Contemporary restaurant Rapide’s owners, Sam and Annie Walters, have opened the doors to their second Camp Hill eatery, Ashton & Old – a providore and catering business that also serves breakfast, lunch and coffee. At one end of a modern shopping strip on the corner of Ashton Street and Old Cleveland Road (hence the name), it’s a backstreet rat-run away from Rapide. Asked how he’s going to cope with the demands of both restaurant and café, Sam says: “It’s what I love.”
One level is kitchen and counter, laden with baked goods and a crate of oranges and Stanthorpe apples awaiting their fate in the juicer. Take a step up to the dining space where chairs, tables, floor, windows and walls are void of soft furnishings, so noise tends to bounce around in a cacophonic symphony. Annie promises there’s a sound-absorbing art piece coming soon.
Pictures hung on the aqua feature wall show Camp Hill’s dirt roads, paddocks and ‘Observatory Restaurant’ from 1924, when cafés like Ashton & Old were nothing but a fanciful dream. A timber share-table down the back is chock-a-block with families – the waiter issues toys to writhing toddlers while grown-ups are given a pacifying shot of Veneziano coffee. The big table is set with an eye-catching centrepiece of flower-filled jugs but the other beige-laminate and steel-framed tables do nothing for aesthetics. Thankfully, the food placed on them does.
Although simple, the snacks are beautifully prepared and plated with panache. Go for oaty pan-fried black pudding, avocado, cheddar and corn salsa on crisp tortilla ($16), or light-as-air corn fritters with pastel-hued smoked trout, caviar, fried free-range egg and beetroot relish ($15). House jams, relishes and curds are for sale at the counter beside a peephole takeaway window where there’s a limited menu for those on the fly.