Story & photos Matthew Michaelis
‘I don’t care whom I hit.’
I get a little excited when I arrive at a road stop. People milling around, legs lifting, people adopting pseudo yoga moves stretching it out.
Yes, years of family road trips have left indelible memories and some unwanted feelings firmly on my delicate psyche. Unfolding your legs, shaking off the car-sickness and the vicious big-brother stealth attacks. The hairy muscular arm reaching back like a crazed gorilla, sweeping the back seat with an angry ‘I don’t care whomI hit!’ shouted from the swerving driver dad.
My father didn’t cope well in closed spaces; he’d always end up flustered and regretful for ever thinking of such a stupid plan with a family in tow.
Sphinx Rock Cafe was our destination and this place is more than a roadhouse cafe or a food stop; it’s a hang.
It’s situated at the Mt Burrell Convenience Centre on Kyogle Road, between Murwillumbah and Kyogle. The three world-heritage national parks nearby create a spectacular drive through the Mt Warning Caldera.
Sphinx Rock Cafe is 15 minutes north of Nimbin and less than 45 minutes south of Coolangatta Airport through the historical village of Uki. This eatery is situated on a sizeable plot of real estate.
Back to present day, and fortunately my youngest children are still at that age when they sleep the whole way to and from a day trip. It’s when you arrive at the destination that you need something special to give the next generation a memorable buzz. Yay! We’ve arrived and you’ll know if you’ve done the right thing from the get-go.
Living in the country gives the ardent Sunday driver a zealous edge. Not bound by any city or stemmed by traffic, the country drive when your starting point is the country is not overrated when you’re going to find something of interest to relax with. It’s a big enough place to house the childless, the dog lover, the children haters and the large family all together in one place without ever getting irritated – whichever camp you’re in.
The cafe itself is flanked by a flowing creek out back, a sandpit for kids, a sizeable grassed area for galloping, picnic blankets, a game of boulles or bocce (depending where you’re from) and a comfy seating arrangement for the diners in four different areas around the cafe.
A fully licensed cafe in the sticks is gold, and Sphinx Rock has a good list of bottled specialty beers and organic red and white wines to complement a menu that’s tilted toward the hungry patron.
It’s certainly a good place to relax and enjoy the culinary offerings of a licensed restaurant.
It’s been a while since I’ve eaten roo meat. The issue of eating kangaroo meat is, no doubt for some, still an emotive one. You can’t think of those endearing episodes of Skippy the bush kangaroo without feeling pangs of guilt or hearing a distant call for help… ‘Don’t worry, Skip’; alas, reality can be harsh.
Apart from appearing on the coat of arms, the roo, like most original Aussie things, has been copied from the Indigenous barbecues that have been frying the kangas brown for thousands of years. For my taste, as a meat, it’s an incredibly lean and healthy choice.
So, anyhoo, all that aside, I grabbed the roo burger hoping for a tender kangaroo loin or rump inside (there’s an art to cooking this meat).
The full vegetarian breakfast was ordered for balance and a slice of a gluten-free orange-and-poppy-seed cake to further prove to myself that I haven’t wasted my life.
I have to say, I really enjoy kangaroo meat when it’s cooked to perfection, and this was. The meat was so good that I almost ignored the burger setting it came in and just ate the tender pieces without the bready bits or the chippies (the toddler had laid claim to these middle-aged no-nos).
The specials board also had a kangaroo and sweet potato curry, rice and spinach for a reasonable $20.
The vegetarian big brekkie comes with haloumi, avocado, spinach, poached egg, mushroom, eggplant, tomato and toast. Served plump with a piece of haloumi sitting like a promontory of griddled goodness, generous and well done, the usual suspects were sitting here served at their best.
The menu includes all-day breakfast, big burgers, wraps, sangas, well-thought-out mains, daily specials, and what seems to be good vegetarian and vegan selections, not to mention organic coffee and cakes.
The service is friendly and efficient, while the menu presents choices from $6 to $18 with some $22 selections on the specials board. Jon Squire is the chef here and has been at the helm for the past ten years.
The food came forth quickly, well plated and all without a yell or a scream from the open servery.
After lunch and sand play, we ventured down to the little creek and had a splash and a stone-skip. This is quite something for a young family and a really revitalising aside from the food and entertainment.
I was having flashbacks to the iconic Picnic at Hanging Rock movie, my mind drifting in and out of the pervasive heat – I could almost hear pan-pipes floating on the wisps of hot air.
Being Sunday, I realised it wasn’t the pan-pipes but the melodious sounds of a local talent going on the wind (as happens each Sunday here). Local bands and songwriters are featured here from 1pm.
This is a fabulous landscape for live entertainment, with a rotation of musicians from around the region and beyond, performing here to diners and visitors alike.
If you like a drive, good food, a glass of wine or a beer, all with family diversions included in the free entry, then you won’t be in ‘de-Nile’ that such a place exists after a day out at Sphinx Rock Cafe.
Sphinx Rock Cafe
Licensed, open seven days from 8am until 4.30pm Monday to Friday. Dinner:
Friday nights and weekends from 9am until 4.30pm.
3220 Kyogle Road, Mount Burrell.
Phone: 6679 7118; email: [email protected];