BINGLE BAY CAFE- BBC 'Alternative Cafés of the Cassowary Coast, Far North Queensland'

BINGLE BAY CAFE- BBC

The 2nd in the series:

'Alternative Cafés of the Cassowary Coast, Far North Queensland'

By Ian Browne Shamrock News

Bingle Bay rests along exotic jungle-backed beaches looking up into the mystery of thickly forested hills. Welcoming the visitor as one enters Bingle Bay, African tulip trees glow brilliant orange among the natives which thrive within the locals’ garden homes. Cassowaries wander unchallenged, the pace is kind, paradise springs to mind. An alternative community calls this garden of Eden home, these happy abodes which nestle in among the tropical foliage on truly beautiful half-acre blocks.

The Bingle Bay Café, known fondly here as ‘BBC’, is a gorgeous, cosy little joint situated in the splendid bafflement of wet tropical rainforest, just down the road from Mission Beach. A happy, friendly café, there is an emphasis here on love, and even the wi-fi log-in whispers this cuddly notion. Love hearts hang brightly, dangling about the place, corridors of gentle shadow enter onto a brightly lit courtyard. This café is exciting in its feng shui, where this large outdoor area allows those to ponder life in the open, a covered veranda shades and cools those under a splendid six-blade wooden Punka fan, which sways slowly from above the punters, seated casually at the outside tables. The large timber fans are painted into gentle reminders that you have arrived at this placid leafy resting site, and the children aren’t the only ones intrigued by this awkward contraption.

The café’s interior surprises with its soothing darkness, where quaint, interesting furniture beckons one to laze for a spell in an old worldly charm, colourful lamps invite those to stray with a book. A bookcase can be found before you enter a cosy indoor balcony dining section where the light of day streams through open windows. All-in-all this wonderful café spoils guests with its colourful childlike ambience, in tune with indie-hippy nostalgia.

The menu

Deserts like sticky date pudding and choc-fruity cheesecakes allow the sugar-fixers to linger, the coffee is good, and the menu also includes a curious pizza named “Molly the little lamb” - which involves roast lamb with a distinctly Mediterranean flavour, albeit accompanied by baked sweet potato. Another, ‘Meteor’, is helped along nicely with spicy chorizo. All meals arrive to the table with a generous helping of vegies. There is plenty of seafood on offer also and the Thai seafood laksa and Thai beef salad are surely popular. The usual plump fried, and grilled breakfasts, appear to quell and conquer the nights before sins, while burgers and falafel wraps take centre stage. I ordered the ‘Bingle lot burger’. For just $11.90c ‘takeaway’ it was delicious, a real bargain for such a thickly succulent beef paddy.

I met with café owner Geoff Spratling. “My partner Donna and I lived in Byron Bay, New South Wales, for a few years - before we moved here. We have been here for 18 years. Byron used to be like this 30 years ago. Bingle Bay is a little pocket of loveliness. People quite often link the two areas.”

What brought you to the region and why did you stay? “Drive around the coastal bends and see the scenery. We were on holidays and found this space. I was only here one night and looked at a house, the next day and put up an offer immediately. In the year 2000, Byron was getting busy, here it is so beautiful. We decided to move here.”

Describe the local community and how they intrigue you: “It’s an awesome community, it’s a real community. Just outside the door here is the local bus stop. Everyone gathers here, and the kids get their bus from here to school. They don’t have to wear shoes to school. It’s a really tight community.”

What’s the best thing about supporting the community from within the walls of the cafe? “The community support us, it’s a big part of the community. It’s a two-way thing, they look after us more than we look after them. We have four kids, it’s an awesome place for kids to grow up.”

The food, what do you do well? “The most popular food are the pizzas and burgers. The fish n chips too, lots of take away as well as dine in. Last year ‘Urban List’ rated us as serving the top 20 burgers in Oz. We don’t advertise this.”

How has the café changed and grown over the years? “We are in the process of branching out from this, we just purchased a seven-acre block. We started a little farm to grow the produce for the café and to sell it to the community. Our philosophy is sustainability, not to just provide food that is not wrapped in plastic. Bingle hasn’t changed much but the café has. It used to be the local corner store, Connor’s. It had no liquor licence, it was painted yellow, and had no windows. Everything you see here is us, from the timber windows, up to the fans. Punka fans are originally from India when the English went out there. An Indian guy used to pull the rope and make the fans work. They are known as Punka Wallas, but they want $25 an hour out here.”

Aptly on offer on the menu is the German sausage roll with mustard and sauerkraut. German backpacker, Lisa, has worked at BBC since July 2017. “I returned home for six months in the mountain winter season and returned to Bingle Bay, switching between mountains and beaches. I love this area as it is the complete opposite to Europe. Here is wild and uncrowded, in Europe all the beaches are crowded. I also love the relaxed lifestyle and happy people here in Bingle Bay, and there is always warm weather and beaches everywhere, just like a paradise, a little hidden paradise. The first thing I learned when I started here is to laugh, everything is relaxed and happy, it feels like a homely place, so relaxed; not really like work.”

Another happy young employee of BBC is Rachel Nye’Chart. She arrived from Western Australia, near Esperance. “I have worked here for three months now. Everyone is so happy here, everyone is like family. We support the local community by selling their candles; their honey; their jewellery. The locals are here in the café all the time.”

Friday nights, music rejoices through the village from the café. And what type of music can be enjoyed at the café? “Indie, Blues, a bit of everything really. Benson played last night. He played guitar, piano and harmonica. He’s local.”

I caught up with this well-known local, Benson, later in the day. “I play blues, roots, country and folk. I’m a one man show. Freedom and adulation is what I chase. I use a stomp box and play guitar. I play mainly up here in North Qld in little country pubs, and the smaller venues. I have been playing for 22 years and I am inspired by Bob Log the 3rd, That One Guy, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan.”

Another local muso I met in the café is Pauly P. I thought he looked familiar. Pauly P also moved here from Byron Bay, a few of his friends are known to me there. Pauly used to be part of the whole Byron Vibes party scene there. He now plays around the Mission Beach, and up to the Cairns region, energising all with his vibrant reggae-roots groove. “Yeah I really love the area. It’s been fun playing live here, it’s a nice area. I do gigs here in the café sometimes too. Come and see me play tomorrow at the Garage in Mission Beach. I am playing a three-hour arvo gig.”

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