Who Was Alan Harrington?

“Who was Alan Harrington?”, I asked the waiter at the Charcoal Restaurant in Canberra last night. “I’ve never met him”, she told me, “But I’ve met his son. He came here from the age of one”, she added. According to the waiter, Alan Harrington lives in Queensland now, but was a regular at the restaurant for many years. He was obviously regular enough to warrant his own name stamp at the restaurant, which I was told today was one of the longest running restaurants in Canberra.

Allan Harrington
Allan Harrington

There was definitely an olde worlde feel about the Charcoal Restaurant, and that’s what probably attracted me to it in the first place. After work, I was sitting and having a glass of wine and eating some olives at a nearby bar. As I began to look for nearby places to eat, there was nothing which really excited me. Sure, there were restaurants with hats (or should have had hats according to some critics), but there were also restaurants which sounded a little dodgy. My favourite was one which described the drinks as being expensive, but that was okay since it “kept out the riff-raff”. Hehehe.

So I wandered around London Circuit, and upon discovering everything was reasonably busy, I settled for the less busy place. The place where a single man could go in, grab a table, enjoy a meal by himself, read a book, and not have to worry too much about things. That’s how I ended up at Charcoal. To my right there was a group of young blokes keen for a good steak ahead of a night out on the town. Also to my right, there was an Australian bloke and his English partner, along with her parents. In front of me there were a few couples. I didn’t get the impression they were people looking for a sophisticated night out on the town. It didn’t matter too much to me, because I just wanted a quiet meal. One of the waiters was very good, the older woman, though I thought the young bloke, probably a student, seemed a little naive.

The steak was good value. Large. Tasty. Very happy with it all, and I’d definitely recommend Charcoal Restaurant, though I’d note the wine list is reasonably expensive. “It’s popular with lawyers and barristers”, I was told today. I guess it keeps out the riff-raff :)

Steak at the Charcoal Restaurant
Steak at the Charcoal Restaurant

I’m home now, after a week of travel. When I went to Canberra on Tuesday night, it was cold and wet, and there was a fair bit of turbulence on the plane. On arriving home tonight, it was much the same, since there have been major storms and flooding in Sydney in the time since I’ve been away.

My other dining experience was at a Thai restaurant in Dickson which was very good, though I’m struggling to remember the name of.

I do, however, remember the name of the place I stayed. I won’t name it here, because that’s my style, though I will say it was on the outskirts of town. ABARE was on this week, so Canberra was pretty heavily booked. Thus, I found myself relegated to accommodation that was actually in NSW, which was nice enough, and had a good shower, had nice blankets etc. But on the downside, was on the fringe of 3g connection (1-bar), and had an unreliable taxi-service. Another woman I spoke to, who was also staying there complained about having to wait 30-45 minutes for pre-booked taxis. “That’s Canberra taxis”, I was told.

That was about the only downside on an otherwise lovely trip to the nation’s capital.

Flying home tonight from Canberra
Flying home tonight from Canberra

Oh yeah, and the delays coming home tonight due to the wild weather in Sydney. Still, the people from Qantas were friendly and nice, and I think we all understood the reasons why. And of course, we were all a bit sloshed having spent an hour or two waiting at Canberra Airport.

7 Replies to “Who Was Alan Harrington?”

  1. James: I am Alan Harrington and living near Maleny in Queensland. I started going to the Charcoal in 1966 when I moved from Sydney. We took the kids there regularly and became very friendly with Ron & Noni Plewes who owned the restaurant in the 80’s. They put up the plaque. I took my two granddaughters there about 4 years ago and about 3 years ago went there with a group of ten ‘for old times sake’. I was a member of Royal Canberra for many years.

    1. Hi Alan, it was awesome to receive your reply tonight. I’m glad you discovered the post, and thankyou for answering the mystery. How wonderful to have a plaque in such a terrific restaurant. Cheers, James.

  2. Hi James

    And I’m Matthew Harrington – Alan’s son. I eat reasonably regularly at the Charcoal still (Carrying on the family tradition !). I run a Landscape and Garden Maintenance business and by coincidence now maintain the owner of the Charcoal’s gardens. That is who would have served you when you were there. She was fascinated to hear my stories of growing up at the Charcoal.


    Matt Harrington

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: