Local profile – Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay

As an avid reader and lover of books it’s a no-brainer that I adore bookshops. I particularly love that they’ve morphed over the years and become so much more than places you buy books. Not only can you enjoy coffee and snacks, but many create a wonderful sense of community and promote a love of reading and books to future generations.

Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay (MRHB) does exactly that. I first met owner Cate Akaveka when I attended an author event not long after she purchased the store and was impressed with her obvious love of reading and passion for sharing that with others.

MR collage

Cate and her husband moved to Hervey Bay from Sydney in 2001. Her oldest (of two boys) was a baby and they were keen to move out of the city and try a different lifestyle.

Cate bought Mary Ryan’s in August 2013 after leaving the state government. She was keen to invest in something which would keep her employed and when she found out that Mary Ryan’s was for sale she knew it was karma. Or kismet. Or similar. 😉

“I knew right away that it was the right business for me and I can’t imagine doing anything else now. I think I love pretty much everything about owning a bookstore.”

Cate really liked the staff and was very happy when they all agreed to stay on after she purchased the business.

Cate says she’s always been a passionate reader and still has a lot of books from her childhood.

“My mother said she always knew what I was reading because I would become the lead character. I guess I was Anne of Green Gables for a significant amount of my childhood!”

I follow the MRHB Facebook page and am often agog and the myriad of activities on offer.

They have a couple of book clubs—including one for teenagers—which meet monthly. There’s a French conversation group that meets one Saturday each month. And on the first Saturday of each month, there’s a get-together called Coffee, Tea, Philosophy.

It’s a group Cate started because she really wanted to have some meaningful and thought-provoking discussions about things that matter. Fortunately, a few other people felt the same way and this group has now been meeting for over 12 months. Newcomers are always welcome, so it’s something I’m pencilling into my diary!

On top of all of the regular activities I also love the author events on offer.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve had some great authors at the shop including Brooke Davis, Inga Simpson and Josephine Moon. My favourite author event was with William McInnes last December. People are still talking about it!”

mary ryan hervey bay

Cate says these events are her favourite part of the job.

“I like to see Mary Ryan’s as more than a retail outlet, but rather an integral part of the community. I think it works because a lot of our customers feel like family and seem to enjoy a ‘sense of belonging’ when they come in.”

MRHB’s cafe is always busy and Cate suggests the that’s because the food and service are consistent and the staff have been there for a long time. In fact Café Manager, Chris, was actually on board before the café even opened.

Cate also thinks customers enjoy the ambience… that the book / coffee combo creates a homely and welcoming feel.

The store doesn’t have a full kitchen so focuses on light lunches, cakes etc.

“Our most popular dishes are the ones that are home-made. Chris’ cheesecakes have become quite famous and we have a number of customers who phone us to hold some for them.”

Not having a set menu means the MRHB team can mix it up a little. In winter (generally May to September) the store offers home-made soups and in summer, pasta and salads.

And something I didn’t know… was that from 2-3pm on weekdays, they have a happy hour with half-price tea and coffee.

But back to books… Cate loves some quirk and names Tom Robbins as her favourite author. And her favourite genre? Literary fiction—books she describes as well written and featuring words in a way that make her want to read them over and over again. She picks Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie as the best book she’s ever read with Richard Flanagan’s Narrow Road to the Deep North coming a close second.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for the team at MRHB will order it in for you, or they can help suggest some options. Cate laughed when I asked her about making recommendations and said they’re occasionally surprised. As much as they think they know what titles particular customers will enjoy, there are always some that come completely out of left field which (she thinks) is a good lesson in not making assumptions… or judging a book by its cover! #sorrynotsorry

food

Pop into Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay and say hi to Cate and the team. You can find them at shop 5, 15 Central Avenue, Urraween (opposite Stockland Shopping Centre). Telephone: (07) 4194 2111.  Follow them on Facebook to keep up-to-date with their latest activities! 

Check out Cate’s recent interview about the closure of ABC Bookshops and any impact it may have on Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay.

Upcoming events (check FB for details):
  1 August - Chris Collin (author of the Funky Chicken)
  8 August - Tara Moss
  8 August - National Bookshop Day
 18 August - The Reading Hour
 3 September - Indigenous Literacy Day

**Pics all from MRHB FB page**

Review: Arkarra Tea Gardens, Dundowran

It’s hard to believe that it’s taken me over a year to make it to Dundowran. Worse still when you realise I lived back here for 3-4 years in the 1990s and spent my first 17 years on the Fraser Coast, without ever setting foot in some of the region’s smaller beachside locales.

However, I’ve been keen to get to Dundowran since last year when I saw (on Facebook) that the Arkarra Tea Gardens had reopened. I hadn’t heard of them before but liked the idea of something a bit different to the usual cafes – plus I’ve only heard good things from those who’ve visited.

