Food Review: Daniel Stuart Fine Food

1 Lawson Street, Southport Ph: 07 5503 0070

Sometimes the stayers get overlooked.

I’m thinking that as we sit having breakfast at Daniel Stuart’s. A family owned and operated business, Daniel Stuart Fine Food was the first tenancy in the newly built Southport Central and, over ten years later, the only original food outlet remaining.

Tucked around one corner of Southport Central opposite the RSL, Daniel Stuart is a hidden secret to those who live elsewhere on the coast, and the café of choice for many Southport residents and workers.

It’s a stayer for a reason. It’s fairly rare for a café to advertise their mission statement, but there it is, lit up in bold letters underneath the menu:

“It’s our mission to show our passion for food, provide quality coffee and friendly service in a relaxed comfortable environment.”

Daniel Stuart is all of those things when we visit. We are greeted warmly by the chef, (owner Daniel Campbell, we later learn) who’s working happily away, chatting to anyone who approaches the open kitchen. A lot of people come and go, talking to Daniel while their takeaway coffee is made, sitting solo to read the papers or in pairs for a chat or meeting, or families dining out for breakfast together.

A look over the menu shows us lots of favourites – generous serves at keen prices: House muesli with berry compote and honey yoghurt $9, Standard brekkie (2 x XL free range eggs on Turkish) $6, Gourmet omelette $14.50 and Eggs bene $13.50 – $16.50.

When our Bacon and eggs ($9.50) arrives, the eggs are perfectly poached, the bacon crispy, the wedges of Turkish toasted on the grill carrying the scent of rosemary oil. My sweet corn fritters are light and airy (made by someone who knows the tricks), served with bacon and poached eggs, avo and baby spinach topped with house tomato relish.
Accompanying breakfast is a mug of creamy Genovese coffee, a Melbourne brew which the café has used since the beginning. It’s full-bodied, smooth and milky without being bitter.

It’s an impressive first visit. Nothing showy, but really solid, and we can feel something special happening here. The café is obviously loved, and, with their 10th anniversary taking place, we took the time to make another visit to talk to Daniel and his mother Myra.

Cooking and catering is Daniel’s passion, but what does it take to endure in an industry which claims victims every year?

He admits that survival has at times been tough. While the café has garnished many awards (Gold Coast People’s Choice Café for years running as well as inclusion in the Good Food & Wine Guide), obstacles piled on top of each other in the café’s middle years: first the GFC, with Southport Central being the first development to go into receivership, and then the light rail. With the Q:Link development taking up Scarborough Street (the road traversing Southport’s retail area) for over two years, it was understandable that some customers stayed away for the duration. Many businesses closed through lack of custom, but Daniel Stuart’s kept its head above water.

It’s regulars that Daniel and Myra thank for their success. But there’s far more to it than that, we think. It’s about consistency, being adaptable to change and customer needs (“All needs and all age groups,” says Daniel. GF, DF and V are clearly marked on the menu), providing high quality food at affordable prices, staying current and on trend without stepping out too far, establishing ‘must have’ dishes (“We never take the Chicken Parmi off the menu!”) as well as daily specials to mix it up for locals. (Daniel Stuart’s also runs $10 blackboard specials on Monday and Tuesday lunch, plus a daily $9 Brekkie Roll and coffee deal).

However, the critical factor in every café’s success, we believe, is the creation of a welcoming atmosphere where people feel valued.

“Some people eat here five days a week for breakfast, lunch or coffee. Others bring clients in. Mum’s the person on the till. She’s almost a counsellor sometimes,” Daniel jokes.

“Many chefs don’t interact with customers. When they do say hello and have a bit of a chat, they create a family vibe in a café. This is a family business, run by a family that actually cares.”

Great food, quality coffee and friendly service. They’re what every customer comes back to experience or, put another way, the 3-pronged legged chair that every great café sits on. Certainly Daniel Stuart’s does!

Read more of Marj’s reviews on Good Food Gold Coast http://www.foodgoldcoast.com.au

Sources
Carbone L 2013, ‘When it comes to customer experience, unleashing the power of the unconscious mind changes everything’, Smartblogs, Accessed 24 January 2016, http://smartblogs.com/food-and-beverage/2013/05/31/when-it-comes-to-customer-experience-unleashing-the-power-of-the-unconscious-mind-changes-everything/

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