The term Tea Room has a nostalgic feel to it, and brings to mind lace doilies, home made scones made with family recipes handed down over the generations and quaint knick knacks on dusty shelves. Lake Cave Tea Rooms, located at Lake Cave in Margaret River is none of those things. The walls are painted a burnt orange, and modern artwork line the walls. It's homely, but the tables and chairs are wood and iron and there is not a doily in site.
It is neither fancy nor pretentious and unlike many of the other offerings in Margaret River, there are no flounces or flourishes. Instead you will find simple food, tasty and generous, pretty much like your mum might make, which means iceberg lettuce instead of rocket in your burgers, and a dish filled to overflowing of tomato sauce for the kids to dunk their chips into.
One of the standouts at the Tea Rooms are the owners Terry and Cathy. We were a group of three tired adults and four hungry and quite cranky kids; the type of group every cafe worker loves seeing walk through the door.
Naturally the kids went straight to the icecream case and started making their choice, but after glancing over at the adults and seeing us shake our heads, Terry easily launched into a believable spiel about icecreams not being available for sale until after lunch. The kids stared at him, took his word for it, then grabbed a pile of menus and settled into a large table on their deep, covered verandah.
He came over to explain that since the serves were 'adult size' he was very happy to split meals over two plates for the kids. I found it refreshing and fair, although the kids decided they were all starving and wanted different meals. In retrospect, we should have taken his word for it, the hamburger and hot dog proving too much for our seven and five year olds.
The choice is basic and you will find dishes such as hot dogs ($8.80), nachos ($11.60) and a seafood basket ($20.60). You won't find tasting plates and duck terrine here.
There are six different types of burger including a basic cheeseburger, chicken, tempura barramundi, wagyu and bacon and egg. Prices range from $13.80 to 416 and all come on a beautiful bread roll and a huge portion of simple salad such as lettuce, grated carrot and tomato. We had a few burgers from various breweries and restaurants while we were visiting the area, and the hamburger from Lake Cave Tea Rooms was determined to be not only the best value, but the best tasting and best salad to meat ratio.
Other choices include sandwiches and rolls (from $7.70), toasted focaccia ($15.40) and a toasted BLT ($12).
Since we are typical Perth people we asked for some bottles of tap water for the table. We were quickly reminded that in the outskirts of Margaret River no such thing exists, and while he would have given us tank water if we had all been healthy adults, he mentioned that the tank levels were low and sitting in the sun and that it might not be the best option for the kids. It's something worth remembering if you're out and about. Cold bottled water was $4.
A deep verandah protects from some of the summer heat
There is a choice of inside and outside seating, and while the view of the carpark is hardly inspiring, the bush beyond it is nice, and the verandah felt cool even though it was a hot day. For those cold winter days, there is a wood burning fire inside.
Also outside are some 'chalk tables' for the kids, which we didn't notice until too late, but where buckets of chalk have been provided for the children to literally draw all over the table. Probably not the wisest choice if your kids are the type to drip tomato sauce and food all over the table.
The food arrived in a timely fashion, although nothing is ever fast enough for a hungry five year old. Servings were large, and although all the chips were totally undercooked, the rest of the meals were fine.
My barra burger was enjoyable, although the quantity of salad made it a bit of a challenge to eat. The fish was just big enough, and there was just enough sauce to be noticeable in every mouthful.
The hamburgers were the same, with plenty of salad and a burger patty large enough to be present in every bite (because don't you hate it when you have to eat a few mouthfuls before you find the meat?)
The hot dog was obscenely large and unadorned apart from the tomato sauce, perfect for kids. The six nuggets and chips was exactly that. Nothing more and nothing less.
Unlike some of the wineries and breweries in the region there is no playground and no green lush grass to play on, but there are clean toilets and the food is appealing for kids. It is also well located for any of the caves and a good option for lunch for anyone staying in the southern areas of Margaret River.