Going Bananas Cafe

DT@The Big Banana - Coffs Harbour#

I haven’t stopped at The Big Banana in Coffs Harbour since 1986, as I always seem to be passing Coffs Harbour in the air these days. I’d like to say that nothing has changed, but I would be lying. But, things always seem different when you were younger, weren’t there a lot more banana trees back then? Nowadays The Big Banana is a fun park; a toboggan ride, waterslides, there’s even an ice skating rink, and of course a huge gift shop. Yes, they still sell choc-coated frozen bananas, and people still pose for photographs in front of the big bright yellow banana, but it’s just not the same. The Going Bananas Cafe is geared to families, and in saying that I mean kids. As I stand at the counter to order my scones, I spy my scones in the cake cabinet and know it wasn’t going to be pretty. They are on the dry side and slightly anemic, with the jam and cream arriving in small plastic tubs. Not one for wasting food, after a couple of mouthfuls, I must admit, they went into the bin.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A small variety of tea bags.

Price: $$

Overall: Give the cafe a miss unless you’re hanging for a choc-coated frozen banana.

Location: The Big Banana, 351 Pacific Hwy, Coffs Harbour NSW 2450 Ph: 02 6652 4355 www.bigbanana.com
Reviewed in October, 2013

The Garden Cafe

DT@The Botanic Garden Cafe-Coffs Harbour

Opened from Tuesday to Friday between 10.30am and 2.30pm, The Garden Cafe is the ideal spot for scones after a wander through the tranquil Botanic Gardens in Coffs Harbour. The cafe is run by volunteers, hence the limited opening times, and is a friendly place to spend time in the shady seating area in the warmer months or the more shielded semi indoor area in the winter (not that winter gets too cold on the mid north coast!). It’s cheap as chips and comes with one scone and a small pot of tea. The dusting of icing sugar gives a nice sweet hit to a perfectly baked light fluffy scone. The scone is so delicious that not even the average jam and the very light cream can spoil it! And best of all, enjoy your Devonshire Tea knowing that all proceeds go towards the maintenance of the gardens.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A variety of tea bags.

Price: $$

Overall: What’s not to like about a Botanic Garden?

Location: The Botanic Gardens, Corner of Hardacre  & Coff Sts, Coffs Harbour NSW 2450 Ph: 02 6648 4188 www.ncrbg.com.au
Reviewed in October, 2013

Idle in Cafe

DT@Idle in Cafe-Nana Glen#

Just 25 minutes from Coffs Harbour and a pretty drive south from Grafton, Nana Glen is Russell Crowe territory – although there’s absolutely nothing in the village that alludes to this fact. Idle in Cafe is the first, and I think only cafe I see in the village, but maybe the stunning countryside has mesmerised me so much that I fail to notice? Inside its pleasantly air-conditioned, but if you like to feel the heat sit out front under the shady awning or in the courtyard under the umbrellas. While ordering my Devonshire Tea, I can’t peel my eyes away from all the homemade goodies in the cake cabinet, already making a mental note of everything I’d like to try when I next pass by. I order only one scone, and yes it is indeed ‘the best homemade scone in town’, although as mentioned earlier, I don’t recall seeing another cafe. The cream is a tad too light for me, but otherwise, idle on in to Nana Glen for some chill out time.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: Several varieties of loose-leaf tea.

Price: $$

Overall: A friendly relaxed cafe in a sleepy village.

Location: 30 Nana St, Nana Glen NSW 2450 Ph: 02 6654 3582
Reviewed in October, 2013

The Tilted Teaspoon Cafe

DT@The Tilted Teaspoon-Grafton#

What a cracker of a Devonshire Tea! Who would have thought that you could find spectacular scones in downtown Grafton? The Jacaranda City is living up to its namesake as the violet hues of the Jacaranda trees dominate the streets. The small cafe is attached, by an inner connecting door not by ownership, to an antique store. I don’t see any scones, but the girl behind the counter assures me they are available, and at the same time asks me to choose a jam. There’s at least about eight or so different varieties on the counter, and I go with the raspberry. I am quite surprised about the forthcoming apology, they only stock tea bags rather than loose-leaf teas, its kind of sweet.  While I wait, I take in my surrounds and notice that I am sitting at an old school desk that looks like its was sourced from my old primary school in the 1970s. My scone finally arrives, a delicate combination of fluffiness and slight crispness, and I’m annoyed that I only ordered one. It’s the sort of scone that’s perfect for a mid morning or afternoon snack and won’t interfere with your appetite for a more substantial meal later on. Wishing I had taken down the brand of the jam as it’s rich and fruity, and the cream is lovely and thick. This has gone straight on to my ‘top picks’ list!

