Owning a café is everyone’s dream, or so it seems.
It’s easy to be a critic, to go into a new place for breakfast and say that your eggs should have been cooked a different way, that service wasn’t fast enough, or that you don’t like the way the waitress was dressed…
But what we don’t see is the picture behind that smiling face and the plate of food we’re served – the knowledge that goes into dealing with suppliers, managing staff, balancing quality against profitability, keeping the creative juices flowing, dealing with a variety of customers… But most of all, the long hours and sheer hard work involved in running a small business.
So, when we see a young couple who’ve taken on a business giving it a real go, we love to give them a shout out.
Tiarni Dwyer and her chef partner Matt Walker took over Café Caribou in Tugun a year ago. Both with backgrounds in hospitality, they were ready for a challenge when Café Caribou became available.
The couple have brought a fresh approach to Caribou, making improvements to the venue, adding more tables and a funky ‘cactus’ wall opposite the wooden wall of potted ferns, the work of chalkboard artist @onethirtyone honey, whose work we can see in the rest of the café.
We pop in for brekkie on our way home from the airport, when locals are heading home from beach walks with their dogs. They pick up coffees on the way through, a Social Espresso blend from Burleigh, as they have a quick chat to Tiarni, who knows most of them by name.
Boasting an all-day breakfast and lunch, there’s been a freshening up of the menu as well as the venue, with lots of options to tempt a broad spectrum of diners.
Quality shows. Using a renowned baker for their bread and flatbread, brioche in place of buns, and sourcing locally smoked salmon, the couple are careful to source the very best available.
“We buy our produce locally and all our meat is organic free-range from Jack Sprat’s,” Tiarna tells us.
“Everything on the menu is made from scratch. Matt bakes all the slices and cakes, such as his famous Anzac caramel pies. The raw cakes from RawSweetTreats are made especially for us.”
We can see the team working in the open kitchen, heads down, busy as synchronised swimmers executing a routine.
You’ll get both of the Gold Coast’s most popular brekkies here: Eggs Bene (with choices), and Smashed avo dolled up with goats’ cheese, lime and tamari seeds on sourdough.
Gluten-free and vegans aren’t left out either with Brekkie bruschetta, GF vegan granola with coconut yoghurt and seasonal fruit, a breakfast salad, and GF Ricotta hotcakes with coconut curd, fresh strawberries and strawberry coulis with a slice of lime that are simply delicious!
The classics get a fresh twist, making each dish more interesting. Gold Coast Hot-smoked salmon is served with capers, two poached eggs and pickled baby beets on sourdough, a delicious meal, with beetroot appearing again as a relish served with goat’s cheese on Beetroot Eggs. The ‘big brekkie’ option is Man’s Eggs (a three-egg omelette with chorizo, bacon, caramelised onions and cheddar on sourdough), a feast to satisfy even a ‘man-sized’ appetite.
Pass by at lunch and you can indulge in wraps and burgers, salads and a Buddha bowl as well as thick-cut toasties.
To maintain interest with locals, the blackboard menu holds specials, changed twice a week, an open omelette with salsa verde and bacon and a pulled roast chicken burger when we visited. They’re so popular, Tiarni says, that many locals pass up the menu to go straight to the specials.
Despite its location in view of the highway, there’s a friendly village vibe to Café Caribou. It’s homely and comfortable despite the hustle and bustle of the street corner. With a deer on the wall, we could be anywhere, but fortunately for Tugun, it’s their local, ‘hidden’ from the rest of the coast in plain sight.
443 Golden Four Dr, Tugun Ph: 07 5534 1535
Open: Mon – Sun 6am – 2pm/2.30pm weekdays