Tucked away in Western Australia’s Swan Valley is a unique little… well, what would you call it..? A family run enterprise that comprises a number of studios, principally for the artists in the family to create textiles, wall art, sculptures and landscape art, among other things, for sale commercially and to the public, and also the most exquisite cafe (coffee house) with an outback/bush heritage feel and charm. This is Taylors Art and Coffee House on the Great Northern Highway. I visited this charming place recently on a drive through Middle Swan.
Set on a rural property and spread over a number of sheds and dwellings, tours are conducted at regular intervals through the studios. As much as I was interested in the production of their art pieces, my stomach was calling me elsewhere. The cafe – coffee house – sits in the rear of the first structure off the highway. Parking was at a premium when I visited at around mid-afternoon and so I found a parking space behind one of the more remote sheds and walked through to the coffee house.
Upon entering from the rear of the building you notice a busy hive of activity in the open kitchen area. This is set opposite a seating area which is furnished with a rustic charm. Some hard furnishings, some soft furnishings; some upholstered in traditional fabrics, and some upholstered in the Taylor’s own fabric prints; some modern furnishings, and others that appear to be more country bric-a-brac lovingly restored, recycled, and upcycled from early colonial days; inside eating, and country farmhouse seating on a closed in verandah – I could continue but I think you get the picture.
I’d like to say that the menu is traditional fare, but it isn’t quite that. Neither is it modern-city-hipster either. The best I could describe the menu as, is country farmhouse on a traditional cafe menu theme. The food selections all appear to use locally sourced, fresh, organic and seasonal produce, with a hint of native spices thrown in. I was kicking myself that I had arrived ten minutes after the lunch menu had finished for the day.
The staff, while obviously talented and dedicated to their craft, I found to be nonetheless a touch abrupt and ‘huffy’ in their mannerisms. I got the impression that I was in their way and that they had better things to do with their time. There were a number of savoury slices and prepared rolls in the display cabinet which looked tempting – but on this occasion the lemon ricotta cake nestled amongst the sweet treats won me over. There was also a coffee roast that I wasn’t familiar with and so a skinny flat white just had to accompany the slice of cake.
And what a wonderful lemon ricotta slice it was. I have eaten similarly named items before and they should have simply been labeled in the window ‘Citrus Tart’ as the lemon taste just dominated everything. In this instance the lemon was there, not in the backseat, but just enough to tell me the cake featured lemon while allowing the rich taste of the ricotta to sit on the palette with the lemon. What a perfect balance of tastes this was. The base was as good as the best I have tasted before and I feel was simply there to provide structure to the slice.
The coffee was simply amazing. I recall seeing packets of coffee bean from ‘Darkstar’ on the bench, and have since found them online as Darkstar Coffee Roasters, also based in WA. Which roast was used I don’t recall, but the taste was wonderfully dark and broody with a chocolately caramel aftertaste. The aroma was simply sensational and filled the air with its presence. I’m now regretting that I didn’t buy a bag of beans to take home with me…
It is a truth universally acknowledged (alright, I pinched that line…) that fresh, organic and wholesome cafe foods seem to attract a cost premium – in season or not – and the menu pricing at Taylors certainly reflects this generalisation. We could debate all day whether it was the whole organic angle, or the fact that there was no close by competition, that influenced the menu pricing – but at the end of the day what I had consumed was a fantastic coffee and equally good lemon and ricotta cake, served up in a homely arts and crafts farmhouse atmosphere which you could then wander through and purchase something to take home or even view the art in progress.
This is not your average coffee house. It was an experience I will always remember.