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 16th 2015
Dine-in or take-away, but lift the curse
I love Toodyay, I think it's a lovely, sleepy, friendly country town deeply reminiscent of a past, more youthful Australia, almost within the grasp of memory.
It has all the charm of rural Australia while still being close enough to take advantage of the nearby sophistication of Perth within an hour's drive.
Not that you should imagine that Toodyay lacks sophistication, but you expect wholesome, rustic fare from its cafés rather than urban chic.
Front window of The Cursed Cafe (Photograph by D Suther;and-Bruce)
More 'sausage inna bun' than foccaccia with red onion jam and goat's cheese' if you take my meaning. And you would be dead wrong.
The Cursed Café (and we'll get back to the name shortly) offers the kind of food one might expect in Subiaco, while catering for vegan, gluten-intolerant, lactose-intolerant, vegetarian diners as well as those with a more hearty appetite.
The name came about when Lynda Burke of Black Wattle Catering took over premises that had held four or five previous eateries that had failed to get a hold on the public's tastes.
So, taking over what everyone thought was an unlucky business they defied the odds and wallowed in tempting fate, with a black cat on a broomstick as a logo, a cracked clock in the kitchen and lashings of courage, skill and enthusiasm.
The counter of temptation (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
The result has been an outstanding success. The menu offers a rather clever blend of chic and cheek, foreign and domestic, town and country.
We dropped in for lunch one Friday and were treated to an informal casual welcome among the steady stream of regulars greeted by name and the friendly, matey, air was charming.
Soup cauldron at The Cursed Cafe (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
One orders at the counter off the menu, pays and either takes away or eats at a bench inside, two small tables inside or a more substantial eating area of tables outside sectioned off with heavy plastic cafe blinds.
The menu, plus the glass counter cabinet offered a wide variety of goodies.
With difficulty I tore myself away from 'The Biggggg Brekkie' ($17.50) of eggs, 'lashings of bacon', chipolata sausages, fried tomato, mushrooms and 'house made' rosti.
Other breakfast delights on offer were Eggs Benedict ($12-14), Pancakes ($9-10) and a dish I don't think I've seen in many a long year - Croque Monsieur - a ham and cheese sandwich tooth-picked together and pan fried - delicious but not slimming.
After dithering a bit I chose to try the Trio of Sliders ($15). These mini-burgers are all the rage in America at the moment - Gordon Ramsay serves them at Hells Kitchen - and these were pulled pork, smoky chicken and steak served with a fresh, small green salad with a very delicate dressing.
Trio of Sliders (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
These were very tasty and markedly different in taste. The pork was delicious, as it always is, the chicken sharp and spicy and the steak not enough for a steak lover.
I think I'd have liked some fried onions on the steak, but then I like fried onions on everything. The buns fresh and chewy and the House made wedges with Aioli ($7.50) These are baked in an oven rather than fried and you can taste the difference.
Other dishes I was tempted by included the Eggplant Parmiagana in a wrap ($12), which sounds interesting and the Nut Crusted Humpty Doo Barramundi with potato rosti and fresh asparagus ($19.50).
Cursed pumpkin soup (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Angela was tempted by the large witch's cauldron on the counter containing the 'soup of the day' a rich pumpkin, which came as a generous portion, but would have been nicer with some crusty bread on the side.
The soup was excellent, with the pumpkin doing most of the heavy lifting on the flavour, rich and thick and savoury.
We had coffee and iced tea but the menu also offers a wide range of teas as well as an intriguing range of smoothies and drinks - a dairy free berry ($7.50), a peach, pear and fresh ginger ($7.50) that would be worth tasting and a 'Glow Juice' that sounds a bit too healthy for my liking, although I could get right alongside the watermelon and passionfruit juice ($6).
We took away with us dinner in the form of a generous take-away serve of Thai Prawn Curry ($9.50) and a small slice of a superb double chocolate cheesecake - rich and very delicious.
The Cursed Café's tag is 'help lift the curse'. Well, in my opinion, every town could do with a curse like this.