Heaven knows, they are few and far between. Once I find a cafe in small-town Australia, I frequent it whenever I pass through town. Great coffee, quirky menu items and friendly staff... a simple recipe for return customers.
Here's a list of a few recent experiences:
Keith - great name for a town. Claiming to be the 'lucerne capital of Australia', it's 225 kilometres south-east of Adelaide and has a population of just over one thousand. And those in the know were munching down big sunday breakfasts at the Henry and Rose Cafe when I last passed through. Good coffee, and the friendly waitress added an extra slice of raisin toast because she considered the two slices too thin. And a mint with my flat white! My uncle Keith would have been proud.
Mount Gambier on a sunday has all the verve and excitement of a funeral directors conference. 'So this embalming fluid lasts an extra hundred years?'
We thought the Whistling Cat Cafe was an op-shop when we first walked in. Racks of second-hand tat, shelves of old-fashioned lollies, mismatched furniture and an owner with a booming laugh. We had delicious toasted panini and good coffee, served while we sat in old armchairs with a view of main street, where gloomy men in top hats and evening wear walked ponderously behind a hearse.
Port Macquarie has a lot of old people who retired here from Mount Gambier before those glum men got their gloved hands on them. Doris, Edith, Ernie and Stan prefer Lipton to short blacks, but I'd recommend Casualties Cafe (it's in the old ambulance station) to everyone. A dreadlocked waiter brings me an excellent toasted sandwich and piccolo while I read about his skateboard coffee-delivery runs in the newspaper clipping pasted to the wall. Just up the road is the Corner Cafe/Restaurant who use Campos coffee, and served me a lovely Confit Duck Maryland for dinner. And side salad of Ricardoes Tomatoes. And local goats cheese with vinocotto. And a five layer chocolate cake... I was hungry that night.
Which brings me to my favourite cafe in a very small town which many of you would never have heard of, and probably have little reason to pass through. The dot on the map in question is Adelaide.
The fabulous Red Door Bakery is in suburban Croydon and does some serious Bourke-Street Bakery channelling with it's designer sausage rolls (pork and sage; lamb and moroccan eggplant), creme brulee and sour dough bread. If you're ever in Adelaide, stop here for lunch. Oh yeah, and bring your bicycle... Adelaide is the bike capital of Australia.