Perched high up in the Dandenong Ranges, the Koeppens have managed to bring a slice of German Bavaria to life. On the sprawling site, there are three different floors seating 450 diners. Its atmosphere is generated in turn by the clutter of knick-knacks, the largest free standing cuckoo clock in the world, warm, friendly dirndl wearing waitresses - peasant costumes from Germany's alpine areas - and the fun-loving band members who are masters of bad jokes that somehow always seem to get a laugh.
It was one of the first restaurants in Australia to feature a smorgasbord buffet, predominately of European dishes, but still accessible to all tastes; no one ever has to go away hungry.
On our visit, we were shown to our table and immediately a well made pumpkin soup was served in a large, silver tureen, with a ladle to help yourself.
Next came a visit to the cold buffet which consisted of very fresh oysters in the half shell, a salad of seafood, mostly extender, bound with mayonnaise, a slightly dull octopus salad, excellent roll-mops and a noodle salad. There were also several different mainstream cheeses on hand, along with crackers and pumpernickel bread.
After a short break, it's on to the hot buffet, starting with a selection of salads and cold cuts - on this occasion there was a bean salad, pasta salad and green salad.
Experienced diners usually don't dawdle here, preferring to get to the hot food. First up come the roasts this time featuring beef, pork and lamb along with gravy and condiments, all are cooked well done, however the beef was very tender and not at all dried out.
Then comes the hard decisions. Central to the buffet and always there are sauerkraut (cabbage only), bratwurst, schnitzel and roast potatoes. Other offerings included potato dumplings, battered fish, chips, red cabbage, broccoli, carrots and cauliflower cooked till just tender, as well as what looked like a curry. As the host, Horst Lantzsch, explained, the choices always vary.
It's built around a huge hotplate on which fresh pancakes are made to order, ready to be accompanied with ice-cream and smothered with maple syrup, chocolate, strawberry or caramel sauces. There are also excellent strawberry and almond tarts, Black Forest cake of course, chocolate mousse, multi colour jellies, strudels naturally and a few more cakes besides.
Finally we rested with a pot of filtered coffee and a pot of tea, other coffees are available on request.
The band strikes up the floor show and we find ourselves, along with other audience members, ringing cowbells in a complicated and hugely funny number, directed by Peter Verheyen, who displays a great memory for where the bells are. One of the waitresses also sings a moving rendition of 'Edelwiess', from the Sound of Music.
The Cuckoo considers itself a family restaurant first and foremost, eschewing cool and sophisticated for the folksy, but in its very own way, is kind of cool. The buffet for the most part was well put together and cooked with care and attention.
508 Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, Olinda
Telephone, 9751 1003
Lunch: Mon - Tues: enquire re availability
Lunch: Wed - Sat / 12 noon to 3pm
Lunch: Sunday / 11.30am - 3pm
Dinner: Fri - Sat / 7pm - midnight
Dinner: Sunday / 6.30pm - 10pm
Afternoon Tea: Sat - Sun / 3.30pm - 5.30pm