Next time you are hooning up or down the Pacific Highway and are in need of a pit stop somewhere near Port Macquarie, make sure you take the turn off for Ricardoes Tomatoes & Strawberries at Blackmans Point (it's about ten minutes north of Port Macquarie). This venue has a very nice cafe called Cafe Red and it offers you the chance to pick your own strawberries and what kid wouldn't love that?
The drive in from the Highway is about 2kms. There is plenty of parking and they are open all year round. We are regular visitors at Ricardoes when we go north to stay at our family farm. When we arrive we normally go into the "shed" that is home to Cafe Red and see how busy it is. If we spy a free table we nab it, as this place gets very busy especially in school holidays. If we can't find a table we go pick some strawbs first then come back for our refreshments. By the way you can't pick the tomatoes, that can only be done by the Ricardoes staff. When you are in Cafe Red you can see into the shed next door where the tomato plants are growing on trellises high above you.
Cafe Red also doubles as a shop that sells Ricardoes very own tomatoes, jams, conserves, relishes and sauces. Other gourmet delights both locally and nationally made, are available for sale. Examples are nuts, oils, mustards, honey, herbs and spices. Ricardoes also have loads of fresh local produce so you can stock up on supplies for your holidays. If you don't fancy eating at the cafe, you can just purchase a cool drink to keep you going on your journey.
The counter where you order and pay for your food at Cafe Red is located at the back of the shed. The menu has a heavy emphasis on tomatoes and strawberries obviously, and you can have breakfast, lunch, morning or afternoon tea when you visit. At breakfast time the menu is quite basic, good old bacon and eggs for example and at lunch time you can have Tomato Bruschetta; Quiche & Tomato Salad; Creamy Garlic & Roasted Tomatoes on Toasted Turkish Bread; and Tomato and Basil Fettuccine with Parmesan, to name but a few. Kidlets have their very own menu that includes Chicken Nuggets or Fish Cocktails with Chips; Cheese Toasties; or Sandwiches with Ricardoes Strawberry Jam or Tomato of course!
As we had arrived mid morning we were after coffee and a little nibble. There are all sorts of cakes and sweet treats in the cake cabinet and the boys went for the kiddie's cupcake which was beautifully presented with a smiley face and of course a strawberry. Mr Munch and I shared a serve of scones which came with Ricardoes strawberry jam and cream. The scones were perfectly cooked and the jam was thick and full of delicious fruit. The cream sadly came straight out of a can and melted away to nothing once it touched the warm scones. I so think scones need to be served with real double cream! Their coffee is excellent by the way and I should mention that our morning tea cost $35.00 which is quite steep for 2 coffees, 2 scones, 2 kids cupcakes and 2 soft drinks.
Now there aren't any activities to keep the kidlets occupied whilst you eat, and you do have to keep an eye on them if they go for a wander, as you don't want to have to foot the bill for a display of jam that may accidentally get knocked over. The cafe has easy pram access but if the cafe is full, it is difficult to manoeuvre them between tables. During our time at Cafe Red, our table was locked in by a couple of empty prams which perhaps could have been left in the car as their occupants were sitting happily in high chairs. If you need to use the toilet facilities you will find these out the back door of the cafe in the packing shed. There aren't any baby change facilities so you may need to change nappies back in your car.
After you have finished your meal, pop up to the counter at the front door and the lovely lasses will arm you with buckets and scissors - you don't pick strawberries you cut them, just in case you damage the fruit or plants. They will then advise you what number shed you have to go into to pick your strawberries. The sheds are large and I suggest you head down the back as most people go for the first strawberries they see and hence there are always slim pickings at the front. There are signs that remind you not to eat any of the berries - so make sure you are good!!
Once you have picked enough strawberries head back into the cafe shed and pay for your berries. The cost goes by weight - last time we visited, a full bucket was about $8.00. Make sure you buy some of Ricardoes tomatoes as well - they taste nothing like the ones you buy in the big supermarkets, they are sweet and juicy and worth every cent.
So tell me Little Munchers, what is your favourite pit stop on the Pacific Highway around the Port Macquarie area?
221 Blackmans Point Rd
Port Macquarie NSW 2444
Cafe open 7days 9am - 3pm