Mervyn Roy’s takes us back to a time when family holidays were hot property. Mum, Dad and the kids would pile into the FJ Holden, tent and gear in the boot, and head to the beach for a week or two. There were no mobiles or ipads. Kids played in the sand while the adults vaguely supervised, everyone going back to the tent (or van for those wealthy enough) when they needed a feed. If you were lucky, Mum would give you some money to go to the shop for a few lollies or a milkshake.
Mervyn Roy’s could have been one of those shops. Character-filled and welcoming, it’s the sort of place where locals are greeted by name and smiles are free – exactly the feel that owners Tracy Valentine and Gary Paxton wanted.
“We wanted to recreate a beach house of the 1960s,” Tracy tells us, “just like it was in our childhood – a place where locals could relax and feel at home.”
For Gary, it was a return to family territory, his uncle Donny Paxton being a local identity. Although Gary’s family hailed from Murwillumbah, they’d moved to the Albury/Wodonga area, returning north to the coast for holidays. Old family photos on the wall help trigger memories: Gary as a child hanging out of the car window, the family playing in sand dunes, and the gathering at his grandmother’s wake at the Cabarita Hotel.
Scouring family treasures, op shops and second hand stores, the couple has assembled retro furniture and realia from the era to complete their vision: a picture-perfect period piece featuring the family Vespa ‘breadmobile’ holding Panya loaves for sale, laminex tables and chairs beneath gorgeous period wallpaper, an old school desk complete with ink well out front laden with papers for sale, and a Singer sewing machine over in the corner. Just like the metal letters and numbers spelling out the café’s name and address from Violet Town, where Gary had his last pub or Gary’s father’s saddle from his days as a jockey, every piece has a fascinating story, prompting many conversations.
“We took a good look around the coast when we returned 18 months ago,” Tracy says. “So many of the cafés were generic. There was a feeling of sameness about them, and we really wanted to create something different.”
On a spot once occupied by an old convenience store on Golden Four Drive opposite the airport, the couple opened Mervyn Roy’s in June 2016, naming it after Gary’s dad. They’ve already reaped early success with their AGFG Reader’s Choice Award 2017 for Best Coffee on the Gold Coast, a four-bean mix roasted by Ground Control Coffee in Tweed.
Food too is rustic and wholesome with the retro touch of homemade sauces and real scratch baking all adding to the flavour. There’s a menu of brekkies and burgers, with specials marked on butcher’s paper maintaining interest for locals.
Delicious cakes, or scones laden with jam and cream justify a stop at Mervyn Roy’s for brunch or afternoon tea. Daily cakes on show are baked by Bree Denman (proprietor of the Goldtoast Supper Club), Gary’s daughter Elle and Charlotte Wensdale; a formidable baking team also manning the kitchen.
“Order up girls!” echoes out from the counter and our food is on its way.
Retro prices too, we note, with nothing breaking the $20 mark. Bruschetta laden with smoked salmon comes in at $9.50 and a Big brekkie with the lot at $19. Lunch boasts burgers such as the vego Haloumi burger packed with roast zucchini, haloumi, tomato, mushrooms and leafy greens, oozing caramelised onions and spiced chilli mayo, served on toasted Turkish ($17.50) or try the Aunty Merle’s beef burger with a house-made patty, melted cheese, caramelised onion, beetroot, egg, sliced tomato, greens and chilli jam piled into a seeded charcoal brioche bun. Spectacularly grand! GF buns are available for an extra $2.
The couple have also converted the cottage at the back of the café to accommodate overnight stays. Their ‘Pineapple Cottage’ is a cosy space with a queen size bed, bathroom and laundry and private outdoor area, bookable through the café.
Too good not to share, Mervyn Roy’s takes all the best things about vintage to give us something fresh, new and heart-warming.
169 Golden Four Drive, Bilinga Ph: 07 5599 4550
Mon, Wed – Fri 5:30am-late arvo Sat-Sun 6am-late arvo
NOTE: This review has also been published on Blank GC.