About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Monday, March 16, 2009
The Cuckoo
In 1958, two young, recently married, German immigrants, Willi & Karin Koeppen, bought the neglected and run down Quamby Cafe in Olinda, renamed it The Cuckoo and began a remarkable institution that has fed and entertained many generations of Victorians as well as interstate and overseas visitors for more than fifty years.

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.

Now is the belt loosening moment - the dessert station beckons!

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.

Highly recommended.

The Cuckoo
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

  posted at 2:27 pm

At 9:47 am, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Sounds like an even of fun and food. Like that belt loosening moment!

At 11:07 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, it's really a Melbourne institution, though it's not for everybody, there is the odd bemused face. If you and Gorn ever come over here, we will take you there for sure.

At 12:29 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

do you KNOW how many times my parents have raved about this place? they have tried to invite us there too but I've always found some excuse not to go but after your review, I may take them up on the offer =)

At 10:30 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi cin, you do see the odd bemused face, it's not for everyone, but people who do get it seem to have a great time.

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