Somehow, every time we visit Mudgeeraba we fall in love again.
It’s because little things count. A greeting from wait staff or a friendly smile from the open kitchen, water immediately brought to the table, a bowl of water for someone’s dog… it all adds up to make a village.
The Oak Café, Mudgeeraba’s latest culinary edition, is fabulous; so good, in fact, that we’d travel out of ‘the city’ across the highway to dine there.
Owned by Chef Paul Horne and Hardi Ellaz, whose building skills have transformed the old corner secondhand store into a comfortable understated café, the venue is watched over by a large oak tree, hence its name.
The village feel is obvious from our first visit when we sneak in for a family visit. All of the markers are there.
Unpretentious with its polished concrete floor, pipe and timber benches and white railway tiles, already it’s a haven for dog walkers and locals in the know. There’s an inner sanctum replete with large leather couches to sink into as you enjoy a quiet coffee, or dining tables where you can catch up with friends and share a delightful meal, as other diners around us are doing.
And so, to the food…
Of British heritage, Paul has been a qualified chef for 25 years. After cooking under Raymond Blanc (one of Britain’s most respected chefs), he emigrated to Melbourne then made a sea change north to be chef at Gwinganna and finally Mondo Organics, Australia’s first licensed organic restaurant, where he worked with Brenda Fawdon and Sonja Drexler for 17 years.
It’s Mondo Organics that Paul credits as the inspiration for The Oak Café’s menu.
“It’s all about produce – using the very best that you can,” Paul tells us. “We use Emu Creek eggs and meat from an organic butcher. Labna and cornbread are made in house, while our croissants and sourdough are sourced from Brasserie Bread.”
It’s the attention to detail that we love on our two visits, for example the homemade corn bread made from charred corn and capsicum served with Grana Padano, bacon, greens and chilli-fried eggs. The cornbread is so good, it gets passed around the table; without a doubt it’s the best we’ve ever eaten! Baked Swiss browns are served with herbed pangrattato, poached eggs and lemon aioli ($14); the omelette hosts chorizo, Manchego, potato, roast tomato and salsa verdi ($15).
It’s all mighty fine eating at the price, the calibre of food you’d expect at a renowned capital city establishment.
My second brekkie is a tossup, passing up Spelt soaked flour pancakes with whipped ricotta, praline, ice cream and pure maple syrup ($10 – the praline being the drawcard) for Activated pistachio and pumpkin granola with freshly grated apple, strawberries, banana and organic yoghurt ($9) – a perfect healthy breakfast.
With tea from the GC’s Cravve and Cat’s Pyjamas coffee from local roasters, they’re also onto winners. Our coffee is rich and very drinkable, its butterscotch sweetness balanced by fruit and spice notes. We notice that the café gives coffee grinds away to local gardeners.
As we leave, Paul is preparing the house made Gnocchi to be served with pumpkin, greens, roast hazelnut and pecorino ($15). Besides daily specials, the lunch menu comprises gourmet toasted sandwiches such as Reuben on rye with corned beef, or Sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and mustard mayo ($9).
As we dined at breakfast, we didn’t even get a nibble of Paul’s fabulous cakes or tarts, but they’re definitely on our agenda!
There’s no doubt in our minds that The Oak is a work of passion for its owners. It’s also an ongoing commitment to locals at Mudgeeraba to deliver the best at very competitive prices. The guys also plan to hold cooking classes as they become more firmly established and I’ll be one of the first to put my hand up.
Whatever our expectations as we sneaked in to visit, the team at The Oak Café well and truly overdelivered. Not to be missed!
Cnr Robert and Railway St, Mudgeeraba Ph: 07 5530 4400
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 6.30am to 4pm