Secret Creek Café & Restaurant lives up to its name by being right at the end of a road that you just wouldn’t expect to hide a restaurant. As the paved road narrows and the humble workers' cottages give way to pony yards, you’re going to wonder if your GPS has given you a bum steer.
A gate labelled ‘Secret Creek’ will fill you with confidence and see you drive up a bush-lined driveway to this cafe, restaurant and animal sanctuary.
With no other dwellings visible, Secret Creek feels deep in bushland, while still being only a couple of kilometers from Lithgow's Main Street shopping district.
The restaurant space is a rustic, wooden affair, made special with afternoon sun pouring through the stained-glass doorway. The glass door is decked out in bulrushes - a restful aquatic scene full of blues and greens; while the fanlight shows a crimson rosella feeding on eucalypts. The celebration of Australiana continues onto the wooden tables, where no less than five different glass vases and jars hold wildflowers and natives.
As we settle into our padded wooden farmhouse chairs, David Keenan is singing his heart out against acoustic guitar in a sad, folky song about kidnapped children (Two Kids). Arranged across two chalkboards, Secret Creek’s daytime menu consists of eight dishes. Everything is vegan, so take words like ‘fish’ and ‘bacon’ with a grain of salt.
Salt is put to good effect in the tasty Kentucky Fried Cauliflower ($15.50) served with a KFC-inspired bowl of mash and gravy and a soft, little, warm bun. It eats well without any of the fat-soaked regret you might feel after indulging in a more meal at the fast-food giant, who changed their name to distance themselves from the unhealthy connotations of 'fried'.
As we’re situated very close to pine forests, Soft Polenta ($17.50) is an obvious choice because it’s topped with sautéed pine mushrooms, which are textural and super-delicious. The dish is dotted with likeable vegan soft fetta and pretty pink burst of finger lime. My only complaint is the soft polenta gets boring before I get through it, though that prehaps reflects me being more used to eating polenta that is soaked in non-vegan butter.
Secret Creek Cafe & Restaurant produced the best food I ate in Lithgow – vegan or otherwise – and I’d happily return for another meal.
Secret Creek Cafe & Restaurant
35 Crane Road, Lithgow
Ph: (02) 6352 1133