It’s been a while since I ate kangaroo. It’s lean, full-flavoured, healthy meat, and it’s a shame we don’t see much of it around these days.
A laudable enterprise has recently opened in Sydney; the Gardener’s Lodge Cafe, where Beryl Van-Oploo has remodelled a beautiful, historic building and trains and employs Aboriginal Australians in hospitality. The publicity said it serves ‘bush tucker’ – food native to Australia.
Mevrouw T and I have cut down on meat-eating in general and kangaroo is seldom on our menu, but we saw this article on the Fairfax website and went to try lunch at Auntie Beryl’s.
The Gardener’s Lodge is a prominent sandstone building which has stood at the gateway to the University of Sydney since colonial times. When it became cut off from the University grounds by Victoria Park, it was converted into public toilets. But in the 1990s it was decided that due to ‘undesirable elements’ using the park for nefarious purposes the toilets would be closed. For nearly twenty years it stood vacant, until Ms Van-Oploo took it over.
The location could hardly be better. It’s on the corner of Broadway and City Road, two of Sydney’s busiest streets, but since it’s set back in Victoria Park it’s far enough away from the worst of the traffic noise.
I don’t have too many ethical problems about eating kangaroo. An individual kangaroo is very cute when you get to know him, but they breed prolifically in good seasons, become a problem to farmers and are regularly ‘culled’ by licensed hunters.
Unlike most Australian wildlife, they are neither endangered nor protected species. They do far less damage to the environment than hard-hoofed sheep and cattle. They hop around, wild and presumably happy, until killed quickly and cleanly (one hopes, though probably the first shot isn’t always fatal). Given a choice between being a kangaroo or a feed-lot calf, I’d choose the roo’s life every time.
And their meat is supposed to be better for your health than that of fatty sheep or cows.
I’ve eaten kangaroo tail, cooked in the ashes of an Aboriginal fire, and didn’t like it at all. The fat around the stump of the tail was regarded as a delicacy, though that could have been because fat was hard to come by in a traditional Aboriginal diet. A small log of singed hair, fat and bone had little appeal for me.
Roo meat tasted far better in one of Aunty Beryl’s pies.
Most of the items on the Gardener’s Lodge Cafe lunch menu are the normal salads and sandwiches served in every other Australian cafe. They do a decent Toby’s Estate coffee too.
Mevrouw T went for a salad including ‘warrigal greens’. They may have been hiding in there somewhere, but the mixed lettuce was fine anyway.
The cafe has only been open a few weeks and business is growing fast, according to our pleasant, friendly serving person. ‘It should really take off when we get our liquor licence and can do corporate functions,’ she said.
I imagine it will, and we wish Beryl Van-Oploo and her team every success, though we hope the Gardener’s Lodge never becomes so popular that we won’t be able to get a table there without a reservation.
Location: Victoria Park – Corner of Broadway and City Road, Camperdown
Hours: Open daily, 7am-5pm.
Phone: 9265 9333
How do you feel about eating kangaroo? Is it fair game, or should our national emblem be protected?