"The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity" - Dorothy Parker
Published August 22nd 2018
A cafe-store crammed with character at Loch's core
Loch seems to be one of those places that either you're very familiar with...or else speed blithely past on the South Gippsland Highway. You have to turn off the highway to reach Loch's centre, yet the number of visitors its handful of cafes and boutique homeware/clothing shops routinely attract suggests the secret is out about this tiny Gippsland village.
I don't recall how or when we first came to eat at Olive at Loch, but I do know that it immediately became our preferred dining-out destination whenever we were in the area. The home-cooked food is reasonably priced, and the cafe packs a lot of warm, fuzzy feeling into its funky interior. "Olive", incidentally, is the name of the owners' old Kombi van, which brought them to a cafe they ended up purchasing.
I love that the cafe's soup of the day comes with a large, freshly-baked scone and am quite a fan of their frittatas and savoury tarts. Similarly, the quality of coffees, smoothies and juices has always been reliable.
The only disappointing menu item I've sampled was the individual chicken pie. The pie's pastry was tasty but the filling far from thrilling: if there was any chicken in the pie, it was clearly in hiding and fearful of discovery. Admittedly, this was a while back and my good friend Leroy has since sampled their Chicken, Mustard and Asparagus Pie, which he assured me tasted as good as it looked.
I'm one of those people who'll always check out the dessert cabinet with barely-contained drooling and Olive's offerings make passing them up difficult. I can never quite bring myself to skip a savoury course and dive right into something sweet, so I rarely indulge - the attractiveness of desserts diminishing on a fuller stomach. I have, however, twice been unable to resist ordering one of the cafe's cinnamon brioches to take away. I justified their purchase on the basis that they could be eaten later - though I don't remember either brioche making it home in one piece.
The cafe's interior has always had a busy look, from its shelves packed with attractive gifts and homewares to the over-furnished dining area. Olive's has a "people flow" problem, whereby entering/exiting customers are forced into awkward shuffle-dodges with other customers queuing to order food, as well as with serving staff. There is hope, however. When we last visited a week ago, there was an intriguing chalkboard sign attached to an interior yellow door in the dining area, instructing us to watch this space as changes were on the way. Personally, I'm praying this results in more room for everyone to move around freely - and table service.
Olive at Loch is not the only cafe in the village but it has a certain something which keeps drawing us back. There's a touch of the endearingly shambolic about the place and a passing resemblance to a Harry Potter set (possibly due to its handcrafted wooden handrails and the baskets and brooms on display outside). It's clearly trying to be all things to all people, selling everything from lemon bonbons and high teas, to thermos flasks and feather dusters.
I feel charmed and exasperated in equal measure by Olive's. It's the small touches that tip the balance in its favour. Knee rugs are supplied for al fresco diners and a produce exchange arrangement ("take what you need and bring something to leave") has been set up outside the cafe. Also, what's not to admire about a store which uses the wire skeletons of sprung mattresses as decorative wall mounts?
Olive's travelling days may be behind her but her enterprising owners, Sandra and Rob, are evidently not lacking in drive. It will be interesting to see how they gear themselves up for the next phase of their well-received business.