You never know what you’ll experience when you go on holiday. Estimated driving times change with the conditions, appetites cannot be booked ahead and a degree of spontaneity is a good thing. Having made good time on the road east of Melbourne towards Warragul, I stopped at Warragul on New Year’s Day for a coffee in the late morning.
I wasn’t sure anywhere would be open on a public holiday, but one cafe was, and I had excellent coffee at Coffee Central (above, 4 Palmerston St, Warragul). The fading picture of Elvis and The Beatles on the walls don’t suggest a good coffee experience, but I was pleasantly surprised.
In contrast, I had a horrible experience at the Koonwarra Store and Cafe the next day (below). The monthly farmers’ market was on and the town was buzzing with energy. The cafe was nearly but not entirely full. There seemed to be an appropriate number of staff, but none was dedicated to making coffee. The machine was unattended half the time.
When we ordered we were warned of a 20 minute delay. It seemed unlikely so we agreed. After 30 minutes, we complained. Our coffees were made and then sat on the counter, within view, for another few minutes before they were delivered to us. Watery, burnt and bitter. Blah. Don’t go there. This was all about poor organisation and management.
The farmers market was winding down by the time we got to it, courtesy of the world’s slowest coffee makers. But I was pleased to be able to taste and buy some wine from local producer Windy Ridge winery, whose cabernet sauvignon malbec (a 70 / 30 mix) is in my pantry waiting to be matched with a hearty winter dish. Koonwarra looks like a nice town.
Some less sophisticated city hospitality venues undergo inappropriately slick and sterile makeovers, and this condition seems to be spreading to the country. As a city resident who enjoyes travelling around Victoria, my suggestion to regional food businesses is ‘be what you are’. The Fishy pub in Fish Creek is a perfect example. It doesn’t look slick, and doesn’t need to. It makes great seafood meals and that’s good enough for me. Trying too hard, like Wild Dog winery restaurant near Warragul, doesn’t really achieve anything worthwhile.
If you’re not located in South Yarra, there’s no need to appear as if you could be. It is possible to pay $4 for coffee at some places in Melbourne, but it’s not going to be a $4 watery mediocre coffee like the one at Vela 9 (9 Abeckett St, Inverloch). Vela 9 looks like a slick Melbourne tapas bar but after the coffee experience we decided against eating there, left Inverloch and continued driving…