Scones: 

Jam:

Cream: 

Tea: A few varieties of tea bags served in a small tea-pot that reminds me of Cadbury’s marble chocolate.

Price: $

Overall: A little cafe with a cool name tucked discreetly away from the main shopping area.

Location: 122 Prince St, Grafton NSW 2460 Ph: 02 5618 8572
Reviewed in October, 2013

Wide River Cafe

DT@Wide River Cafe - Ulmarra#2

Just north of Grafton and a short diversion off the Pacific Highway lies the cute and quiet village of Ulmarra. Hugging the banks of the huge Clarence River (I’ve forgotten how wide rivers are on the Mid to North Coast), Ulmarra is a delightful stop for a pause from behind the wheel. There are a few antique shops and second-hand bookstores but I think the real treat is a stroll along the banks of the Clarence river. The beer garden at the Ulmarra Hotel looks inviting as well. Situated in an unattractive building, compared to the strip of shops on either side, the Wide River Cafe has plenty of umbrella shaded outdoor seating out the front and just as much inside. The cafe advertises ‘homestyle cooking’, and indeed the scones are such. The single scone arrives already jammed and creamed and although looks appetising is bland. The whipped cream is fresh but too light for me. As the mercury rises it could get quite hot in the front courtyard as there’s a lot of cement and the only shade is from the umbrellas.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A variety of ALDI Diplomat tea bags.

Price: $$

Overall: Cute village by the Clarence River.

Location: 7 Coldstream St, Ulmarra NSW 2462 Ph: 02 6644 4288
Reviewed in October, 2013

The Coachman Coffee Lounge

DT@The Coachman's Lounge-Tenterfield#

The first thing I notice as I enter The Coachman Coffee Lounge is the country music playing in the background. It’s probably the norm up here as it’s the second cafe that is tuned in to the same station. I prop myself up at a table that looks straight out on to the main drag of Tenterfield for a bit of people watching. Just as interesting is watching the traffic that’s either heading north to Queensland, south to Sydney or taking the Bruxner Highway to Casino. I hold my breath with the locals as a ‘wide load’; a couple of semi trailers carrying parts of a house squeeze through parked cars and almost taking them along as well. There’s a choice of plain or sultana scones, and half or full serve. I go with the latter on both accounts and am once again impressed with the Devonshire Tea quality in this town. The scone tastes like it’s straight from nanna’s kitchen; crispy on the outside and warm and fluffy on the inside. The cream is thick, perfectly whipped, even my green tea tastes great. The only let down is the average jam. I love the little trivet that comes for my teapot!

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: Some loose-leaf teas and more tea bag variety available.

Price: $$

Overall: A true blue local cafe.

Location: 234 Rouse St, Tenterfield NSW 2372 Ph: 02 6736 2224
Reviewed in October, 2013

Courtyard Cafe

IMG_1673

Tenterfield’s School of Arts building marks the spot where in 1889, Sir Henry Parkes made his famed speech that led to the federation of Australia some 12 years later. It’s here you’ll find a small museum on the Father of Australian Federation, a cinema and tucked away behind, Courtyard Cafe. It’s a whole other world out here, quiet, relaxing and the perfect place to grab some sun in the cooler months. There’s a cosy indoor area and an even larger cosy courtyard with country music pumping out of the speakers – but not too loudly. The plain and sultana scones are fresh from the oven; light and crispy on the outside. The cream is thick and cool with a slight sweetness, and the raspberry jam is rich and better than most. There are several varieties of loose-leaf teas available and for to be different I try the Byron Bay Energy Tea, which is a sweet explosion of berries. The garnish of mint leaf and strawberry makes for a nice finish.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A variety of loose-leaf teas served in a good-sized pot.

