Dine in a café direct from the good old days.
Stepping into Paragon Café in Goulburn is the closest you’re ever likely to come to actual time travel. The Paragon opened its doors in 1940 and it’s been a popular pit stop for Hume Highway travellers ever since.
The restaurant moved once – in 1987 – all the way from 150 to 174 Auburn St, and it’s likely that the current décor dates from this time.
In the evening, brass window and doorframes reflect the light from the expansive red neon signs out front, making it impossible for passersby not to notice. Inside, a wall of mirrors multiplies the hundreds of spherical yellow lights that hang from the roof and protrude from the walls, illuminating the welcoming old-school blue vinyl booths that hold the promise of rest, conversation and a feed for the weary traveller.
Every tiny detail of the décor seems to hark from a time with aesthetic sensibilities so different from modern minimalism, and it begs to be inspected more closely.
Sitting amid that pool of golden light is a pleasant and relaxing experience; unfortunately reading the small font of the encyclopaedic menu isn’t such a joy. Diners here are spoilt for choice – unless they happen to be herbivores. In typical old-school style, vegetarian options are limited.
That doesn’t hamper the restaurant’s popularity, though. On any given night the booths are filled with local families celebrating birthdays, with tradies refuelling after a long, hard working day, and travellers revelling in the eclectic charms of a style that’s impossible to find in the big smoke these days.
The numerous wait staff provide a prompt and friendly service, and the food is home-style, with no aspirations to offer a fine-dining experience. It’s hearty fare, and generously portioned, which it should be – entrées costs about $17 and mains between $20 and $36.
The dessert selection alone is as big as your average restaurant’s menu, and it’s worth checking out the cakes on offer in the cabinet at the bar.
The Paragon Café is a Goulburn institution that divides opinions. Some love its old-school ambience; others long for a more gourmet experience from such a venerable establishment. You’ll have to make up your own mind.
The Paragon Café is located at 174-176 Auburn St, Goulburn, NSW. Call (02) 4832 1016 for more information.