Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published August 10th 2013
A good tavern is the heart of any town
If, as Frank Lloyd Wright said, the kitchen is the heart of the home, then a good tavern is the heart of any town.
Chidlow Tavern is such a place. Mums and Dads and kids call in for a meal when the cook doesn't feel like cooking. The local Riding Club meets there, after tethering their horses to the hitching rails provided outside.
The Corvette Club congregates there to celebrate sixty years of Corvettes and bus loads of visitors pull up because the word is beginning to spread about the Tavern.
Chidlow (Chidlow's Well until 1920) was originally a railway town and the influence is still strongly marked, particularly in the Tavern as it is being restored to its former glory by owner Norm and his wife, Fran.
Chidlow's Well, 1880s
The restaurant is called 'The Last Stop' (Chidlow was the last stop on the Eastern Line) and railway memorabilia is everywhere. Railway lamps, signals, a huge 'Railway Refreshments Room' sign from the original Chidlow station.
But it's not the track and ambiance that one pops into The Last Stop for, it's the food. Now, the Tavern does not serve fancy food. No Yabbies in Lime Sauce drizzled in Cucumber Pureť here.
What they specialise in is good solid comfort and comfortable food. Familiar food that sustains and welcomes, not challenges.
The day we called in, a hungry group of three was a wonderful winter's day; crisp but sunny, the cloudless sky shimmering with blue.
Norm gave us a brief tour of the place, which is a very much bigger building than you could possibly think. The already implemented improvements are impressive, as are his future plans.
Then we settled down with the menu, which has almost everything you like on it.
We split three ways two entrees (the portions are generous) we had Herb and Garlic Bread ($6) which comes in mini-loaves rather than slices and a real 1970's favourite Camembert and Plum Sauce ($12.50) - vegetarian, of course, but one bite and you remember why it was so popular. Other entrees on offer are Garlic prawns ($14), Spring Rolls ($7) and 'Soup of the Day' ($8). That day it was Minestrone.
As well as the items actually on the menu there is a vast blackboard with the daily specials and offers. For mains, deciding was not easy, but after a good deal of thought I settled on a steak sandwich ($19.50) which comes with chips. Delicious, tender steak, bacon, tomato, onion, relish and sauce making it a good meal just by itself.
James ordered one of the beef steak meals - Scotch Fillet, T Bones with your choice of Mushroom, Garlic or Pepper sauces or 'Surf 'n Turf' ($36), a large Scotch Fillet with Garlic Prawns draped negligently over it. Very tender, full of flavour and cooked to medium rare perfection.
As well as the steak-based mains there are Chicken Parmigiana ($25), Kiev ($25.50) and a Gourmet Stuffed Breast ($29). As for fish as well as the usual the Tavern offers a 'Home Style Seafood Plate' ($26) of deep fried favourites - fish, prawns, calamari, scallops, crab stick and chips. That's what I'm going to have next time.
Looking at the menu you could probably make an educated guess at what the desserts might be. Yes, ice cream, fruit salad, but also, drum roll, please - a Sticky Date Pudding in butterscotch sauce, my all time favourite pudding.
The Sticky Date Puddings at The Last Stop are made by a lovely lady called Glenda who I met and whom I revere. She makes the best Sticky Date Pudding I ever ate in sixty-two years of dedicated and vociferous eating.
Glenda's Famous Sticky Date Pudding
I'm not even going to try to describe it - just think of your best ever dish and double it. That's Glenda's Sticky Date Pud.
We concluded our meal with frankly ordinary coffee, which in a way perversely pleased me, since I could retain the title of critic, being able to find something not perfect. But I expect Norm will be on that next.
As well as meals for grown-ups The Last Stop has 'Kids Meals' at a flat cost of $10. Chicken Nuggets, Fish Bites, Pasta, Hamburger, even Steak and chips.
And if that weren't enough, on Monday Nights (book early) all meals, bar two, are only $20 a head which includes a glass of wine or a middy of beer.