There are only two places to spend your money on Dangar Island, a green forest floating in the middle of the Hawkesbury River 50 kilometres north of Sydney. One is the bowling club. The other is Dangar Island Depot. This cafe doubles as a post office and grocery store and, as well as offering a public phone booth and a notice board, it’s a hub for the small community that calls Dangar home.
Dangar Island Depot is in a leafy corner next to the wharf, which is accessible by a scenic ferry trip from nearby Brooklyn. It was taken over by Ben and Tash Chinnock in 2017, who have since given the menu a revamp. “The cafe has been such an integral part of the local community for such a long time,” says Ben. “It was really important to us to make changes without compromising what makes the place so special.”
The couple, which operates the cafe in-between working for NGOs Amnesty International and ShelterBox Australia, are committed to serving cafe food with a clean conscience. That means the menu revolves around ethical and sustainable ingredients and, in some cases, is sourced from producers on the tiny island.
There are several beekeepers that deliver honey to the cafe, and the sourdough bread is made by Real Bread Dangar Island. Its baker has a commercial oven in her house and sells it at the cafe and door-to-door, or rather, jetty-to-jetty. It’s the perfect base for avocado, feta and boiled egg garnished with house-made dukkah.
For lunch, there’s a ploughman’s with ham and olive-speckled mortadella alongside a selection of cheeses and house-made preserves. Seeded mustard and pickled onions are made with beer from Young Henrys and a piccalilli relish on a slice of vintage cheddar. There’s a classic cheeseburger, seasonal salads and scones with jam and cream.
Taking over the space was a long-time dream for the pair. “When we first came to the island years ago, I told Ben that if the cafe ever came up for sale we’d have to jump on it,” says Tash. “One night I was browsing online and I just happened to stumble upon an ad for the place.”
Dangar Island was once a destination for Sydney’s art set and remains one of the city’s lovely oddities. Lush with greenery and peacefully quiet, it has no cars, and fewer than 300 residents who call this 29-hectares home cart groceries and belongings around in rusted wheelbarrows. It’s hard to believe it’s only an hour from the CBD.
Dangar Island Depot
2 Neotsfield Avenue, Dangar Island (02) 9985 7541