17 February 2015

Valentines Romance at the Mandalay Yellow Bus, Canberra

No place screams 'romance!' more than Canberra, so that's where we head for Valentines Day 2015.

The most romantic hotel in Canberra is the Rex, which was good enough for US President LBJ in 1966, we reckon only the sheets have been changed since. We like to think we scored the same room as LBJ, with it's commanding views of the housing commission flats next door, and the bright lights of Civic twinkling in the background. We jest but we love the Rex, it's old and daggy but cheap and well located.

We take a romantic evening stroll into Civic for Valentines rissoles and lambs fry at the Sunrise Food Bar. Alas it was closed.

One the way back to the Rex we strike gold as we discover Canberra's infamous Yellow Bus has come back to life in Haig Park in Braddon, on the edge of the Lonsdale Street bar and restaurant strip.

The Yellow Bus is monumental in Shawn's mind, it served the dodgiest food he has ever eaten, way back in his hazy early 1990s Canberra days. It's over twenty years ago yet he still remembers the taste of that cold, brown, congealed, chewy sweet and sour pork. The food was so bad he ate it as a twisted form of self punishment on those nights when he got too drunk too early and staggered home too alone.

Shawn's recollections are so drunkenly hazy he wondered if the Yellow Bus was a just figment of his pickled imagination, a bad yellow dream. And then we find that double decker bastard in real, semi-sober life, twenty years later.

The Yellow Bus has been brought back to life, scrubbed up and run by blokes who say cheffy things like 'yes chef!' and wear those blue stripy aprons which usually indicate overpriced food.

The food is disappointingly good. We prefer something crappy and ironic on Valentine's Day, but we roll with the punches. It's a balmy summer evening and it's great to sit outside in the park on makeshift furniture, sneaking in a cheeky bevvy, listening to the happy chatter of post-pub and pre-club punters. It's a Valentine's Day miracle. If only the chips'n'gravy van would reappear at the servo across the road...

The menu is a mix of Asian and beardy dude food, it's Surry Hills outdoors at a third of the price.

Sadly the sexual chocolate has sold out on Valentine's Day.

Calamari and papaya salad with chili/ginger dressing - $10, like a really lively tom sum.

Mandalay fried wings - $9. Lightly fried with a splosh of hoi sin sauce and a coating of crushed peanuts. Moist and meaty, like Valentine's Day itself.

Burmese chicken coconut noodle - $10. Like a chicken laksa with a zingy nuanced broth and really good noodles.

There is wonderful artwork by Trevor Dickinson available of the old abandoned bus. His works about decayed and gloriously fabulous everyday places in Canberra, Newcastle and Sydney float our boat. The Canberra bus shelter coffee mug is a must have in our books.

The Mandalay Bus is in the Haig Park Carpark, Corner Lonsdale St and Girrahween St Braddon, ACT 2612.

The Mandalay Bus on Urbanspoon


  1. You appear to have no luck with the 'Sunrise' in Civic. It was the multicultural food festival on the weekend - so lots of food elsewhere. Next time, check out 'That Burmese Curry Place', a few doors up the street.

    The Mandalay bus has been around since the mid 70s - originally it was parked closer to Civic. The old bus was operated for years by a rather nice old bloke - 'Uncle George', an unsung Canberra identity who came here from Burma in the 50s. Bus/business was closed for some time- so, it's pleasing that it has reopened. The papaya salad is a step-up from the burgers of 1975!

    1. There's a few more posts coming about both of those things, we happily stumbled on the festival and ate some great food, and Burmese Curry Place was dinner place of choice!

  2. Nice take on a Canberra street-food icon. Looking forward to your take on the enormously successful #NMF2015 :)

    1. The festival was incredible, despite the rain. More coming soon.

  3. LOL! This post gave me a good giggle guys, I have never heard of V day described as moist and meaty haha. Thanks for sharing your Valentine's get-up-to!



Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

Our ethics: We pay for all our own meals and travel (though sometimes Mum shouts us).