The country market is one of those places that I wish I visited more often. Yes we have our share of city farmers markets dotted around town and as good as most of them are, the ones beyond the urban wilderness have a certain simple and unstructured format about them. I find they’re even cheaper than the ones in the city.
When I was in Brisbane recently I made sure we paid a visit to Fernvale, a small country town my brother and his wife lived in at one point of their lives. This town formerly named Stinky Gully is about 30 km out of Ipswich, or 60 km from Brisbane and is known for a couple of things – the weekly Sunday market and a bakery that dishes up a multitude of pies that people flock to from all over the Brisbane Valley.
Fernvale Country Market can be found in the grounds of the towns primary school and you know you’re close when you spot cars parked along the highway almost a kilometre before you even get there. Prior to setting set foot past the market gates you can stop at a few of these parked cars and buy ducklings, chicks and puppies.
I can’t believe the thought even crossed my mind to buy a baby chicken for a mere $5. It was a brief thought that was soon fogotten as I don’t think my neighbours would appreciate the farm animals in my inner city backyard, but I’m sure their cats would love it.
Thanks to an overnight downpour the turn-out for stall holders at the market was halved on this particular Sunday. There were only a couple of nanna’s selling their hand-crafted, doily-topped jars of jam and pickles and even the fresh fruit and vegetable stalls were few and far between.
A couple of food trucks slap together a country-style bacon and egg burger but as good as they looked and smelt I had to refrain as we were hanging out for pies from a place down the road. After brousing the stalls flogging off second hand dust collectors, farm and pet supplies and slabs of cake we made our way down the road to soak in more of the country atmosphere at the Old Fernvale Bakery.
You’d have to be silly not to want to stop in at this place if you were passing through town. I mean just look at it. Old photo’s hanging about, vintage light fixtures, bric-a-brac filling every centimetre of empty space as if the owners went on a jaunt through antique stores and deceased estates grabbing what they could. I don’t envy the poor unfortunte that has the job of dusting in this place.
One of the things that caught my eye as we stepped into the far-from-minimal restaurant was the sign on the external awning informing passers-by that the coffee is “award winning”. Not only is it the home to the “legendary Fernie pie” it also serves up award winning coffee. Have we hit the jackpot in downtown Fernvale? Let’s take a gander.
Breakfast, should you chooose to have it, appears to be just what you’d expect from an un-classy rural establishment such as this. Fried eggs, bangers, grilled tomato halves with toasted and buttered sliced bread cut into triangles. But let’s get real here. Who comes to the Old Fernvale Bakery and has breakfast when you can choose from more than 100 varieties of pie? Not this lot. Let’s get real again and point out that conveniently many of the pies are not available should you choose to buy one of each. The logistics of having that many varieties of hot pies ready in a small country town just aint gonna work.
One thing that definitely didn’t seem to work was the service at the restaurant. Managemant must have taken the day off as the young girls tried to do everything at once with not much of a successful outcome. Food orders were botched up and forgotten about and the ditsy lass trying to make those “award winning coffees” failed to fill the group with ground beans and extract it the way it’s meant to be extracted. Instead the previously-used coffee was left in the group and extracted a second time, making for a very weak coffee. Second time around the coffees were better.
In the business of the pie, once we finally got our correct orders, the classic combination of pie, chips, mashed peas & mashed potato and gravy was the only way to go. The chunky wagyu (14.95) is a winner despite the heavy salt and the curry pie (13.5) went down a treat just as much. Powdered gravy as expected and nice crispy chips fresh from the fryer.
The dessert cabinet offers a decent selection of country-syle goodies like individual bread & butter puds and fluffy sponge cakes. I grabbed what I thought was a lemon meringue pie when it ended up being a beautiful frangipane tart (4.5) with pineapple and custard. The tiny caramel tart (4.5) packed a sugary punch laced with ginger and the viennese finger (4.5) was exactly that. A perfect sweet ending washed down with award winning mug-a-chino’s.