PicMonkey Collage2.jpg

And finally a month or so ago I got to see what the fuss was about when a friend and I headed to the Tea Gardens for Sunday brunch.

I have to admit to being shocked that it was actually so close to Hervey Bay as for some reason I thought Dundowran was much further away – however ‘Where is’ and my own car both informed me it’s about 15km from my place in Urangan (and given that Eli Waters is about 10km, it’s really not that far out of town at all!).

Thankfully my friend used her phone to guide us there once we turned off the main road or we would have had no idea; but once we approached it was kinda obvious cos there were cars everywhere.

I was surprised to see it so busy and we got the last free table.

The dining area is actually spread over a range of levels and locations so it’s kinda got something for everyone. I noticed, for example, some larger groups gathering around tables in the balinese style huts or in the pergola.

We arrived smack bang in the middle of morning tea and my friend eyed off the plump scones that kept wandering past our table, but we were both keen for brekkie.

1926770_10152068857129164_1536556037_nWe ended up going for the Eggs Benedict – which came complete with the usual – poached eggs on Turkish bread and hollandaise sauce but also with spinach and avocado and ham, bacon or salmon. I was happily surprised that  they had GF bread AND rolls. The roll wasn’t huge but more exciting than the usual teensy pieces of store-bought bread.

It’s not hugely cheap (I think the Eggs Benedict were about $18) but they arrived quickly and they were delicious. The hollandaise sauce is always all-important in my mind and they nailed it.

I should admit I was also impressed that the person at the counter knew exactly what was and wasn’t gluten-free.

Before leaving we eyed off the lunch menu (so I’m keen to go back and continue my Fraser Coast steak sandwich survey) and the goodies’ cabinet. A GF chocolate brownie caught my eye, but thankfully I was full.

PicMonkey Collage1.jpg.jpg

There’s a small gift shop in the café and we also took the opportunity to wander about the gardens and down to the lagoon to walk off our breakfast before heading back to the bay.

My friend and I both agreed we’d be back and without a doubt, Arkarra Tea Gardens may possibly become one of my new local favourites.

The Tea Gardens are located at 28 Panorama Drive, Dundowran Beach and open 7 days a week: 8.00am to 5.00pm. Check out their website, or you can contact them via their Facebook page, email or by calling (07) 4128 8069.

Cafe Muddy Waters – a review

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to head to Maryborough’s Café Muddy Waters for dinner. It was only my second visit this year – the first ‘just’ after it reopened following the January floods.

PicMonkey Collage2

It’s a gorgeous spot – in the old Customs House building – still with lovely views of the river and fortunately (in its new location) at far less risk of flooding!

In my previous review I cut the café a lot of slack given that they’d just reopened, but had been disappointed that gluten-free options were very limited.

However, I’m pleased to say that is no longer the case.

Of course – given my usual apathy and lack of organisation – I only emailed the night before I was due to go to ask about GF options. I got a response straight away and was advised there were heaps of choices on the menu.

Indeed, on arrival the waiter was able to run through the gluten-free options and choices available to me in detail and spoke to the chef who was happy to adjust anything. (Handy cos I’m not only coeliac but a bit *ahem* fussy when it comes to veges!)

My fellow diners shared an array of breads and bruschetta as an entrée but scallops (etc) were also on offer.

I was tempted by heaps on the menu (eyeing off the pork belly and rib eye in particular) but finally chose the beef cheeks which came topped with bacon on a creamy potato puree and with green beans. (I’d asked them to hold the mushrooms cos they creep me out. Don’t ask – long story!) 

The beef was melt-in-my-mouth succulent and offset perfectly by the creamy potatoes and crisp beans.

A citrusy* chicken dish proved popular with others at my table and another friend had the fish and chips.

The special of the day (braised shoulder of lamb on what I think was a bed of couscous and topped with turnip crisps) also sounded and looked kinda yummy. I often suffer from food envy so feel obliged to check out everyone else’s meals within viewing range (ideally without scaring them).

PicMonkey Collage

Pics from MW’s Facebook page.

Half of us had desserts and they all went down really well. With a few amendments I could have several dishes on offer and, although I love a crème brulee, I went for the (somewhat clichéd) flourless chocolate cake. (Sans berry compote cos.. well, ugh, fruit!)

And the cake was magnificent. Like friggin’ unbelievable. Moist and rich without being too sweet. I checked with someone else at my table who’d had it just in case I’d hoovered mine too quickly but she confirmed its yumminess. Another of my group had the Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta and another a pav-like meringue dish*.

We were sitting out on the verandah and had a lovely breeze throughout the night. All in all it was a lovely dining experience. The atmosphere is just gorgeous and there was a musician playing a keyboard in the background. It did get a teensy bit loud, but I expect that’s cos we diners all got very kinda loud as the night wore on.

