Hot in the country: Boorowa’s new chic cafe and wine bar

Hannah Sparks 4 March 2021 26
The Marsden St General owners Isabel Gorham and Toyha Williams Johnson.

The Marsden St General owners Isabel Gorham (left) and Toyha Williams Johnson (right). Photo: Hannah Sparks.

If ever there was a breath of fresh air in Boorowa, it’s the opening of The Marsden St General cafe and pantry, and The Absolutely Superb Bibliothèque and Occasional Wine Bar.

These two new businesses are reinventing what was once a bush town reliant on groceries, fuel and rural supplies.

Bright and chic, The Marsden St General is a contemporary cafe and pantry that’s lifting the face of the main street.

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Customers hang around the shopfront, enjoying good coffee and even better company, perusing homewares and collecting weekend items from the deli.

This is what owners Toyha Williams Johnson and Isabel Gorham envisaged when they opened The Pantry on Pudman in the adjoining street in 2010.

“We opened The Pantry with the idea of it being a pantry but got caught up with the antique furniture and then people were loving the lounge-style coffee shop,” says Toyha. “So when we revisited the idea, we thought we would try and stretch out into a new space so we could have both.”

Toyha and her husband had been eyeing the space for several years and were keen to hold onto pieces of what locals long knew and loved as Max’s butcher shop.

“We’ve kept the original tiles, ceiling and floor,” she says. “It’s what generations knew as Max’s butcher shop so we wanted to keep a bit of that.”

Toyha and Isabel have also incorporated local produce into their pantry and menu, such as cured meats from Pialligo Estate in Canberra, and pies from Binalong.

READ ALSO: A food-lover’s guide to Braidwood

Even more popular are Isabel’s handmade cakes, biscuits and Portuguese tarts, which can’t be missed from the counter.

The pair opened the doors to their new cafe in October 2020 and admit it was a bit of a risk in the middle of a pandemic-stricken year.

Fortunately, The Marsden St General has been a success from the start.

“In the beginning, we were really saved by locals going out of their way to support us, and since then there have been so many travellers from the cities because they can’t go overseas,” says Toyha.

The Absolutely Superb Bibliothèque and Occasional Wine Bar owner Jeremy Clarke.

The Absolutely Superb Bibliothèque and Occasional Wine Bar owner Jeremy Clarke. Photo: Hannah Sparks.

Just around the corner is The Absolutely Superb Bibliothèque and Occasional Wine Bar, which combines owner Jeremy Clarke’s two loves: books and wine.

The intimate space opened in February 2021 and feels like an extension of Jeremy’s living room, with the host charming patrons with his knowledge of local wine while seamlessly carrying clinking glasses and mouthwatering charcuterie boards.

The idea for the wine bar was born out of COVID-19, with the former university academic and China tour operator forced to return to Australia and rethink his business.

When it came down to it, Jeremy couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a wine bar in a town at the heart of a wine region.

“I do believe the Hilltops Wine Region is a little bit unknown and that’s because some of the grapes are sold onto other winemakers outside of the region,” he says. “It’s really nice to highlight the work of the region, one that’s easily accessible on the road from Canberra to Orange.”

There are 15 to 20 wines available by the glass at Occasional Wine Bar, and the list includes a handful of well-known Hilltops identities such as Freeman Vineyards, Moppity Vineyards and Grove Estate.

As the wine list and bookshelves grow, Jeremy hopes his business will, too, with plans to extend trading hours to Sunday, expand seating to the main street, and welcome authors to host talks.

There’s a buzz in the air as this town’s providores grow beyond the usual folk, and local chatter of a new restaurant and motel make Jeremy hopeful more people will stop by soon.

The Marsden St General is located at 25 Marsden Street, Boorowa, and is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 4:30 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 2 pm.

The Absolutely Superb Bibliothèque and Occasional Wine Bar is located at 99 Pudman Street, Boorowa, and is open Thursday to Saturday from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Original Article published by Hannah Sparks on About Regional.

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26 Responses to Hot in the country: Boorowa’s new chic cafe and wine bar
Gabrielle Porter Gabrielle Porter 12:25 pm 18 Mar 21

good on you toyha, nice to see people I knew at school killin it out there 👏

Lara Schroeder Lara Schroeder 11:11 pm 16 Mar 21

Definitely worth the drive from Canberra 🙌

Tennaya Coveney Tennaya Coveney 8:24 am 16 Mar 21

Leanne Coveney might have to visit

    Leanne Coveney Leanne Coveney 11:01 am 16 Mar 21

    Tennaya Coveney I like the sound of that x

Kathy Wallace Kathy Wallace 6:51 am 16 Mar 21

Congratulations and Good Luck ladies

Amber Janiszewska Amber Janiszewska 8:56 pm 15 Mar 21

Annette you’ll have to check it out for me x

Sandra Garraway Sandra Garraway 6:32 pm 15 Mar 21

Congratulations 👏

Margaret Bulgin Margaret Bulgin 8:33 pm 14 Mar 21

Mum isn’t able to physically go there, but we take her take away versions.

Katie Erskine Katie Erskine 7:51 pm 14 Mar 21

Margaret Bulgin , no doubt you and Aunty Joyce have visited these local goodies?

Christie Hartfiel Christie Hartfiel 7:18 pm 14 Mar 21

Lexi Monaghan our lunch stop

    Lexi Monaghan Lexi Monaghan 7:28 pm 14 Mar 21

    Christie Hartfiel who’s driving? Hehehehe 😈

Barbara Mecham Barbara Mecham 5:42 pm 14 Mar 21

Can’t wait to check it out!

Renee Kirkpatrick Renee Kirkpatrick 9:30 am 14 Mar 21

Abby Carnell girls night!

Stephanie Butler Stephanie Butler 9:27 am 14 Mar 21

Jess Gehrig We may have to make a trip to Boorowa

Debbie Hansard Debbie Hansard 6:20 am 14 Mar 21

Joy Urquhart, Liz Rebetzke - next trip through Boorowa?

Deborah Clayton Deborah Clayton 11:07 pm 13 Mar 21

Day trip girls? Annie Rhodes, Pauline Scarsi Moule, Justine Bellas, Pauline N Michael Misner, Rhonda Locker, Sue-Ann Martiniello, Kelli Taiatini, Kel Ly, - it’s all about supporting local businesses! (Not the wine😉)

Anne Maree Solomon Anne Maree Solomon 10:01 pm 13 Mar 21

Helen O'Sullivan is this the cafe you mentioned.

Rachael Hind Rachael Hind 8:35 pm 13 Mar 21

Maree have you been to either of these new places? Sounds fab

    Maree Ashley Maree Ashley 9:53 pm 13 Mar 21

    Rachael Hind no we haven’t Rach. We usually have a picnic at the riverside park. Xxx

Kerry Peachey Kerry Peachey 5:06 pm 13 Mar 21

Rachel Cavanagh! Next time

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