don’t want to pay for water, bring a bottle as there are free water refill stations around the area.
  • Bring wet wipes / hand sanitiser as it will get messy.
  • Flies are everywhere (my hand was constantly swatting away).
  • Go early to avoid major queues.

The Commons Street Festival ends this Sunday 18 December. Happy eating!

A mention of some other food festivals happening in Canberra this month:

  • Burgers, BBQ and Beer markets in the city 16-17 December (possible gold coin donation entry). Stall holders are listed on the Facebook event page.
  • Street Food Markets in the city 18-19 December (entry by gold coin donation). Stall holders are listed on the Facebook event page.
  • Sweet Tooth Dessert Markets in the city 20-22 December. Stall holders are listed on the Facebook event page. (I’m looking forward to ChocoBab!)

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