I'm a children's book author, radio presenter of 'By the Book' for Radio Northern Beaches, and freelance writer. Check out www.brydiewright.com for more about
Published March 16th 2017
Country Cafe Worth The Detour
My family and I take weekend trips to Port Macquarie regularly and as it's a 5-hour drive from Sydney, we are always looking for somewhere to have lunch and stretch our legs, along the way.
Until recently, we've stopped at roadside service centres with all sorts of fast food joints and I've always regretted it. Alternatively, there are so many local cafes, bakeries and pie shops in country towns along the Pacific Highway and they are usually only a short detour from the main road.
The distinctive Art Cafe farm house is an intriguing site from the highway
About four hours' drive north of Sydney and across from the winery at Ghinni Ghinni, is The Other Side of Art Café. It is well sign-posted and it has always caught my eye. This time, we ditched Maccas and made a conscious effort to take the exit off the highway to Moto Road, leading to an intriguing looking farm-house. I can only begin to describe how well rewarded we were for this decision.
The Other Side of Art Café is what rural businesses are all about. Family-run, with country style and good, wholesome food. Like something out of Anne of Green Gables, the café is set in a lush green field with pet cows that welcome you with a bellow.
Any place with a wishing tree is a good place in my books
From the time you enter the front courtyard, the artistic tone is set with an unusual sculpture, signalling you are about to enter a creative space. And though the café advertises that it is open for coffee, morning tea and light lunches, there is so much more. The premises includes a working art studio (which runs art classes), a picturesque and sprawling back garden by the river, and beautiful local-made merchandise for sale, including 'Mrs Shepherd Designs', a sublimely crafted clothing range I couldn't resist. Any place that combines art, shopping and good coffee, is a perfect place in my books.
You won't be able to resist Mrs Shepherd t-shirt Designs, on sale in the cafe
Weekend getaways are great but the long drives can be arduous which makes stopping at a place like this all the more restorative. I felt like this rest stop was the start of my holiday, with sights to write home about.
While we waited for our food (the café has table service), I loved exploring the sprawling, art-filled verandah and garden area, replete with view of the river, cooling shady areas, swings, colourful boat fixture and a wishing tree, on which you can hang tags with handwritten wishes. These attractions, and the thought that had gone into each detail in the café, exuded character and warmth. I can't remember having enjoyed a café experience in the city, even half as much as this.
The cafe is full of funny, quirky signage to enjoy while you await your meal
The menu is gourmet quality at reasonable prices, including all day bacon and egg on Turkish, scrumptious salads, hearty sandwiches and old country café favourites like fresh scones and jams (2 per serve at $8.50). There is also a selection of delectable cakes and sweet treats, if you're stopping for morning or afternoon tea.
The friendly, family service is another selling point and it's one of those places where you don't mind asking questions about the menu, or finding out more about the café and its surrounds. And take time to look at the paintings on display to see if any tempt your fancy, or wander the grounds before you climb back in the car for your next stretch of the journey.
An art lover's dream - a cafe combined with working art studio and gallery
I came away from The Other Side of Art Café with a pleasant taste in my mouth and that wasn't just from the food. I had enjoyed the refreshments, the aspect, done a spot of shopping, made a wish, and more than anything, had found a place I would look forward to going back to during our next North Coast adventure.