By Ivor Jones
Have you ever thought how our taste in food has changed over the years?
Since Europeans arrived in Australia over 200 years ago our meals have changed from plain old “meat and two veg” to a much greater variety. In suburban main streets and country towns just after WW2 refugees from war torn Europe came to Australia in their thousands.
Poles, Hungarians, Germans opened what was then called locally “Ham and Cheese” or “Ham and Beef” shops otherwise known as Delicatessens, selling a range of cold meats (salami, kransky, etc) and Continental cheeses.
For a very short while even Coles owned a chain of delicatessens called “Tip Top” which were acquired as part of their takeover of the Matthew Thompson group of grocery stores.
Migrants from Southern Europe such as Italians opened fruit and vegetable stores, and Greeks who were famed as fishermen opened up fish shops.
Germans, Italians, Spanish and others from the warmer Southern parts of Europe introduced to Australia their winemaking skills. Large retailers such as the major department stores and chains like Woolworths and Coles introduced cafeterias into their larger stores.
Governments could also see that money could be made by providing food and at many train stations where travellers were required to change trains they established “Railway Refreshment Rooms”. At some stations in city centres they were quite elaborate whilst at others they were more modest an sold basic sandwiches, pies and milk shakes.
Meat pies were and still are quite popular and at least one popular brand “Sargents’” established a chain of pie shops in the 1940s and 50s. The founder of Sargents once lived locally in Castle Hill. There are still some specialist pie retailers such as “Harry’s Café de Wheels”, “Pie Face” and “Garlo’s”
As Australians travelled further in the 1950s and 60s we saw some of these former migrants or refugees open up restaurants and milk bars in country towns and suburban centres. Greek restaurants and milk bars were popular with travellers and teens alike and you would spot names such as “Theo’s”, “Olympia” or “Acropolis” adorning restaurants or milk bars in large country towns.
Pubs and clubs also thought that they would try to attract the travelling public and created dining rooms or bistros in their premises. Following the success of these Greek eateries, Chinese food saw similar growth in the 1960s, followed in the 1970s by Vietnamese and Korean restaurants and more recently Lebanese Kebab shops.
The 1970s also saw that Australians were looking for something fast and convenient where they could quickly order food and take home to the family and watch their favourite TV shows or continue their travels along the highways to their holiday destinations, so along came the American styled fast food restaurant chains such as McDonalds, Hartee’s, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken (now KFC), Dominoes and Hungry Jack’s.
Some of the names from the past that I have fond memories of include “Cahills”, “The Orange Spot”, “Repins” and, “Black & White” Milk Bars.
What memories do you have of restaurants or eating out during your childhood or youth? Why not write and tell us email [email protected] Photographs and stories will be acknowledged.