Is it just me or is any time you see “The World’s Best Cup of Tea/Coffee/Meat Pie/Apple Pie/Pizza or even Service as you drive through Australia, you know you’re in for a pretty ordinary meal.
Doesn’t seem to matter where you are, you could be passing through the most amazing farmland, with bountiful produce, rolling hills splashed with grass fed waygu and chickens that dine on organic corn fritters and avocado salsa, but the minute you see that sign: World’s Best Hamburger, well you just know it’s going to be a flavourless, stodgy affair, complete with grizzly bits and damp lettuce.
I don’t know if it’s just a matter of a straight oversell. I mean World’s Best, Australia’s Best is a pretty big call. I’ve noticed that some signs now starting to self edit their bestness, and are calling themselves The South Coast’s Best or Lismore’s Best. This may be reducing margin of error by a factor of about, say 20 million, but somehow it still seems a big call, even if we’re only talking about Lismore.
I have a new driving food stop strategy. If it says best anything I’ll give it a miss. Even if it’s world’s best scones at 3pm when I’m starting to feel like a sugar carb cream hit served grandma, I’ll give it a miss. That’s where junk food truly comes into its own – it makes no claims to be the best food in whatever town you’re driving through. It just gives you your hit – whatever your poison (sugar, caffeine, salt, carb, chocolate) and although it might make you fat and mess with your blood sugar levels, at least it doesn’t mess with your head.
I’ve just returned from a quickie trip to the far north coast of NSW. There are two types of people in this world – you are either a north coast or a south coast person. I thought I was firmly entrenched in the south coast camp – but after this trip, I may be turning.
Here are the north coast towns I love:
Maclean – top of the list for me, and at only 18 kilometres inland and with river views I think it qualifies. What do I love? The winding main street, the Queenslander houses, the mix of real working town and tourist town, the river which flows at a steady clip to the sea at Yamba and incongruous mix of Scottish regalia and heat and cicadas. And, I know they are a local menace, but the bat colony adds a vampire element to town, something every town needs. There’s a wonderful dreamy feeling about Maclean, it’s the kind of place you wish you’d grown up in. Actually – a coming of age film set in Maclean with a vampire undercurrent – now that’s a film I’d like to see.
Yamba – what’s not to love about Yamba? Apart from the nagging feeling that it will become a victim of its own popularity, and development will take over, it’s just about perfect. Again, thanks to town planning 30 years ago when public parks, tennis courts and bowling clubs got the best views, it’s a textbook Aussie beach town that mostly exists in textbooks these days. The cinema is a real cutey pie too, and I love that despite its creeping hipness, the fish co-op still serves the best meal.
Grafton – haven’t spent a lot of time here, but I like what I see. Queenslanders, lasiandras and an historical core. And it’s a real working town – Grafton doesn’t need to impress anyone. And that’s part of its appeal.
Murwillumbah – I’ve always liked Murwillumbah. Plonked (nestled as travel writers would say – I mean who uses “nestled” in real life?) between Mt Warning and the ocean, it is a hugely likeable sugar cane service town. This is a poseur free zone – a rarity so close to Byron. Instead it offers swathes of pubs, heat, cicadas, Queenslander houses, sweat and the odd fabulous cafe.