Last year, when I traveled to Australia, I fell in love with Australian coffee shops and recipes. Really. After my first experience downunder, I knew I would find good food and nice restaurants, but still I was surprised at how easy it is to eat well in this country. It is very important for me to find a familiar place in every foreign city I visit. Not “familiar” like “homelike”, but comfortable, a place where I can feel at ease, in harmony with the other people and the world around me. A place where distances disappear and new habits are quickly formed, reassuring, pleasant little things that make the journey even more special.
The Wood Roaster, Sydney
The first thing I did in Sydney, after leaving my hotel in the morning was looking for a coffee shop. And I found it right across the street, at the ground floor of a skyscraper. It might not be one of the coolest coffee shops in Australia, but The Wood Roaster won my heart. Large window, a little kitchen where the waiters were busy making take-away tea, coffee and lattes, watercolour chairs and wooden stools. It must be popular among young businessmen who come here for breakfast before going to their office; you can see them reading an online magazine, talking or drinking coffee.
With the breakfast menu in my hands, I kept staring at the “homemade granola with cashews, honey and yogurt” and “caramelized banana porridge”, proving to be hopelessly indecisive and ending up trying both. The granola was the best ever, really – so crunchy and tasty, with Greek yogurt and berries. Meanwhile I took a look around at the other guests, many of which were sipping a flat white in front of their laptop. I ordered a flat white too, but the coffee has a far too bitter taste for me. I noticed that none of them seem to be in a hurry. They were drinking slowly, concentrated on their readings, letting time go by. And soon it was nine o’clock.
Porch and Parlour, Bondi Beach
Happy for finding the first of my top coffee shops in Australia, I didn’t mind skipping lunch and waiting for teatime. It’s nice to go café-hunting in Glebe, the suburb with a bohemian touch and 19th century terrace houses. Glebe Point Road is fringed with nice cafés like Brewristas. My friend had a cup of coffee and said it was ok; I stared at the brownies and mini cakes displayed on the counter and thought they were mouthwatering, but I had just had that large granola and managed to resist.
In another famous suburb, Bondi Beach, I saw a café I very much wanted to try, Porch & Parlour, which saved me from the pouring rain; I spent a few blessed hours in there eating sprouted bread with avocado and pickled vegetables. I kept staring at the cinnamon bun that tempted me from a tray, but I was too full to give in.
The Paragorn, Blue Mountains
I wasn’t lucky the day I went to the Blue Mountains. I was so eager to see them again, surrounded by the blue mist that makes the landscape so magical. It was a sunny day in Sydney, so I thought the sun would shine in the mountains, too. I was wrong. It was icy cold and the small village of Katoomba was covered with fog. You couldn’t see anything, especially when the rain started to fall. So depressing.
I was reminded of a coffee shop with a fireplace and the best apple pie I had ever tasted along the main street, so I went looking for it. It was so weird; I remembered red flowers and the blue sky, but all I could see were bare trees and a thick blanket of clouds. It is true what they say, that things only happen once and it can never be quite the same. So I found The Paragon, with its old furniture and expensive (but delicious) cakes and hot chocolate. This bakery and chocolaterie literally saved my day.
Ode to Lamingtons
In Queensland I discovered Lamingtons. When the tour guide who took us to Cape Tribulation, a nice and brilliant Aussie man whose daughter lives in London and speaks Italian, offered us a homemade cake, I didn’t know what it was. All I knew was that it tasted wonderfully and was light and fluffy, a sort of sponge cake coated in chocolate and coconut.
It soon became my favourite cake for breakfast (and lunch, and dinner). I found Lamingtons in every hotel I stayed in, but none was as good as the homemade ones. Anyways, when I came home I looked for the recipe and tried to make Lamingtons, but I’m not entirely satisfied. Next time I’m gonna try this recipe from The Freaky Table, with espresso – such an Italian touch.
An ice cream detour
As I toured the region, two special places made my tropical afternoons even more pleasant. The first is the Daintree Ice Cream Company, the most scenic café in the country according to the Lonely Planet. Well, I believe it really is. We stopped there before taking a cruise on the Daintree River, amused by the picturesque stall standing among the fruit trees. Their ice cream is made with tropical fruit – jackfruit, mango, passionfruit, durian – and is utterly delicious. A real surprise.
Betty’s Bohemian Café, Port Douglas
In posh Port Douglas, Betty’s Bohemian Café is a lovely little place, with long wooden tables and tons of coloured cushions. Eggs and avocado, banana and coconut smoothie, toasted bread and a cup of coffee are more than welcome in this lazy winter day. I have much more to say about Queensland cuisine – but in another post.