Homemade food served up in a beautiful old school building – what could be more wholesome than that?
Tucked in behind the Lambing Flat Folk Museum in the old Young Primary School building, the Kettle & Grain Café beckons clientele from the street with a sign that asserts “Money can’t buy you love, but it sure can buy you a great coffee!”
Let’s be honest, the two aren’t so different – so in we went.
Built in 1883, the old Young Primary School could accommodate up to 700 students and served as a school until the 1970s. These days, the front of the building accommodates the Lambing Flat Folk Museum, with Kettle & Grain occupying the classrooms at the rear.
The school’s sunny quadrangle functions as the café’s alfresco area, with tables and chairs now sitting where generations of schoolchildren played. There’s more seating on the broad veranda where they hung their bags (bag hooks remain), and of course in the classrooms themselves.
And what beautiful rooms they are. Stunning original windows and exposed brick walls painted pastel yellow stretch from the rustic wooden floorboards to the cathedral ceiling. The café’s interior space fills two classrooms divided by a wall of thin wood and charming internal windows.
I could just imagine a bored student gazing up and wondering what her friends on the other side were doing. The space feels incredibly wholesome, as though charged with the youthful energy of bygone generations. Or perhaps it’s just the way the sunlight floods through the enormous old windows and makes the yellow room glow that inspires nostalgia.
It’s likely a combination of the two. As you drink your award-winning ONA coffee (from Canberra) and snack on homemade orange and poppy seed cake with warm orange syrup or something equally delicious, you can peruse countless folders of archived school photos dating back to the turn of the century. There’s something quite sweet about scanning the faces of skinny Aussie bush kids, many now buried and gone, while you sit in the very building where they spent so much of their youth.
Kettle & Grain is run by a young couple, Ben Hurth-Gye who manages the kitchen, and Brooke Stevenson, a local Young girl who is the barista extraordinaire and runs the front of house. Both cut their teeth working the city hospitality scene before making the lifestyle change to Brooke’s hometown. Her eyes light up as only a country girl’s can when she tells me about her horses and the pace of life these days. The air out here is good for you, I can tell.
The café serves up tasty burgers, risotto, pasta, salads and soup, as well as an ever-changing array of homemade cakes and sweets. And while the food is excellent café fare, it’s the coffee that impressed me most – dare I say it, the best I’d had in a long time.
The steady stream of locals of all ages that flowed in and out of Kettle & Grain as I sat there daydreaming about turn-of-the-century reading, writing and arithmetic was testament to that.
Kettle and Grain Café is located at 2 Campbell St, Young, NSW. Call 0497 247 246 for more information.