Every country town used to have a Niagara Café or the equivalent. Mostly owned by Greeks or Italians, they were the place we relied on in the 70s for fast food, a meeting place for farmers’ wives and, besides the Chinese takeaway, the obvious choice for under 18s to meet for a ‘date’ before the movies. Slip into the booth seating away from the glare of fairy lights and sip a real chocolate malted to jukebox music. Sound familiar?
If you think these places have been and gone, a country road trip will soon open your eyes, but retro diners are few and far between on the Goldie. So, let us share a few experiences which take us back to the way food used to be; to a time when our idea of dining out was sitting at the beach with fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, when a two tiered sponge was the pinnacle of haute cuisine and chefs were just cooks who slaved away in hot kitchens unnoticed by the general public.
Randy Wallhole 21 Nind St., Southport Open Mon – Sat 6.30am – 3pm Ph: 0414 492 764
If spaghetti-filled jaffles and coco pops rock your boat, then pop along to Randy Wallhole. It’s a cute hole-in-the-wall alternative café with a cool hip vibe due to its eclectic mashup of nostalgic realia, op shop-sourced furniture and ‘90s hip hop music.
Marilyn may be missing from Randy’s studio wall, making the pop art allusion incomplete; regardless, it’s just the sort of cultural experience its 40/40 account director/owner Ty Kudla set out to achieve. Taking pride of place among the kitsch is the ‘Randy Couch’ AKA the love seat, an orange vinyl 60s number that’s the first seat occupied in the house.
Brewing Toby’s Estate Woolloomooloo blend as well as a single origin cold brew, the coffee is a tad more serious than the simple menu: seven types of jaffles including ‘Bavo’ (Bacon & avo) and ‘Smoky pink’ (Lox & rye), ‘Ruby’ and ‘Sal’ and you’ve got many of the Coast’s favourite breakfasts covered but on a bagel, jaffles filled with vegemite, spaghetti and cheese (‘Mum’s special’) and ham and cheese, salads and cereals (read coco pops and fruit loops).
Feeling generous with your calories? Then try some of the treats and brownies from the counter, the Black & Yellow bagel loaded with Nutella, Peanut Butter, banana and pretzels or the Iced Latte Coco pops. Boo poopaloop!
Foster’s Bakery 1/2227 Gold Coast Highway, Nobby Beach Open: 5.30am – 5pm daily, Ph: 07 5572 6422
As cafés and shops change hands around it, Foster’s Bakery remains the stayer on the Nobby Beach food scene. Opened by Kevin Foster in 1982, the bakery is now operated by his son Stuart.
Open from early morning, Foster’s is a favourite haunt of locals eager to grab a taste of their famous pies, sausage rolls and quiches. This is an old-fashioned bakery which uses fresh ingredients instead of premix, including fresh herbs!
And then there are the sweets! With Strawberry tart, jam and cream doughnuts, vanilla slice, pineapple tart, Burleigh brittle, brownie slice, coconut slice $3.20 – $3.50 each and Butter biscuits for $2, they’re retro prices as well!
I spy finger buns, Sally Lunns and cinnamon scrolls in the cabinet; some of them I have not seen since my NZ childhood! It’s really a trip down memory lane! ‘The best buns on the beach’, it says on a wall plaque, and we’d tend to agree!
“Could I please take your photo?” I ask Stuart.
“I suppose so,” he says. “No one’s looking for me at the moment.”
Behind him is a photo of his father during his early days as a baker in Canberra. Don’t be surprised if you still see Kevin in the shop from time to time. He still pops in to make sure that things are humming along…
Yep, we can’t seem to get enough of the retro food trend, whether it is an ice-cream sundae served in a glass boat, a creaming soda spider, an epic milkshake, a huge overblown lamington or a funnel cake.
So what’s the appeal with retro, anyway?
“When times are hard, nostalgia becomes more attractive,” says David Kershaw, chief executive of M&C Saatchi, the advertising agency. “Looking back to bygone days in a somewhat misty-eyed way is a quite understandable response.”
Christian Schroeder, chief executive of marketing consultancy Lambie-Nairn was quoted as saying that “Whether a product was good or not, it’s about preaching heritage and tradition and giving people a sense of security.”
Not only are there retro food outlets, but also retro food coming from producers. For many distributors, a retro product is a safer bet than developing a new dish. It carries the added advantage of tapping into feelings of comfort and familiarity that go with known foods.
Goodman M 2009, Fond retro food back, ‘The Sunday Times’, April 20, Accessed 26 April 2016, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/opinion/retro-food-favourites-return/story-e6frg9if-1225700224788
NOTE: This is an updated version of an article published in Blank Gold Coast.