Food Review: The Yard Café

17 Lavarack Rd., Nobby Beach, Queensland 4218 Ph: 0487888170

Our beginnings don’t form our destiny.

For that I’m grateful. One of my first dates with my beloved was to put his dog down, and our first dinner date to the Workers’ Club was also a test of faith.

Having sold their chain of hairdressing salons, Simon Moulden and Tracey Hughes decided to follow their vision of a local café which held their values: ‘A fresh approach to old lifestyle cuisine and dedicated service…paddock and patch to plate and bowl…’

Plain sailing it was not. Tucked halfway back on the beach side of the commercial strip, residential dwellings had encroached into the commercial zone where the café sits. ‘Good fences make good neighbours’ they say, but the adage is not always true. For The Yard Café, its first year was marked by difficulties. There were battles with council despite the zoning, as well as redevelopment of local properties which resulted in lots of dust.

But while many would have given up, Simon Moulden’s thirty years in the food industry saw him pushing through; not just surviving, but triumphing with a positive attitude. Simon and Tracey’s persist efforts to develop relationships and share their vision with local residents has seen the café slowly turn a corner.

When we visited, it was smiles all round. With Tracey moving on with her business and speaking career, it’s Simon who’s managing the café, sharing the cooking with his brother Grant, the front of house very ably overseen by the charming Laurent Boutonne. Simon relates that people like being noticed and appreciated.

“We’re big on service,” Simon tells us, adding that he’s chosen staff with the same ‘can do’ attitude. “We do the very best we can for each individual diner. It’s why our regulars keep coming back.” Indeed, the obliging, exceptional service is a huge factor in our return visit.

Of course it’s more than that. Somehow, in creating this relaxed space, we’re entering a unique demographic-free zone. Long and narrow, the venue is an earthy place, grounded, as Australian verandas are, in wood and iron. It has a spot for everyone: a kids’ playground secreted away in one corner up the back enclosed behind pool fencing, a mid-range courtyard area for the outdoor types, inside for the comfort dwellers, and front windows or front pavement for the street-watchers.

There’s an all-day grazing menu divided into ‘egg’ items, dips and olives, proteins, other dishes, salad bowls, things to share and cuca tins. The range of dishes is huge, (enough to suit every budget and appetite), mostly Mediterranean-influenced fare, very well sourced unfussy food. Classic but different, too, which we like, with dishes we’d come back to enjoy again.

We’ve already been to The Yard for breakfast, enjoying Baghdad Eggs, a beautifully presented combination of thin potato bread, tiny slices of preserved lemons, dukkah and microherbs to garnish, as well as Pulled pork tacos with slaw, black beans, chipotle mayo, ‘salsa verde’ and an apple and green tomatillo sauce.

Around us a retired couple were enjoying a weekend brunch together in peace, two girls shared a Giant Wagyu Burger, (a wise move), and a young couple enjoyed breakfast and a relaxing read as their kids checked out the playground.

We’ve returned for lunch as guests. After starters in the courtyard, we move inside away from the great outdoors (good move) to try the Seafood platter – succulent prawns, a delicious Moreton Bay bug, a fresh fish patty and a neat pile of hot-smoked salmon devilled with mascarpone and dill, together with two Cuca tins (sardines, and mussels marinated in a rich tomato sauce) to be spread on some Panya sourdough. It’s a great meal for two, easily supplemented by a side if you wish.

‘Tinned seafood on a platter?’ I hear you say. For the uninitiated, Concervas Cuca is the most sought after tinned seafood you can buy. Cuca sardines are fished at dawn, from July to December on the coast of north-west Spain and northern Portugal, the product cleaned by hand, processed and packed immediately to preserve freshness and flavour. It’s the best money can buy, and so is the fresh seafood – plump and beautifully presented with one of the Coast’s favourite breads to mop it up.

We’re washing it down with Cape Grim water (the purest on earth), and a bottle of Jim Barry Riesling. What more could we ask?

Entertainment, and when singer Matt Armitage starts the Sunday Sesh at 2pm, we enter chill out zone – bluesy and relaxed. Couples arrive for an afternoon drink and nibbles, someone sets up their iPad to read a book, others are doing the Allpress coffee chat thing out the front, and by now we’re looking for a couch for a nap! With exceptionally friendly, attentive service from our waiter Tim, it’s been very relaxing to spend a few hours in this great little café.

Persistence and vision. There you are.

And here we are, the Main Squeeze and I, ten years after first meeting, without a club roast or a dead dog in sight. Like I said, lucky our beginnings don’t form our destiny!

NOTE: On one occasion, Marj dined as a guest of The Yard.

Read more of Marj’s reviews on Good Food Gold Coast


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