Truckies doing the Central West run have never had it so good. The newest pit stop along the Great Western Highway has fallen into some expert culinary hands.
Former Ashcrofts fine dining pair Corinne Evatt and Mary Jane Craig have joined forces with Rick Marchant, ex-Wattle Cafe Blackheath chef, to serve some fabulous food along the highway.
They are part of the dream of Rick and Julie Hoppa to bring top produce to the stretch of road at Hartley.
Mr Hoppa, owner of the Blackheath Vegie Patch, has long coveted the site. It had been slated for removal as part of the road widening but plans changed and it survived.
Mr Hoppa pounced. He has now opened Hartley Fresh, half of the premises a fresh fruit and vege outlet, the other half a cafe.
He has a long-term association with the ex-Ashcrofts pair, having been their supplier since they arrived in the Mountains nearly 20 years ago.
They agreed to help him establish the dining half of his new venture.
Ms Craig and Ms Evatt operated a Wentworth Falls pizzeria, La Famiglia, after selling Ashcrofts. They recently sold that business to a man who made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.
“Rick had been telling us what he wanted to do with this venue. We thought it would be a goer, a cracker and we would have a go at it,” Ms Craig said.
“We were happy to come on board as consultants to work him through how to set it up. It all kind of fell into place and away we went.”
Mr Hoppa wanted “good, hearty, delicious and honest food for everyone from the 7 o’clock truckie and tradie to the local who might want to come in for lunch,” Ms Craig said.
The initial menu focuses on the basics – bacon and egg rolls, healthy sandwiches, burgers and very tasty fat hot chips.
There are also a couple of salads and some wicked looking cakes. Ms Craig said the selection may be expanded with blackboard specials.
For Mr Hoppa, the site offers very easy access for his delivery trucks as well as plenty of car parking and six designated truck parking spots for passing trade.
The shop will open 7.30am-5pm weekdays and 8am-4pm weekends. The cafe will open 7.30am-3pm weekdays and 8am-4pm on weekends.
Mr Marchant will be in charge in the kitchen on weekdays with Ms Evatt and Ms Craig there Friday to Sunday.
Ms Craig said she and her partner would continue to look for their own venue, hopefully in Blackheath. In the meantime, they’re content with the arrangements.
“It’s the perfect little interlude that works for us. Three days a week – we’re quite happy to do that.”