Nick Mathieson wouldn’t move to Canberra for just anyone, but when Matt Moran tapped the ex-Bistecca and Rover chef to helm his inaugural Canberra venues, he jumped at the chance.

“I mean, it’s Matt Moran,” Mathieson tells Broadsheet. “I grew up looking at Matt Moran and eating at Aria. I read his books when I was learning to cook … [He was] someone I looked up to.”

Italian steakhouse Compa and attached sandwich spot & Sando are Moran’s first ACT venues. The opportunity was born from his partnership with National Gallery of Australia caterers the Fresh Collective. “They sort of brought it to me and I went down and had a look,” Moran says. “The site is next to Raku, which is one of my favourite Japanese restaurants in the country, and I saw how busy that place was … Canberra has big disposable incomes. It was perfect.”

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Compa will showcase ACT produce via Italian small plates and starters – including zucchini flowers with tre formaggi and lemon, and Moran Family Farm ’nduja with cannellini scarpetta and oregano – but really it’s all about the meat. The bulk of the beef comes from Moran Family Farm in the NSW Central Tablelands, Queensland’s Westholme Wagyu and Brooklyn Valley Beef in Gippsland, Victoria. “It’ll be similar [to Bistecca] in its set-up,” Mathieson says. “It’s simplicity, it’s Italian and it’s all about the meat, but it’s different in that it offers a range of cuts – there’s a bit more room to play.”

Expect bistecca alla Fiorentina, T-bone steak, sirloin on the bone and dry-aged rib eye, all of which come with a choice of red wine jus, peppercorn sauce, anchovy butter or salsa verde, and a tableside mustard service. Compa’s custom-built Montague grill was modelled on the grill at Moran’s Chophouse in Sydney. It offers more control over caramelisation than the hard-and-fast coal-fired cooking at many contemporary steakhouses.

The 116 seater has a dark and moody burgundy marble and wood interior, and a drinks list with wines from Moran’s private cellar, an Italian-leaning cocktail list and offerings from local breweries and distilleries including Bentspoke, Capital Brewing and The Canberra Distillery.

Next door is lunchtime sandwich spot & Sando, the aptly named 18 seater that opened late last week. According to Moran, it brings a taste of Sydney’s “sandwich explosion” to the ACT and builds on the existing local scene. Mathieson says it “took off like a rocket” upon opening, with classic Italian-style sangas, single-origin coffee, and baked goods from local bakery Under.

Canberra Centre
148 Bunda Street, Canberra

Tues to Sat midday–2.30pm, 5.30pm–late
Last bookings 9pm