A table complete with fairy lights and lanterns had been set up on the very green lush grass in front of the restaurant for a group of young girls. It looked so lovely it almost made me wish I had a yard rather than an apartment verandah! (Plus I remembered back to my childhood in Maryborough when a ‘special night-out’ involved our parents dropping us off at The Pizza Hut!)

Café Muddy Waters is located at 103 Wharf Street, Maryborough, and is open Tuesday – Sunday (9am – 4pm) and Friday and Saturday nights from 6pm. Ph. 4121 5011. Or like them on Facebook.

*The menu on the website is slightly out of date so I wasn’t able to confirm exactly what we ate. Plus… I really only focussed on the stuff I wanted to eat! 😉

Review: Pavilion by the Pier

If I ever get married* I would like to have my reception (or after-party) at Pavilion by the Pier. (I know that’s what all of you have been wondering! 😉 )

ImageMostly it’s because of its location. And its fairy lights. Because I truly have a thing about fairy lights.

I’ve actually never eaten dinner there as I seem to dine out during the day far more often than in the evening, but… I must make the effort to get down there one night because I’ve heard good things.

I recently wrote about my brekkie at Bayaroma Cafe, which I’ve frequented a few times after my Saturday morning yoga class. I love a good eggs benedict and – until recently – it was the only place I’d found in Hervey Bay (or Maryborough) that offered a gluten-free option.

However, I’ve now dined at Pavilion by the Pier a couple of times and their eggs benedict is also gluten-free. Yay! It comes with either ham or salmon – I actually prefer bacon, but think that getting the GF hollandaise sauce right is far more important.

As is often the case I take along my own gluten-free bread rolls (which my mum picks up for me almost weekly from the Bell Hilltop Bakery in Maryborough) and they’re happy to use them instead of bought-GF bread.

As an aside… I haven’t found many (any?) cafes / restaurants locally which make their own gluten-free breads / rolls or buy them from bakeries. Mostly it’s the tiny pieces of bread you buy from retailers. (Which is fine. Having some GF bread is far better than not having any at all!)

mineoOf course, some greenery would make this look far prettier, but I ask them to hold the spinach cos, well… spinach! #blergh!

BLTToday’s breakfast companion had the BLT and said it was nice, but not quite as nice as the last one she had there (which I guess happens from time to time!).

Service is mostly good though I’ve experienced a few ‘new’ staff there on my visits and guess that’s typical of holiday locales. The ambiance and the views however are what keep me going back. Plus the GF options of course.

Check out Pavilion by the Pier on Facebook, or the website for opening times and location.

Have you been there? Are you a fan?

* This is as likely as pigs flying or Australia finding a humanitarian AND bipartisan way of dealing with asylum seekers! 

Brekkie at Bayaroma

Just after I started this blog I set up a corresponding Facebook page. Bizarrely I’m far more active on it than I am on either of my (main) blog pages, but for some reason it engages me more.

People occasionally ask where I get all of the information and – sadly – there’s no secret source… it’s just from other Facebook pages and the local paper (Fraser Coast Chronicle) / Twitter etc.

Occasionally I receive a request to promote a business on the page and I will try to share most stuff I receive, but in reality the site is more about sharing info than business promotion.

I am conscious however that I’m often sharing pics or updates from the same places again and again – and it’s really only predominantly because THEY share updates regularly, or provide gorgeous pictures that I can’t resist.

One such place is Bayaroma Cafe, which is HUGELY active on social media (something I, obviously, love!)

Screen shot 2013-09-23 at 8.07.34 AM

I’d actually had several ‘business’ meetings at the cafe before finally lunching there a couple of months ago.

I’d been keen to dine there as I regularly salivated over the pictures they posted at lunchtime of their various specials (examples from the FB page above!). Indeed, the day I dined there with friends our lunches were enjoyed by all.

I have however, more recently been a few times for breakfast and it’s become my fave Hervey Bay breakfast locale because – VERY IMPORTANTLY – they have gluten free eggs benedict. I hadn’t previously located any GF eggs benedict (guess it’s all about the hollandaise sauce and bacon / ham and GF toast) on the Fraser Coast. In Brisbane I had a local haunt at Bulimba, where I devoured their eggs benedict (made on a potato rosti!) so I’m stoked to have found a local option.

On Saturday I also tried a smoothie. I’m not a huge devotee of homemade juices or smoothies (read: I hate fruit and green leafy stuff!), but I decided I was willing to try the watermelon smoothie and it was delicious!

PicMonkey Collagebayaroma

I know I probably need to try something different next time, or perhaps I’ll go for lunch… but, the crowds don’t lie (and Bayaroma is certainly always busy); and with a great spot on the esplanade in Torquay, with heaps of parking (etc) it’s a great breakfast, lunch or brunch destination!

Are you a Bayaroma fan?
Are you a lover of eggs benedict?