This fortnight interview brought me to a suburb called Engadine, which is about 38 kms out of Sydney city. As I set up my GPS in the car to take me to Engadine, a look on the estimated arrival time indicate about an hour drive. This is probably going to be the furthest drive I have ever took for a cup of coffee.
If I were to say that I have never heard of this suburb before, that would have been a wrong answer. But if I was to answer that I know anything about it, that would have been wrong too. So as I followed the GPS instructions, I realized that I am following a very familiar route. The moment I entered the start of the National Park, I thought the GPS has took me to a wrong location.
Little did I realize that as I got closer to the destination, Engadine is actually a suburb that I drove past each time I headed down south to Shellharbour or Wollongong. Now for those of you that had driven to Wollongong from Sydney city on Princes Highway would have probably zip your way past this town without even realizing its existence just like me.
Personally for me, all I remember about Engadine is the KFC outlet on Princes Highway that I occasionally stopped over for dinner while I am on my way back home from the South Coast. Little did I realize what a fabulous suburb it is for a coffee stopover or a lunch stopover simply by turning around the corner.
Let us start our understanding of Engadine with its history.
The earliest people staying at Engadine were the Dharawal people and in 1844 a road was established between Sydney to Illawarra district. The railway from Sutherland to Waterfall was opened in March 1886 and Heathcote was initially setup as a railway community. But the platform for Engadine did not eventuate till 1920.
Once crown land, Engadine was originally attached to the village of Heathcote proclaimed in July 1886. Charles McAlister of Petersham purchased 17 acres of the land north of Heathcote towards the Woronora River. Charles felt that the surroundings has a striking resemblance to the Engadine valley in Switzerland inspired him to name this estate of his "Engadine".
While it is considered part of Sydney area, the feeling when I was there was that of a small regional town though. A town that still retain its heritage characteristics, architecture that is mainly a composition of low rise buildings, a breath of fresh air and streets that are clean and not cluttered with crowds or cars.
As I walked around the town prior to my interview, I saw customers and shop owners chatting with one another casually. A smile from a stranger as you walked past them on the street. All these nostalgic Aussie traits that was once so familiar and yet so foreign now just melt my heart for this suburb as I continue my stroll on the streets of Engadine Town.
Since it was not that long ago that we celebrated Anzac Day, flowers can still be seen at the memorial site. Lest we forget!
As I walked through the plaza (picture above), I got to the end of the plaza to a building with a name "the Wigwam". A google search suggested that the term "wigwam" is an English adopted word for native American dwellings. Perhaps there is a history to it but my luck with google ended with the definition. If someone knows about the history of this complex. Comment and let me know.
From the plaza, this is the view of the street as I stroll along towards the cafe.
Okay, I admit, I got lost and went on to Station Street and did a U turn when I realize that I'm heading out towards Princes Highway. This is the reason why I couldn't find the cafe. The cafe is located in an arcade (Waratah Arcade) but as you can see on the picture, the signage was half block by the tree.
The above is the entry to the arcade if you are coming from the Old Princes Highway
This is the opposite view if you enter from Waratah Road.
On the roof you would see the signage of the cafe in the form of a poker card "Jack"
Cafe Name: The Jack of Harts and Jude
Shop 9, 1067 Old Princes Highway
Mon - Fri: 0700 to 1730
Sat: 0700 to 1600
Sun: 0800 to 1200
So what's the idea behind the cafe name?
Harts is the family name of the cafe operators. In this case Jack refers to dad and Jude to mum. This name was actually a nickname for the couple during their dating days when dad was known as Jack of Harts on the football field. Hence the couple was known as "Jack of Harts and Jude".
Setting up a cafe was something that dad wanted to do after retirement and hence it was only very natural for the children to pick a name to reflect the cafe special relationship to the family. I need to mention that this cafe definitely can fit into the definition of a family run cafe, because you got dad, mum and children involved in the running of this cafe.
For the interview, I was very lucky to be entertained by Kate, Jess and Rhys (left to right).
Coffee Beans: The Jack of Harts and Jude
A special mention here, the raw coffee beans are actually purchased from local New South Wales coffee beans farmers and air roasted on site by the cafe. Now this is really rare to find, you would probably find that most cafes will source their raw beans from overseas.
But the Harts family desire to support the locals, they opt to source their raw beans and other raw materials supplies from the locals. This include the milk, eggs, vegetables, etcetera.
Why this location?
The family has been living in the Sutherland Shire since the 1950s and this connection played an important factor in their decision to set up this cafe in Engadine. As to why this particular arcade and this particular stall, well... there is even more history to this. A cafe has pre-existed in this particular location for the last 25 years and when it was made available in the market for sales. The Harts family decided it was time to take over.
The cafe is situated in the middle of the arcade and on a sunny day, you can choose to sit at the bench with the sun shinning through the skylight. I think it is especially enjoyable on a winter day, perhaps you will get a bit of draft coming through the walkway but with the sun and a cup of warm coffee in your hands that should warm you up in no time. If that is not enough, then you can add the service and hospitality components, the latter 2 will definitely warm you up!
So what prompt you to setup this cafe?
Firstly is their love for food and they used to travel into the city for it, even for something that we city dwellers take for granted, for example sourdough bread. Seriously, an hour drive for a Sourdough, that is pretty hectic. So bugger that, rather than going into the city, the siblings decided to bring this gourmet food and coffee to the locals in Engadine instead.
If I am a local resident, I would answer "Finally....!"
Now let's turn our attention to the decor of this cafe. There is nothing regular about this cafe! I'm used to the consistency that you see in a city cafe, for example the same takeaway cups or having in the cafe cups. But the siblings decided to setup the cafe to reflect the homely (or in this particular case, grandma's home) feeling.
The irregular variations of cups has captured my interest, I find this notion to be so out of the box. Doesn't it just remind you of your own home when we all have an assorted collection of cups (well at least I do anyway).
Now have a look at the serving jug and glasses for the water. Goodness gracious, I only ever remember seeing this in the flea market, I don't think I ever been served with one before. This is so nostalgic!
This is my cuppa (ahh a term that I just have to use to fit in with all this nostalgic feeling).
Other than the different cups, of course the same notion apply to the teaspoons too. The initial set of teaspoons are truly grandma collection of souvenir teaspoons. But more are added to the collection now by the siblings as they travel through the different towns in Australia.
Something even more nostalgic, when was the last time you got your tea served like this?
More coffees: Piccolo Latte (top picture) and Cappuccino Dad Jack (bottom picture)
Now something for the Sutherland residents
You are in for a good deal, something is brewing in the pipeline to bring this service to those in Sutherland. Watch this space.
Final question: What are your favourite coffee?
Rhys: Not fussy about it
Jess: Soy Flat White
Kate: Soy Cappuccino
Cappuccino Price Index: $3.90
Finally, an apologies from me for the delay in this fortnight publication.