For a couple of years I’ve been hearing about this little cafe at Jugiong, about an hour and a half south of Canberra, not too far from Gundegai, on the way to Melbourne or Sydney or wherever you’re going up or down the Hume Highway. But as luck would have it, we kept going past on a Tuesday when it’s closed.
Finally I made it on another day on the week, and discovered it’s so much more than just a cafe. The owners call it a food store and cafe. In fact, it’s a whole little country enterprise ticking away, and it’s absolutely buzzing with people – locals and travellers alike. In fact, Jugiong has become quite the little destination.
Of course, reason number one for even a very slight detour off the highway and a pit stop is the food, and Long Track Pantry really fires there. It’s seriously good food, which is good because good food is a serious matter. The quality you’d expect in the hippest of city food precinct, served with country style.
You can sit inside or out and order from the cafe blackboard menu which is simple but tempting, and changes regularly. Think healthy salads, ploughman’s lunch, or pulled pork on sourdough with cider dressing, or maybe a lunch plate with pistachio terrine and artichokes among other things. These people really get food. You can also get a selection of local wines. We were driving so didn’t try those.
Or grab something quick from the ‘smoko’ takeaway menu. The toasted Turkish-bread sandwiches for roadies were fab with real meat and just the right amount of ooze (relish): one smoked lamb and the other salami and ham with a hint of kick. Pick up a couple of Anzac cookies or other biccies from the glass canisters on the counter and you’re set for the rest of your trip.
Pre-Christmas it was firing with a plethora of puddings and Christmas cakes, as well as lots of other foodie items – sauces, relishes, chutneys and jams, all homemade and looking very smart and coordinated in their red and white striped packaging. That means you can stock up on the smoky barbeque sauce and relish you admired in your sangas and create your own masterpieces at home.
Then to boot, there’s a whole range of gifts and decorator items. Oooh – surprise shopping opportunity! Keeps you busy while you’re waiting for your takeaway. There are also clothes with a country flavour (linen shirts, striped tees, more linen), jewellery and hats, and even a cute little gallery featuring the lovely work of a local artist. I was in my happy place there for a while on our little stopover.
We liked it so much we dropped in for lunch again on the way back where I had the best steak sandwich I’ve had in a decade. Shouldn’t be that hard to get them right, but this one ticked the boxes with excellent homemade relish and a quality chunk of scotch fillet. Real steak. Guess that’s what you’d expect in Angus country.
It’s really a little gem in the countryside doing big things. If you’re driving on that big Hume road going north or south, and it happens to be between 8am and 4pm, I’d advise you to drop in – as long as it’s not a Tuesday. I know that now.
The rest of the township has really taken off now too. The revamped Sir George Hotel next door is pumping with people, enjoying an ale or a meal while the kids play happily in the large grassed area outside. There’s also an assortment of gift and homeware stores to wander through, a wine store, and now a new gelato shop to get your ice cream hit. From the looks of the row of little charcoal-coloured buildings in a row, it looks like there’s more to come yet to this invigorated little township.