Price: $$

Overall: A hidden gem, tucked away in a quiet and sunny courtyard.

Location: 203 Rouse St, Tenterfield NSW 2372 Ph: 0458 673 373
Reviewed in October, 2013

Peppermints

DT@Peppermints - Glen Innes#2

From the outside, Peppermints in downtown Glen Innes looks rather cool and I expect an ice cream parlour with booths inside. Instead it’s a cafe with a pretty paint job on the outside and an even prettier name. I prop myself up at the bar at the window so I can people watch. An old farmer pulls out with a cattle dog tied to the back of his Ute, just as a souped up Holden Ute sporting a shiny set of hunting lights and an even brasher number plate pulls up out front – I am surprised to see a woman step out from behind the wheel. Meanwhile my scones arrive looking pretty good. They taste a little over microwaved and chewy, but have potential. The jam is average and the cream is very light and airy like it’s out of a can. I must say I do enjoy the loose-leaf tea which sometimes is few and far between.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A small variety of loose-leaf teas served in a good-sized pot.

Price: $$

Overall: An ordinary cafe with a cool name.

Location: 215 Grey St, Glen Innes NSW 2370 Ph: 02 6732 5914
Reviewed in October, 2013

The Super Strawberry

IMG_1657

If you are arriving in Glen Innes from the south, its hard not to miss the giant Super Strawberry sign on the right hand side of the New England Highway. The little cafe/giftshop sells all things strawberry and then some. The trays of fresh strawberries laid out on the counter smell wonderful and make you want to buy kilos of them. If you’re in the market for some jam, there are shelves of them plus chocolates, free-range eggs and trinkety giftware. Sit inside in the cosy cafe or outside under the trees in warmer weather, or do takeaway. I’m a little disappointed when my Devonshire Tea arrives. The plastic plate and knife, and the paper takeaway cup is a dead giveaway that visitors drop in and stay just as long as it takes to pick up strawberry supplies. A shame for those who want a more permanent experience, as the cream and jam are top-notch. They are so good that I could happily just eat the two mixed together. The scones are better than average but with more inferior jam and cream the slightly over-microwaved flavour would be more evident.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A small variety of teabags served in a large takeaway paper cup.

Price: $$

Overall: A handy stop to pick up super fresh strawberries.

Location: 9922 New England Highway, Glen Innes NSW 2370 Ph: 02 6732 1210
www.superstrawberry.com.au
Reviewed in October, 2013

Jojo’s On Bradley

DT@Jo Jo's on Bradleys-Guyra

Although most of NSW is sweltering and on fire, today the temperature in Guyra is barely hitting 12 degrees. The town is one of the highest in Australia, sitting at 1,330 metres above sea level and boasting the highest caravan park in the country (no doubt a big selling point for the caravan park). To visit the town proper, you have to veer off the New England Highway and head over the railway line, otherwise it’s a blink and miss type of place, especially if you are on a mission heading north or south. There are quite a few cafes, but I stick with the first one I see. It’s quite an eccentric place. The decor is a mish mash of rubber thongs and shoes, sunglasses, jams, soaps and knitted babies clothes. Do babies still wear knitted clothes? The owner is chatting loudly with a group of ladies and when they leave he makes a beeline for us, telling us about his extensive car collection. I wonder how he ended up running this shop in Guyra? The scones arrive looking rather over microwaved. We’re told they are made from quinoa, wholemeal flour, chai, sultanas and something else. It sounds unappealing but it actually works. Not great, but interesting. The cream is a bit sweet and very light, and tastes like it’s out of a can. Although interesting jams are for sale, unfortunately they aren’t used in the Devonshire Tea.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A few varieties of inexpensive teabags served in a good-sized pot.

Price: $$

Overall: Country quirk.

Location: 126 Bradley St, Guyra NSW 2365 Ph: 02 6779 1759
Reviewed in October, 2013