Heretofore, my experience with Australian dining has always been positive.
From fish 'n' chips with a pineapple fritter on the side,
to gourmet organic pizza,
|Diced tomato, shaved parmesan, prosciutto, and rocket (arugula)|
to delicious breakfasts at open-air bistros,
|Bacon, eggs and grilled tomato on Turkish roll|
on this, as well as on previous visits to the country, Australia has dazzled me with her culinary delights.
That is, until this weekend.
After spending several days in various coastal areas, where most of Australia's 21 million people live, on Thursday we found ourselves heading inland, zipping our way along narrow country roads to the regional areas of Dalwallanu and Wyalkatchem, trying not to squish the sleepy lizards as they crept across the road, while taking in views of salt lakes and wasteland,
interspersed with paddocks of wheat and canola.
Our first stop was Dalwallanu, where Nick and Graeme performed a Friday night concert. This town of about 600 people recently celebrated its centenary with the opening of a beautiful new community center. This town is certainly on the up-and-up. While the coffee left something to be desired, the motel restaurant and local bakery provided for our dining needs.
Our second stop, where we were scheduled for a Saturday night concert and a Monday morning school workshop, was Wyalkatchem. It was in this town of 300 that we came to understand Nick's previous statement that "you can starve in these little towns, if you don't plan right."
But, as Robert Burns writes, even "the best laid schemes...oft go awry," and we hadn't planned ahead at all.
We left Dalwallanu mid-morning on Saturday, after a breakfast of bacon and eggs. About three hours later, we pulled into Wyalkatchem,
|The Main Drag|
met the town's CEO and checked out the town hall where the concert would take place that night,
unloaded our luggage at our accommodation,
|2-bedroom house provided by the shire of Wyalkatchem|
The coffee shop, whose signage was promising,
The news agency, which advertised coffee and light fare,
was equally disappointing.
The roadhouse at the corner of town offered some deep-fried delicacies on which we decided to pass.
|Sampling from another roadhouse a few days prior. |
Breading/stuffing in spring roll wrapping. Deep-fried.
Our hopes rose when I mentioned that the kitchen at our accommodation was reasonably stocked with pots and utensils, and I offered to cook for us, but then we visited the supermarket.
We looked at the sign on the window.
We looked at the clock on the dashboard.
It read 1:30.
Our last option, the pub, advertised meal service from 6-7:30pm. We could make it four and a half hours. We booked a table for 6pm and survived the afternoon on muesli bars and trail mix. Fortunately, the pub meal was decent, and we walked away satisfied and ready for the 7:30 concert.
Later that evening, knowing we would find ourselves in the same situation the next day, we poured over the road altas. Merriden was only 145 kilometers down the road, and its dot on the map was a bit bigger than Wyalkatchem's.
As we waited for our meal at The Olive Grove Cafe, we laughed at our need to drive an hour and a half for a decent meal.
|Skinny Flat White|
|Chicken, Avocado, and Sun Dried Tomato on Focaccia|
We wasted the afternoon away, taking in the sights of Merriden, which included the location of WWII tent-hospitals and a granite rock from which the pioneers drew their water supply a hundred years ago, before packing into the car and driving back to Wyalkatchem for another 6pm meal at the pub.
The parmi did the job both nights,
|Chicken parmigiana with chips and salad|
As I sit here in my hotel in Perth, Wyalkatchem feels worlds away, though it is only a few hours drive. This evening, we dined at The Bellhouse Cafe, which is situated on the Swan River in South Perth. Through the window, the cityscape glittered at us from across the river. I enjoyed pan-fried gnocchi in a blue cheese sauce, with speck (ham) spinach and roasted pumpkin. Graeme enjoyed barramundi on a bed of rocket (arugula), artichokes and red onion. We shared a decadent chocolate cake with a rich mousse topping. It was a splurge, and it felt good. Very good.
But as dodgy as our dining experience was, Wyalkatchem also demonstrated unexpected spirit. The music was very well received. Considering the population of the town, the concert was better attended than any of the city concerts probably will be. The people were enthusiastic and appreciative, and it was a pleasure to share the music and the evening with them.
And I got to see some real outback Australia in ways that most tourists never will.