It was time to discover our forgotten backyard, to venture out to a place we’d neglected for years due to the Goldie’s flourishing farmers’ market scene…Carrara Markets.
A haven of the fabulous and flimsy, the terrific and the tacky, you’d be forgiven for mistaking Carrara for an Asian market, albeit without dog meat and durian!
Yet there is a multicultural element at these markets – in the food department. After all, someone has to feed the market goers as well as the stallholders every weekend! We ventured forth on an exploratory food tour of the markets, tasted some interesting food and meeting some even more fascinating characters.
The undercover area, where we shopped ten years ago, still holds a few of the same fruit and veg stalls we knew, including the trustworthy Tweed Valley Bananas. Yes please! Bananas into the bag!
But the Orient calls! There’s one of the best spice stalls we’ve seen in ages, Carrara Spices, just inside the doorway. 64 herbs and spices and 48 different teas, the sign says! Time to stock up the pantry! Chai, Moroccan mix, Herb and garlic spice mix… into the bag they go!
The Bačka Gourmet Foods stall is stacked full of smallgoods, all gluten-free, preservative and additive free, the smoky aromas drifting out into the market. I should have just followed the line of Eastern Europeans, who are heading there! Smoked ribs, Kransky and fresh Mild chorizo hop into my bag. They’ll go well with the ‘3 cheese for $10’ deal at The Market Deli, but I don’t know how they’ll mix with the bananas…
“I could eat a horse!” murmurs the Main Squeeze. Pulling my nose out of one of the spice displays, we head west towards the ChurroCafe for a snack. “Entrée only!” I command. We’ve only just started our adventure, haven’t left the Big Shed for the great outdoors yet, so he orders a choripan sausage with tangy homemade chimichurri. ‘Delicious!’ he murmurs between bites. Fabian, the owner, who’s from Argentina, points out some of the delicacies he has on offer: empanadas, churros (they race out the door at 5 for $5), yummy little alfajores (cakes with caramel inside) included in a coffee and cake deal for $5, and many South American grocery staples. Fabian even roasts his own coffee from South American beans.
“The market is a community place,” Fabian tells us; a space he’s contributing to by recording a live cafe album with local artists and offering his cafe as a meeting place for small business during the week.
At the northern end of the Big Shed is the Taswegian. It’s a licensed cafe, deli, wine bar serving (you guessed it) Tasmanian products amongst others! Buy a cheese board for lunch to enjoy with a glass of wine or an Elderflower, mint and lemon drink (believe me, it’s luscious!), a plate of salad with hot smoked Atlantic salmon, or how about Duck, orange and pistachio terrine with Burleigh Baker’s sourdough! We walked away with a couple of Bruny Island cheeses, but we’re going back to dine in this cute little place! (Mention GFGC and you can enjoy a coffee and toastie for $10!)
Idospices, just along the verandah from Fingers and Bones is ‘South African, mun!’ and it sure packs a punch. Natasha Naidoo, who owns the store, used to own Saffas Restaurant on Hope Island. In her little restaurant Idospices, whose name is a double take on ‘I do’ and ‘Naidoo’ (get it?), Natasha sells a range of authentic South African dishes as well as curry powders and masala, chutneys and sauces. I get a quick rundown on the many influences on South African cuisine – Indian, Dutch and Portuguese, to name a few. “Food comes from the heart,’ she tells me. “For so many people it reminds you of someone you love from home.” Then I’m introduced to my new friend Bunny Chow, a quarter loaf of the softest white bread filled with a spicy curry. Yum! If only I had space left for some Koeksisters! Maybe next time!
We head out into the sun past Danny at the Market, where owner Danny Lim, the Chinese Kiwi, cooks kaikai for our friends from over the ditch. (Sorry, that’s Danny on the right.) There’s Boilup and Fry bread, a Kiwi Breakfast for $12 including bacon, egg, tomato, chips, toast, chipolatas and fry bread (no wonder they’re big boys), Battered mussels, a 3-tier Banana Pancake or even plain old Eggs Bene, which other stallholders tell me is a winner.
I remember The Market Bakery, which has been there for yonks, and stop to chat with owner Wayne, who’s left the high life managing an airline to bake pies. “It’s all very relaxed here,” he tells me, and it seems that way, with sellers chatting to locals and cracking jokes. “All my baked goods are cholesterol and fat free,” he says. “I don’t charge for any of that, only for the rest of it!” Everything’s made from scratch and baked on site, which brings enough return customers to buy 50 dozen pies on a winter weekend. Now that’s a lot of tummies filled! “Every weekend day at 2pm we reduce everything to half price,” Wayne tells me. Now there’s a bargain!
Time to cross to the dark side… No trolls under this bridge, but there’s a lizard basking in the sun on the most under-utilised part of the market! How pretty the gulley would look if it were weeded…
As we wander past, I can’t take my eyes off the magnificent King Tutt. Like the Taj Mahal in the middle of Shanty Town, this incredible monolithic putt putt course is made entirely of handcarved sandstone, the unmistakable hand-painted peaks of Machu Picchu towering behind weathered market stalls.
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 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!
Have we missed your favourite food haunts? If so, tell us what gems you’ve got hidden in your backyard!