Escape southern highlands ventures to burrawang for a brunchtime hit of hearty food and good old fashioned hospitality.
It was the coffee and bacon doughnuts that first did it for me. A photo of a great swathe of delectable looking coffee doughnuts topped with piles of diced bacon that appeared one day on the Burrawang General Store Cafe’s Insta feed. This I had to try. And so it was we set out one Sunday morning to brunch in the picture postcard village of Burrawang, to investigate further.
With its striped awning and bunting, the Burrawang Store Cafe sits rather magnificently in the main street of town, Hoddle Street, up from the pub and just down from the primary school. Celebrating its 150th birthday in November, the store was bought two years ago by Andrew and Erica Leeming. The Leemings lived in the US in Boston for 12 years before settling here. Which is where the doughnuts come in. Chef Tamika Ferguson makes these sticky delights every Sunday, and displays them on the magnificent store length counter.
We take our seats in the café, with its panelled wood detail and original tin signs advertising goods from 1867, and our kids eye the doughnuts hungrily.
‘We loved Boston,’ says Erica. ‘While we were living there I had seen a place called Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon, mentioned on a food show, and I made sure we got there. We often made very long detours and the family always knew there was a food reason for it.’
She’d had her eye on this place well before she’d tried (and buyed). Erica had first caught sight of the building when the Leemings returned to Australia to settle their teenage girls into school.
‘My immediate thought was, what a lovely old building! But we weren’t anywhere close to coming back to Australia from Boston at that stage. So I watched it and it stayed on the market, and when we did decide it was time to come home, I didn’t want to come back to nothing, without a community connection. I thought, I need a project. And this was it.’
She’s done a fabulous job, and the building sings. It has been lovingly restored. A wood-burning stove with a giant flue takes pride of place, warming the large room with a friendly glow. I had come to visit this place previously before the Leemings but had often found it closed.
‘Part of the reason we are now open seven days is because I heard that over and over,’ says Erica. ‘So I thought, if people are going to come off the highway or wander up from the village, we will be open. And it’s worked really well.’
It’s now mid morning and the place is pumping. The store serves breakfast and lunch every day and, fully licensed, recently started dinners on Friday and Saturday. During the week it makes lunch orders for the primary school kids, and provides breakfast for guests staying at the Burrawang Village Hotel. It also caters for groups of up to 40 upstairs, and Erica is currently working on a locals’ Monday to Friday menu with comfort dishes like pies and stews. Just the sort of thing the legendary Mrs Beeton would have approved of. In November, Erica is holding a degustation dinner based on the famed Victorian cook’s Book of Household Management, published around 1867.
The brunch we enjoy is definitely of its time. Our three kids go straight to the homemade waffles with fruit and maple syrup on the kids’ menu. The husband orders the eggs benedict with bacon, and I try a breakfast bestseller – jalapeno cornbread, poached eggs, avocado, sweet potato hash brown, pico de gallo and red pepper jelly. The kids polish off their waffles without a word, and the husband wipes his plate clean, only stopping to comment on the perfection of the poached eggs. Meanwhile, I savour my American inspired breakfast. The kick of the cornbread, the freshness of the salsa and the lightness of the hash brown is delicious. Easy like Sunday mornings. A bit like the coffee and bacon donuts, which I am happy to report we sampled en masse as a family. And yes. They taste as delectable as they look.
‘We try to have no rules,’ says Erica. ‘I don’t want people to see food on the menu they can’t have because it’s past 11.30am or something. It’s really all based on American service here. Anything is possible.’
Burrawang General Store Café
11 Hoddle Street, Burrawang