Re:Publik Café Ettalong Beach
Images by Tim Brand
Ettalong’s newest café is a stylish repurposing of an old store with an industrial groove. Quickly gaining a local following for their all day menu and delicious coffee, Re:Publik Café is also a new player in the art scene, hosting a regularly changing roster of artists’ work.
Ettalong is a charming seaside village with boutique shopping, great cafés and a beautiful foreshore. It also has quite a few lovely old buildings dating from the first half of last century. Not all are obvious to the eye, and in some cases it’s only when you step back and look at the façade that you get a hint of the building’s age.
One of these old, original stores sits in a row at 271 Ocean View Road. Mercifully it hasn’t been messed about too much by enthusiastic renovators of past eras, and still sports its original floorboards, ceiling and display windows. Formerly a furniture store, a haberdashery, a newsagent and office space, among other uses, it’s had a reimagining this year as a stylish eatery.
This lovely little building was lucky enough to be noticed by Wolfgang Zichy and Catherine McDonald, serial entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry. Having built up seven or so successful businesses over the last 20 years, from Darling Harbour to Coffs Harbour, the couple made the move to the Central Coast mid year.
Ettalong had always been part of the long term plan, familiar to Catherine from summer holidays when a child growing up in Sydney. Visiting family friends in the area this year they noticed the business for sale as if fate had stepped in and made the decision for them.
The couple haven’t altered the vintage feel of the building. It’s identifiably an old store with wonderful, deep display windows and an Art Deco feel. The floorboards are beautifully mellow and the interior has been painted in a crisp white. This perfectly highlights the ceiling, a striking conversation point of the café. It’s stunning patina is the result of a fire at some stage of the building’s history, the couple haven’t been able to ascertain when. It gives the interior its distinctive edgy and industrial feel which is further enhanced by the black Tolix chairs and red stools. Timber furnishings and counter add warmth and appeal as do the walls filled with artworks.
For Wolfgang the challenge of creating a successful café or restaurant has always been at the heart of his love of food and cooking. He’s not content to settle in and enjoy his success, believing you become stale. The constant learning that results from new challenges is what keeps Wolfgang going.
Across the road from the couple’s stylish Re:Publik Café sits Mantra Ettalong Beach Resort. Quite apt as Wolfgang has a personal mantra that has become the statement for the café – “eat, live, love”. Rather than just a hollow, ‘feel good’ utterance I think it’s quite defining of the couple who have quickly established themselves as part of the community, firmly believing that their role is to provide a café that welcomes all and serves food that’s relevant to its audience.
If Wolfgang’s cuisine has a style it’s simply “good” food, made with quality ingredients and love. After many years in the industry he still waits excitedly for the first order when a new item goes on the menu. He relishes changes in the industry and the trends that come and go. He references these in his menu but is careful to not get too caught up in them, using them to enhance his offerings rather than dictate them. Some trends fit his ethos and so he hangs onto them. For example in their previous business the couple used as much local organic produce as possible and kept waste to a minimum (they actually achieved Green Table accreditation for their efforts). It’s something Wolfgang is keen to continue and he’s constantly looking for local sources, however small, of sustainable produce. It’s a way to engage with the community while also providing great quality food for customers, a win all round.
The couple have found that an all day menu works best in their new resort town home. There’s lots of delicious breakfast options on the menu, including the Breakfast Burger, which is a popular choice all day, along with tasty lunch meals – if you’d like a pasta dish at 9am Catherine and Wolfgang will happily oblige!
Cakes and snacks also feature, made in-house, and there is a good selection of drinks including a large range of organic teas. The café’s coffee has proved a hit, a roast sourced from Express O Coffee Specialists in Lisarow. It has a medium to full bodied taste and a creamy finish with a hint of butterscotch, and is utterly delicious. You can purchase bagged beans if you find you develop a taste for it …
Food and great coffee are the main pursuits at Re:Publik but Catherine and Wolfgang have also set out to create a destination for art lovers with regular exhibitions of works for sale. These usually last a couple of months and have so far proven very popular with patrons, and successful for the artists involved. The couple don’t take any commission, they’re more than happy to support the arts and reap the benefit of a regularly changing display for their patrons. It certainly adds to the ambiance of the café, as does the absence of loud music and the well spaced tables and lounges, making Re:Publik the perfect place to linger and catch up with friends. Or even linger alone – there’s a great collection of food magazines and cookbooks to quietly peruse over coffee.
Exhibiting artists are usually local. At the moment they have a number of quirky sculptures by Peter Baka in, plus Sydney artist Helen Burgess’ fabulous exhibition ‘Boats’ which will run throughout summer. Helen is a personal friend of Catherine and Wolfgang and she has prepared these works with Re:Publik in mind. The show features a stunning selection of both black and white works and others in bold colour, featuring sea, sky, birds and boats. Helen’s art is deftly executed and accessible, with large canvasses and smaller pieces, all aimed at creating an impressive feature piece within an interior.
Re:Publik Café is open daily from 8.30am and is one of the few cafés in the area that is open later in the afternoon – usually until at least 5pm. Excitingly, there are plans to open at night, hopefully within a few months. But in the meantime Re:Publik also makes the perfect venue for events, accommodating up to 50 guests and with limitless scope for catering. With both Mantra and the Palm Beach ferry just across the road it’s ideally placed for a range of private functions.