The Old Danube European Cake & Coffee Shop, Helensvale

The Old Danube Cake and Coffee Shop could have been plucked straight out of Bavaria and plonked down in Helensvale Plaza. It may be a long way from Budapest, but this cake shop is founded on the finest European tradition.

Imi Szarka, The Old Danube’s owner, came to Australia three years ago from Budapest, where he’d owned several cafés. Surprised to find no traditional European cake shop on the Gold Coast, Imi decided to open his own.

So, why Helensvale?

“I wanted to open the café in a place which had a community feeling, where people cared about each other,” says Imi. “One of the main attractions was the Helensvale Library. I saw people coming and going, and when the shop was vacant beside the Library it seemed like the right place.”

Old Danube 1 In fact it is a brilliant position, with The Old Danube attracting many locals who use our most popular social institution!

Imi wanted to recreate a typical European café, for it to have the ‘feel’ of Europe as well as the cakes. There may be no piano accordions or lederhosen, but the ornate patterned cornices, colourful flower boxes, wall photographs of Middle European towns, and handmade delicacies for sale in the cabinets certainly transport us to a different culture.

The Old Danube’s cakes do not only come from Imi’s homeland. Just as the Danube River winds through five countries, so its namesake shop brings to Australia the traditional fare of Germany, Austria, Serbia and Romania as well as Hungary.

Old Danube 3 The cakes are made by a master pastry chef who’d worked for twelve years at the legendary Gerbeaud tea house in Budapest. It’s the most famous Hungarian tea house of all, having opened to trade over 150 years ago, a ‘must do’ tourist experience, renowned for its highest quality fresh cakes and crafted products.

We’d first come across Old Danube cakes at a birthday party where we’d enjoyed tastes of a perfectly light Tiramisu and  a lush Black Forest Cake made from French kirsch and imported black cherries, both made to order for the party.

When we visit the shop, we see many more handmade cakes, whole or by the slice to accompany coffee: Sacher torte, Eszerterhazy Cake with layered custard cream and walnuts, Dobos cake (to name a few), with several choices of gluten free, nut and dairy free cakes also available.

Because it’s Christmas time, we purchase a Beigli, a traditional European special treat, with a choice of poppy seed or walnut, its short pastry and seeds a very different taste and texture to some of the light but sweeter cakes we’ve already tried. We decide to stay for a coffee, joining other patrons to sit, chat and take in the atmosphere.

Old Danube 4 “I’d just arrived in Australia, and didn’t know too much about coffee here,” Imi tells me, “but then I came across Dancing Bean Espresso, from Brisbane [now Ipswich]. It’s a smooth light blend which is perfectly suited to go with cake but not overpower it.”

It’s a mute point that too often we don’t think about how coffee will taste with milk or soy, let alone how it will taste accompanying cake!

“Our coffee is a blend of four South American beans (from Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia and Brazil). As it turned out, it’s been a great choice! This year it gained 5 medals at the Golden Bean Awards, the biggest coffee competition in Australia, finishing Runner Up!”

The Old Danube’s menu covers a broad sweep from fine cakes to real continental breakfasts featuring sliced cold meats and cheeses: Dutch, German, French and even a traditional English breakfast on the menu, all priced under $12.50; from thin flaky strudels to a cattle herder’s lunch – Hungarian Goulash, a smoky bacon and vegetable stew finished with caraway and vinegar made from Imi’s Mum’s recipe.

If you enjoy the taste of authentic continental cakes, fortunately you don’t have to travel far to taste a bit of Europe in Australia. Maybe you could even combine it with a library visit?

12 Sir John Overall Drive, Helensvale Ph: 07 5502 6759

The Old Danube Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Atmosphere Bakery Breakfast Coffee & Tea Dessert European German Helensvale Lunch Main course $15 or less Patisserie Restaurants , , , , ,

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