The Garden Plate Lismore & Chinamens Beach Evans Head
Yesterday was accidentally awesome.
I’d organised myself down to the very minute for a specialist appointment at Tweed Heads: driving up time, beach and swimming time, lunch time at the Vegan Aisle & Bakery in Tweed Heads, specialist appointment time, vegan bakery trip time, drive home time.
I have a habit of doing this – organising myself to the point of no spare time. But I was determined to get some pleasure in while adulting hard on my day off.
Halfway up my drive from Coffs Harbour to Tweed Heads I got a call from my specialist’s receptionist “For the first time in his career, he’s had to call in sick”. They started to give more detail about gastro, at which point I politely interjected that it could happen to anyone and I more than understood!
Suddenly I had this free day with no planning.
And it was ah-freaking-mazing.
Because I will swim at any opportunity, I was already wearing a bikini and decided to head to the closest beach at Evan’s Head. NSW North Coast beaches are some of the best in Australia, and Chinamens Beach at Evans Head is the perfect example of the sub-tropical beauty this area has to offer.
It’s a mid-winter’s day and it’s 22 degrees Celsius on the beach. If you’re a surfer, the swell was disappointingly small, but stand-up paddleboarders were enjoying themselves. The beach is well protected from any wind, so I enjoyed a walk in my bikini (yes – in the middle of winter!) and sunned myself for a bit. Isak Dinesen once said “The cure for everything is saltwater: sweat, tears or the sea”, and I agree. Though I’d like to qualify it – the cure is the sea, with a lot of sun, and some beautiful sand. The water temperature was cold, but with no wind and the gorgeous sunshine, it’s a perfect beach day.
My lunch plans are totally shot, but I have a vague recollection of seeing a vegan peanut butter hot chocolate at a Lismore café on Instagram recently. A quick IG search, and I’m heading to The Garden Plate on Magellan Street in Lismore.
Lismore’s a town most city people probably aren’t familiar with unless they’ve studied there. Even though it’s inland, it’s one of my favourite towns on the far north coast. It’s about half an hour away from Byron Bay and Evan’s Head, and a bit closer to Ballina. Being the home to Southern Cross University, the town has a wonderfully diverse cultural mix, which is in stark contrast to a lot of the blindingly white towns close to the NSW/QLD border.
I find a park easily in front of The Garden Plate. It’s a pretty vegetarian and vegan café, and I don’t realise until I’m leaving that there is a pretty, green courtyard out the back you can eat in. No mind – my footpath seat was rewarded with gorgeous doggo pats!
I order the vegan peanut butter hot chocolate and the Tofu Burger. There are some tasty looking specials (green fritters with vegan fetta and a wakame, millet and tofu burger), but it’s really hard to get me to budge past my favourites like tofu burgers with ginger soy dressing, and hot chocolate.
It’s one of those systems where you order and pay at the counter, then take a number to your seat. The tip jar at the counter says “Please tip generously, we’re too fat to strip”. It works. I tip as I would in America, I giggle and tell the waitress none of them are too fat to strip, saying, for emphasis, “No one is too fat to strip!”
The peanut butter hot chocolate is all the rich, decadent, warming, delicious goodness I expected it to be. “I was at risk of licking the cup clean”, I tell the girl who comes out to clear my cup away. It really is *that* delicious.
The tofu burger is just as good. The tofu is perfectly marinated with a ginger soy dressing. I’m pleasantly surprised at a strong aniseed flavour in the sauce. It works well with the generous sprinkling of sesame seeds through the burger, the Asian slaw, and the coriander. There’s also a yummy peanut lime pesto; is a perfect pairing with these flavours. For $2 extra, you can also get a gluten free version of this burger.
There’s a load of vibrant, tasty looking take away meals including vegan pesto pasta salad, vegan tabouli and a number of vegan and veggie patties. The place also seems to be popular with locals for coffee orders. More than half the menu seems to be vegan. I can’t find a menu online, so I’ve included some photos I took at the end of this post.
I grab a vegan brownie before I leave. The date slice with caramel sauce sounds gorgeous, but I’m concerned it won’t fare well in a 2.5 hour car trip back to Coffs Harbour. I have the vegan brownie later that night with dinner and it’s wonderful. It has a nice crust/sugary tasting base to it, with hidden chocolate pieces and what I think are candied cherries.
The Garden Plate is definitely one of those places worth the long car ride to visit again. And the staff, apart from creating delicious food, would also make delightful strippers ?