Mardy’s Cafe – Casuarina Square

These days you don’t get something for nothing – or in North Country parlance, you don’t get owt for nowt…..

That’s a pretty fair assumption, as in, the less you pay the less you get. Sometimes our perception of value meddles with these notions; for example, if you pay more for a vehicle is it necessarily twice as better than the vehicle costing half the price….?

This analogy also holds true at Mardy’s Cafe; a local cafe located at the Kmart end of Casuarina Square Shopping Centre.

The cafe initially had a bit of a bad rap as a cut price second-rate type of food joint. Standard cafe menu; breakfast menu dominated by egg dishes, breakfast plates of various sizes, all day breakfasts, and the like; teas, coffees, drinks fridge behind the serving counter, etc. Open sandwiches, wraps, Turkish bread rolls, open melts, pies, muffins and other sweet treats under glass… Need I go on? Pay and eat service, or takeaway. Cutting edge decor (at the time) and a sizeable dining area that was open to the world to look in upon and delineated from public space by a perimeter of oh-so-comfy high back upholstered seats – unfortunately at the right height for the public waiting on their loved ones from Kmart to sit upon. Only too often you would rest back in the bench seat only to head butt (literally!) the punter sitting on the other side of the bench seat.

The food or service wasn’t flash – but cheap. Located near the opening of the shopping centre the cafe was plagued with flies. It wasn’t held in the highest regard, despite looking like having the bells and whistles, it was average at best. You got what you paid for.

Then about two (two and a half?) years ago something happened while we weren’t looking. By that stage a number of us had given up on the cafe and stopped returning. And then, after a prolonged painful experience at another cafe, I returned to Mardy’s and found that the service had become second to none. The coffee had transformed to being as good as the best of the rest in the shopping centre, and the food was really good. Best yet, the prices hadn’t changed.

What happened? Apparently a new owner took over the cafe. The level of flies didn’t change – neither did the decor but otherwise, what a transformation!

I recently ordered a small and simple plate for breakfast. Bacon and eggs and toast. Surprisingly, as it wasn’t on the menu, a slice of herbed grilled tomato was added. All for the price of a couple of inexpensive take away coffees…

Mardys

And oh my it was good! Tasty fresh eggs, poached ever so gently with hot runny yolks and firm but pliable whites; fresh bread lightly toasted (multigrain, no butter – my choice); a thick plump juicy slice of tomato grilled just right; and bacon with some life still in it – not over cooked to a cinder. Another reason for not ordering butter on my toast was my assumption that there would be enough oil with the bacon to drizzle of the toast. That idea backfired spectacularly as the bacon was served with minimal oil present. In my experience not many cafes do that.

The macchiato ordered alongside breakfast showed me that Mardy’s still have one of the best baristas on board in the shopping centre – a knack of course supplemented by a fine roasted bean. Strong and robust, yet mellow. The taste lingered on sweetly long after the meal finished. I resisted ordering a second coffee, yet returned three hours later for another when I had finished shopping.

As I said, for the price of two cheap take away coffees, you don’t generally get much food – quantity and quality. Mardy’s throws that argument out of the window with superb tasting food cooked elegantly and friendly, courteous service. To give you an idea of value (in terms of my cheap-takeaway-coffee-as-currency analogy) today’s meal would generally cost me 3 to 3.5 coffees anywhere else. But don’t let that sort of discount fool you – the quality of today’s meal compared favourably with the best I’ve had. Sure, it was just toasted sliced bread, but with value for money like this I can’t justify the price of another one to one and half coffees just for the word ‘sourdough’ to be added to the menu.

To me Mardy’s is an unsung gem of a cafe. Sure, the decor could do with a refresh, but considering the traffic that goes through it and its location in the shopping centre, it has dated rather well.

The flies are still a bloody nuisance – and something I discussed with the staff. They acknowledge the problem and despite being promised help from centre management (to date not forthcoming) they assured me that they take every step possible to eliminate the flies without breaching the environmental health guidelines.

As the German put it… für nichts gibt’s nichts.

… but not here….

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