It’s the case of ‘the girl least likely’ marrying royalty; a fairly pedestrian café in an outer suburban shopping centre scoring seasoned hotel and restaurant owners Graham and Kate Bennett (ex Helm Bar) as its new owners. Mudgeeraba should be so lucky!
But we didn’t know about the hometown queen when, after hearing really good reports from readers, we turned up unannounced for a quiet lunch.
Meaning ‘place of many stories’ Mudjira bears witness to Mudgeeraba’s spirit, the real sense of community left over from timber cutters and farmers of bygone days.
Never underestimate the village. It may be on the ‘wrong’ side of the highway for some but, let’s face it, ‘hip’ is not always ‘great’! In fact, there’s some real talent lurking below the hills; you just have to seek it out.
The café spans from the outside to the inside of Mudgeeraba Plaza with an entrance on each end. Kate tells us how they’ve remodelled the eatery using sleepers from the old Lismore railway, Graham making tables from recycled timber. Vintage tiles, a bricked counter front and a few vintage pieces complete the village hub appeal.
But the newly renovated restaurant forms only part of the dining area. The eatery opens onto a garden-filled plaza strewn with tables, brightened by orchids, other flowering plants and greenery. It’s surprisingly pleasant and comfortable, filled with character and abundant life; a complete contrast to newer more sanitised centres. It’s a place you’d want to sit and relax; a place to meet friends and take your time.
We’re not surprised that both times we’ve visited, Mudjira has been pumping. It’s a central meeting place and everyone seems to know each other.
Checking out the single sheet menu with Breakfast and Lunch columns, some dishes such as Eggs Bene, Classic breakfast and the Avo and Feta Smash straddle all day. When I’d popped in for lunch previously I’d considered the options: all day brekkie options, burgers, or veggie options. But I looked no further than the Pulled pork burger, my lips hungry for a soft brioche bun packed with pulled pork and apple fennel slaw topped with house aioli, served with crisp beer battered chips.
The breakfast dishes are equally enticing, from a fruit bowl or many morning favourites to a Big Brekkie. The range of plant-based dishes is pretty extensive – almost half the menu, with the option to add sides of meat or extra veg. Gluten-free diners are also well catered for.
“We’ve adjusted the menu according to what people want,” Kate tells me. “This includes a range of raw cakes and slices we make here and organic coffee which is custom blended and roasted for us locally. People like the coffee so much that we have it here for sale by the bag.” (Coffee’s only one of your drink choices of course, with shakes, smoothies and juices to have in or to go.)
I’ve ordered the Veg Bene, a plate full of nutrition with roast sweet potato rounds, sautéed mushroom, wilted spinach, two soft-poached eggs and avo smash dredged with homemade citrus hollandaise. It’s great wholesome food and excellent value. Similarly, the Big Brekkie (which Mr Big Brekkie orders), laden with bacon, chipotles, homemade rosti, mushrooms and eggs with sourdough is huge plateful.
They’re also getting great service. The Bennetts are full of smiles, Kate racing around greeting customers, checking the floor, bringing out pannikins of food and cleaning up as she goes… Graham’s around having a chat as well, at least when he’s not helping out in the kitchen. It strikes us how much these guys know about hospitality: they make people feel special through personal relationship and service. Nothing less.
It’s 9.30am and they’re on their third sitting for breakfast but everyone’s still smiling.
“This is the happiest I’ve been in a place,” Kate tells us. “We work so hard but it’s really rewarding. I really love the customers here, and we have a great team who really pull together.” She has extra praise for Head Chef Ryan Willis who, though quite young, is really trying to raise the bar on food service.
On every front Mudjira is a success. It’s a great example of how a once unremarkable business can be turned around with the commitment to provide great food, a pleasant atmosphere and, most of all, exceptional hospitality.
Swan Lane? More like a love scene from Swan Lake!
3 Swan Lane, Mudgeeraba Ph: 07 5530 7660
Open: Mon – Fri 6.30am – 4pm; Sat – Sun 6.30am – 2/3.30pm
Disclaimer: On one occasion Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of Mudjira Village Eatery.
NOTE: This review has also been published on Blank Gold Coast.