There was a time, not all that long ago, when the humble milk bar was the cornerstone of the Aussie suburban experience.
Those young and innocent days when $2 worth of mixed lollies meant the world, grabbing the high score on Street Fighter was a true status symbol, and the idea of not coming home until the street lights come on was de riguer.
And for Blake Forrester, recreating that experience is the driving force behind his latest venture, Hoppo’s Milk Bar in Mayfield.
“I remember as a kid, going on milk bar crawls. You’d get your pocket money and you’d spend the entire day on your pushbike grabbing a KIller Python here and a game of Bubble Bobble there. The whole day was an adventure,” Blake, who also runs Taylor’s Hub at Honeysuckle, told Newcastle Live.
“Milk bars were the centre of so many suburban rituals and they’ve kind of vanished. If Hoppo’s was to become a part of those suburban rituals that would be something I would get a kick out of.”
Rather than trying to recreate a 1980s milk bar, Blake said he was more interested in evoking the spirit of what a milk bar was, with Hoppo’s.
“It’s more of an homage to what milk bars were rather than trying to make a new milk bar,” he said.
“With the food for example, I wanted something that had that retro feel – that kind of nostalgic element, while making it fresh and modern.”
In terms of the food, one of the major focuses at Hoppo’s is their smooth-as-silk gelato.
Available in eight flavours, the iced confections also form the basis of Hoppo’s milkshakes so you’ll find no syrupy ’80s style shakes here.
Another cornerstone of Hoppo’s is their jacket potatoes – another culinary fave of days gone by. But don’t expect a spud drenched in sour cream and chives.
“At the moment, we’ve got seven different spuds but with a modern twist,” Blake said.
“For example, we’ve got the West Coaster with sirloin steak and relish as well as vegan options like dahl and mushroom ragout.”
Hoppo’s also makes all their own cookies on-site and has an array of classic cafe fare such as bacon and egg rolls and banana bread.
Also, while milk bars of the ’80s served up instant International Roast, here you’ll get a rich full roast made with Sprocket beans and one of the most full-on coffee machine set ups this writer has ever seen – the La Marzocco Strada ABR– a brew unit that would not look out of place on the deck of the Starship Enterprise.
Blake added that with the milk bar only being open a little over a week, there were plans in to works to extend the menu further.
“Well, we’re definitely going to get some lolly racks in here because you’re not a milk bar without lollies,” he laughed.
“As we build the menu out, we’ll also start to look at things like some dinner options. The spuds have been built around that.
“For example, we have a beef ragout spud, so it’s nothing for us to toss some pappardelle through the ragout for a great pasta dish, or make a really hearty and good quality steak sandwich out of the strip sirloin we use in the spuds.”
Part of what made the humble milk bar such a beloved part of traditions past was the sense of community that they helped to foster.
And this is something that Blake said wants to be a cornerstone of Hoppo’s, too.
“From August, we’re going to open of an evening on Mondays from 6pm and if you’re a community group that needs a hand with fundraising, you come in and take over the place, scoop the ice cream and you keep half of every scoop that you sell.
“For me fostering that sense of community is really important because if you don’t look at where you come from you’ll never know where you’re going.”
Hoppo’s Milk Bar is located at 268 Maitland Rd, Mayfield. Head here for more information.
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