Pic­nic Bas­ket the toast of Ta­roona

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TASTE - Graeme Phillips

THE PIC­NIC BAS­KET 176 Chan­nel High­way, Ta­roona Week­days 7.30am to 4pm, week­ends from 8am. BYO. 0459 466 057

OH DEAR. Why don’t I lis­ten to my wife? Be­cause I’m a man, I’m the food and wine writer in the fam­ily and I know what’s what around town.

But, of course, she was right about a sub­ur­ban café where the pre­ten­tion was as overblown as the mi­crowave was over- used and the food was ter­ri­ble.

So we were at The Pic­nic Bas­ket on the re­bound. And what a con­trast.

Ev­ery­thing was beau­ti­fully fresh, the flavours good and al­most ev­ery­thing made daily in house.

It used to be a drive- through Shell ser­vice sta­tion. Now you can drive right up to your ta­ble. And that’s just what a steady stream of cars and walk- ins were do­ing at lunchtime on a sunny day last week.

Si­mon Lyons grew up in Ta­roona lament­ing there was nowhere to go lo­cally for good, fresh café fare. Fif­teen months ago he de­cided to do some­thing about it. And, if the queue for take­aways and the mix of fam­i­lies, work­men, young and old cof­fee- ing, snacking and lunch­ing in­side and out­side the other day was any in­di­ca­tion, Ta­roona is very happy he did.

In­side, the high- ceil­ing space is bright and airy with dis­plays of lo­cal pre­serves, chintzy art­work, colour­ful event posters, a scat­ter­ing of papers and mag­a­zines, and bare wooden ta­bles around a com­mu­nal ta­ble with an in­built black­board and chalk for the kids.

The all- day break­fast menu in­cludes three dif­fer­ent toasted breads with home­made jams, honey- toasted gra­nola with ap­ple, pear and yo­ghurt, av­o­cado and roasted toma­toes with grilled haloumi on toast, and var­i­ous egg dishes.

We chose the baked eggs with home­made baked beans, chorizo and spinach, which was as gen­er­ous and tasty as any of the many ver­sions of this sort of dish now pop­u­lar around town.

Then fol­lowed a to­tal in­dul­gence in the form of two thick slices of French brioche toast topped with a pair of melt­ingly baked, caramelised bananas all slathered in cin­na­mon but­ter with a side jug of cream. Pure deca­dence.

Vegetarian and spiced chicken flat­breads from the lun­cheon dis­play cab­i­net were fresh, crisp and gen­er­ously filled, while a chilli and black bean pie – unusu­ally en­closed in short crust rather than flaky pas­try – for me, was a lit­tle dry and needed more chilli fruit and bite to war­rant its name.

I thought some of those long red and green mild chill­ies chopped through would have helped with flavour as well as colour against the black­ness of the fill­ing.

The black­board lunch menu and cab­i­net also of­fered a soup of the day, a se­lec­tion of sal­ads and a tempt­ing ar­ray of fresh pas­tries and small sweet bites, in­clud­ing a richly flavoured or­ange and al­mond cake.

The cof­fees were ex­cel­lent and, on leav­ing, a cou­ple of lads said their milk­shakes were awe­some.

Price guide: Toasts and jam $ 5.50; eggs on toast $ 8.50; French toast and bananas $ 9.50; baked eggs/ beans/ chorizo/ spinach $ 12.50; filled flat­breads $ 7.50.

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