Driving up to the historic Mamre Homestead for a lunch date, I get the feeling that this is going to be a unique experience and Mamre doesn't disappoint. The circa 1820s homestead is classically colonial in appearance. It's set in a picturesque rural setting, even though nowadays it is just across the road from suburbia. There are paddocks with grazing horses and farmers attending to various crops in a nearby field. We walk around the group of buildings on the site and find a nursery selling plants, several vintage train carriages and a working bee of some dozen people restoring a large flower garden.
But it's the double story homestead building that is the focus. It's where the cafe (or tea rooms as it is also described) is located. Even though there are tables set under the verandah overlooking scenic gardens and paddocks, we make a sensible decision to eat inside and take advantage of the air conditioned comfort on this sweltering hot day.
The two dining rooms inside both have that charming colonial/cottage ambience. The menu is reasonably extensive having hot and cold breakfast options, snacks, sandwiches, Devonshire teas, a changing lunch and dessert menu and a long drinks list.
There are some interesting choices today including Schezuan Salt and Pepper Pork Belly, Rice, Asian Herb Slaw and Spicy Soy Dipping Sauce ($23.00) but I go for one of the cheapies on the menu which comes with the lip smacking description of Roast Pumpkin, Semi Dried Tomato and Goats Cheese Filo Tart with Rocket and Balsamic Glaze ($15.00). It's a winner, although it arrives somewhat buried under a blanket of rocket leaves.
Roast Pumpkin, Semi Dried Tomato & Goats Cheese Filo Tart with Rocket and Balsamic Glaze
Most of the fresh produce on the menu here comes straight from the farm at Mamre. You can't get any fresher than that. It is difficult to say no to an offer of the in house Chocolate and Beetroot Slice ($8.00), and it proves to be an interesting concoction served with the Iced Chai Latte that I had been craving.
On the second level of the homestead are several rooms where we take a self guided history lesson of the homestead. Mamre was established c1804 and was the home of Reverend Samuel Marsden, known as the 'flogging parson' who was also colonial chaplain, magistrate and pastoralist. The property produced wool, fruits and vegetables for the burgeoning colony. There's some interesting period furnishing, clothing, paintings and photos depicting the homestead at various periods of it existence.
Today's Mamre Homestead serves many purposes apart from being a café. Owned by NSW Planning and run by The Sisters of Mercy since 1984, it serves as a training and skills centre, providing many services to state and federal agencies with an emphasis on youth at risk, people with a disability and refugees. It caters for large functions such as weddings and conferences, is a location for one of the annual 100 mile dinners, sells plants at its in-house nursery and offers agistment services to horse lovers.
Mamre House not so good, Ordered 3 items only 2 arrived, tea pot for 2 arrived with 1 tea bag in it and when asked for another tea bag they could not get the lid off the tea pot and just the the tea bag in my cup. The service was sloppy and slow and the food was just OK.. would not go again... which is a shame as the house is lovely