Retro Refuel

Every country town used to have a Niagara Café or the equivalent. Mostly owned by Greeks or Italians, they were the place we relied on in the 70s for fast food, a meeting place for farmers’ wives and, besides the Chinese takeaway, the obvious choice for under 18s to meet for a ‘date’ before the movies. Slip into the booth seating away from the glare of fairy lights and sip a real chocolate malted to jukebox music. Sound familiar?

If you think these places have been and gone, a country road trip will soon open your eyes, but retro diners are few and far between on the Goldie. So, let us share a few experiences which take us back to the way food used to be; to a time when our idea of dining out was sitting at the beach with fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, when a two tiered sponge was the pinnacle of haute cuisine and chefs were just cooks who slaved away in hot kitchens.

The Silo Cafe

Market Street, Carrara; Open 6.30am – 4pm Sat, Sun; Ph: 0414 492 764

If you’re serious about your coffee, then you’ve got to drop in and see Simon at The Silo Cafe. Not only are the beans his own blend, but tell him exactly how you like it and your brew is guaranteed to please, literally!

Situated on the Market Street entrance to the Carrara Markets in a silo, The Silo Café is the place where Australia Day is held every weekend, where the ‘Great Aussie Breakfast’ has not been bumped out of fashion by righteous diners. It’s a place where ‘everyman’ can eat like a king and wash the meal down with one of the best coffees in town.

We’re lucky to score a table, although our brekkie stop is past hungry time (10am). One look at the meals trotting out of the kitchen persuades me to order cautiously – the smallest dish on the menu, a Brekkie Muffin ($5.30). It’s on our table in minutes, nicely packed with fried egg, bacon, cheese and BBQ sauce. Totally yum, and a neat size for a moderate appetite.

The Big Brekkie means a loaded plate of bacon, eggs your way, sausage, hash browns, grilled tomato, mushies and doorstop toast, cooked to order with not a drop of grease on the plate. Perfect!

The Main Squeeze laughs when he sees Waffles arrive at the next table, piled high with ice cream, maple syrup and bananas ($10.90), big enough to share three ways. “Huh!” he laughs. “I’d like to see the look on your face if you’d ordered that!”

Of course, if you’re not into coffee, try a mug of chai latte or a chilli hot chocolate, smoothie, spider, milkshake or freshly squeezed juice. We’ll be back to try Marilyn’s Caesar salad and the Eggs Bene, because the hollandaise is made in house.

Yes, this is a ‘trad’ menu but in the best possible way – made to order, generous serves cooked well, quick efficient service, and the coffee’s a winner!

Foster’s Bakery

1/2227 Gold Coast Highway, Nobby Beach; Open: 5.30am – 5pm daily; Ph: 5572 6422

As cafés and shops change hands around it, Foster’s Bakery remains the stayer on the Nobby Beach food scene. Opened by Kevin Foster in 1982, the bakery is now operated by his son Stuart.

Open from early morning, Foster’s is a favourite haunt of locals eager to grab a taste of their famous pies, sausage rolls and quiches. This is an old-fashioned bakery which uses fresh ingredients instead of premix, including fresh herbs!

And then there are the sweets! With Strawberry tart, jam and cream doughnuts, vanilla slice, pineapple tart, Burleigh brittle, brownie slice, coconut slice $3.20 – $3.50 each and Butter biscuits for $2, they’re retro prices as well!

I spy finger buns, Sally Lunns and cinnamon scrolls in the cabinet; some of them I have not seen since my NZ childhood! It’s really a trip down memory lane! ‘The best buns on the beach’, it says on a wall plaque, and we’d tend to agree!

“Could I please take your photo?” I ask Stuart.

“I suppose so,” he says. “No one’s looking for me at the moment.”

Behind him is a photo of his father during his early days as a baker in Canberra. Don’t be surprised if you still see Kevin in the shop from time to time. He still pops in to make sure that things are humming along…

Gladiator Café

1 – 3 Marble Arch Place, Arundel; Open: Sun – Thurs 5am – 4pm; Sat, Sun 5am – 8pm; Ph: 5563 1568

On a local recommendation we go visit the Gladiator. Lucky we’d tucked down early the night before, or the red laminex may have come as a bit of a shock!

So might the muscles on Damiano Giammatteo, The Gladiator! He serves us and it’s hard to tear our eyes away, he’s so ripped!

The board announces lots of ‘deals’: coffee and cake for $5, main meals $9.90, and even a 3-course meal for $12.90.

This is a traditional Italian diner: huge serves of the Italian-style food that Aussies grew up with: pizza, pasta, lasagne, chicken parmigiana, spaghetti and meatballs, served with a wide-mouthed cup of milky Piazza Doro Italian coffee.

There are only eight tables in this roadside diner, all full bar one when we dine for breakfast. But the kitchen is running hot. It’s one efficient operation! Outside a truckie pulls up at the servo to fill up before he comes in to order breakfast. Service is so fast that he could do a grab and go while filling, we reckon!

The Kiwi girls got there before us and as our coffees arrive, so do their meals. It’s 9am and I guess they’ve had a big night. It’s a huge plate full of Rib eye fillet, chips and salad for two, a giant burger for the other.

Dine in or take away, the prices are tiny – perfect for those on a tight budget who like a huge feed. I’ve ordered a Frittata for $7.90 – a large meal, as it turns out, dotted with mozzarella and tomato. For $4.90 the main Squeeze tucks into the Gladiator Big Breaky: two slices of bacon, two eggs, a sausage, white toast, tomato and an orange juice. It’s the breaky he used to have on the farm – the sort he used to work off milking a few hundred cows, I remind him! And keep your eyes away from those Italian cakes in the cabinet too, I think.

High culture this is not, but it sure takes us back to another era. Oh man! If we went back to this size of meal, we’d have to follow the Gladiator to the gym!

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

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