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Gaelic pride

January 9, 2011

Happy new year readers! May I be the first to say: thank god that’s over. The year of our lord 2010 was, in many ways, a traumatic one for me, and I will be endeavouring not to think about it at least until I have to publish my memoirs to fulfil the obligations of a lucrative publishing contract.

Among many unexpected developments throughout the year, one which I welcomed with excitement however was the procurement of my first motor vehicle. At twenty seven, I have waited longer than most to experience this rite of passage. I had hitherto resisted such an acquisition citing environmental, financial and health considerations while in fact preferring to spend my money on boozy dinners at Marque. Almost a year to the day after arriving in the countryside however, I succumbed to the desire for wet-weather transport and brought home an immaculate 1991 Toyota Corolla. It has been christened Chairman Kaga in honour of its Nipponese heritage, after the founder of Iron Chef, that most 90s of institutions.

"Allez cuisine!"

This weekend the Chairman and I went on our first big day out to visit my dear friends the Little Piggies at their home in Yamba by the seaside. First though, we made a diversion off the highway to Maclean, “The Scottish Town in Australia”, also known as the home of one of the most unsightly and controversial bat colonies in New South Wales. Lately it has also been earning a reputation for its culinary and cultural attractions, with a small but wonderful collection of cafes, shops and galleries making it worthy of a detour, or for Valley locals, a regular pilgrimage.

Located on the Clarence River, the town of 3,500 proudly flaunts its Gaelic Pride, with tartans adorning its electricity poles, street signs written in Gaelic as well as English, and annual events such as its Easter Highland Gathering.

Gaelic pride

For all your Nessie needs

But while I come for the kitsch, I stay for the coffee. My first stop on the way into town is Espresso Botero, a rapidly growing boutique roaster supplying cafes up and down the east coast. At their Maclean headquarters you can now enjoy a brew just metres away from the warehouse where the beans are roasted daily. The retail space has recently been converted into a slick espresso bar, where customers can sample their range of blends, and browse their impressive range of domestic espresso machines. Owner Danny Young is passionate about good coffee, and Botero is by far the best grind I have tasted since I was a stone’s throw from Campos. Its increasing availability on the north coast and beyond has much increased one’s chances of finding a decent cup, frankly not a moment too soon.

Espresso Botero

Bean bags

Fully caffeinated, it was time for a spot of lunch at On the Bite which, in my humble opinion, is the best cafe in the Clarence Valley, if not on the North Coast. There are hints of serious coffee geekery on display, with brewing paraphernalia and bean-themed reading material decorating the cosy interior which brings a little bit of Melbourne to the north. Indeed, that’s where their coffee hails from, by boutique NZ-based roaster Coffee Supreme. Co-owner Rob makes a great cup, and one of the simple joys of eating here is quietly admiring his dexterity carrying several orders at once, never forgetting who ordered what or spilling a drop. He handles the floor with the skill of one who has done this before, likely at somewhere of note. Forgive my fawning, but this is refreshing in a neck of the woods where coffee orders are almost invariably met with the ubiquitous “D’ya want that in a cup or a mug, love?” and you’re lucky to receive your order without half of it sloshing in the saucer.

Customer service

It’s the food I come for though, and it’s consistently excellent. The concise menu focuses on Middle-Eastern and Asian flavours, and while ‘global’ menus can sometimes lead to confusion on the plate, each dish here is carefully and expertly prepared and seasoned. Something tells me that the secret ingredient is love. This time around I opted for the Bangalow pork belly poached in masterstock and then caramelised in the pan. Cooked to sweet, tender perfection, it was complimented by a crunchy and fresh Asian-style slaw. Small details delighted such as the contrast of crunchy fresh red chilli with crispy caramelised green chilli. Zing!

Get some pork on your fork

After all this indulgence, my last stop was Eklektika, a surprising and delightful shop, the kind which you might expect to find in Newtown, Surry Hills or Fitzroy.

Every available surface is covered in an artfully chaotic collection of clothing, books, jewellery, antiques and other ephemera. Sensory overload ensues, accompanied by the overwhelming desire to buy one of each.

One stop shop

For such a small town Maclean is punching above its weight, and the combination of its proximity to the highway, picturesque riverfront location and currently affordable real estate mean that its future is bright. Whether you come for a highland gathering or a latte, I can certainly recommend finding out what Maclean’s got under its kilt…

Espresso Botero – 277 River Street,  Maclean, 1300 540 337

On The Bite – 215 River Street, Maclean, 6645 4488

Eklektika – 241 River Street, Maclean, 02 6645 2929


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Lola permalink
    January 9, 2011 12:20

    🙂 now i really wish i came for the road trip !!!!

    yum yum yum

  2. Nicki Holmes (eklektika) permalink
    January 11, 2011 10:22

    Thank you Felicity. That was a great! A really good blog.

  3. Helen permalink
    February 10, 2011 19:26

    Thankyou for your wonderful pictures of Eklektika!! I found this shop last Easter when we visited Maclean during a vacation to Yamba. I think it is my favourite shop anywhere. I visited the store twice, the second time being when I was given a choice by my husband to have a massage or another trip to Eklektika as a wedding anniversary gift! I can get a massage anytime!! I love the pics, thanks again

    • felixexplody permalink*
      February 10, 2011 19:46

      Thank you, I’m so glad you came across the post! It is such a special shop, I’ve never come across anywhere quite like it before. I’ll be visiting Eklektika tomorrow in fact, so I’ll pass on your lovely message.

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