Seeking refuge from the crisp, chilly air of the Spring morning while waiting for tyres to be fitted to our car on a lazy Saturday morning in the rural Victorian town of St Arnaud, approximately 240 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, we discovered the Dabbling Duck Café on the main thoroughfare of town or for GPS users 8 Napier street, St. Arnaud.
Conveniently located opposite the public amenities and the local park in the imposing, old shire office buildings. Due to the building's architectural significance, as stated by the Heritage Council Victoria, the café is not set up in the typical fashion expected of an eatery and has stayed true the buildings original floorplan while still allowing for a wonderfully creative dining experience.
As you walk through their front door, you are met with polished wooden floorboards in the wide entry hallway, high vaulted ceilings and past councillors' pictures lining the walls. Immediately to your right is a smaller room with the serving counter, menu boards, drinks fridge and pre-made food displays where you can easily struggle to decide on what to partake of with hedgehog slice, apple pies, muffins, vanilla slice, biscuits, donuts and caramel tarts just to name a few all vying for your attention behind the glass display cabinet. If you would like something more substantial, the Dabbling Duck Café offers hot pies and sausage rolls, focaccia, rolls and sandwiches, with both gluten-free and vegetarian options available. There is also a wide selection of cold pre-made drinks available, as well as milkshakes or you can order a lovely hot beverage with a choice of coffees and teas on offer along with the winter stalwart, hot chocolate. There was also a selection of take-home chutneys, sauces and fudges of which we managed to resist the temptation of purchasing this visit.
Dining hall, Dabbling Duck Cafe
The dining room is across the entry hallway and was once the local council's meeting room. As you enter the cavernous room your eyes are immediately drawn to the large arched window with green and red squares of stained glass above plain panes of glass overlooking the Main Street and the park.
In keeping with the building's age, the café décor has retained many of its heritage features such as the finely detailed carved wooden door architraves and the high vaulted timber-lined ceiling which reminds me of parquetry flooring. Upon the light lime green walls hang various styles of artworks from many talented local artists of which all are for sale.
Dabbling Duck Cafe
As our arrival coincided with morning tea time, we partook of hot chocolate beverages which arrived in funky orange and blue cups and saucers with a cute duck design on top of the foam using a cocoa dusting and after taking a sip there was a distinct note of nutmeg added which gave a delightful kick to our drinks. Along with a towering vanilla slice and a seriously sweet caramel tart on flowery side plates that fondly reminded me of my grandmother's era.
If the owners of the Dabbling Duck Café were aiming for a fun, warm and inviting atmosphere, then they have most definitely achieved that within both the décor and their staff who were all welcoming, friendly and served with a warm smile. Thankfully the Dabbling Duck Café would be considered reasonably local for us so we will be returning for many more delicious delights.