Keeping the bones of the old-fashioned general store it used to be, The Belle General has a relaxed charm that suits its location opposite Shelly Beach.
The interior is a mismatched collection of plastic chairs covered in fine, hand-stitched leather, and repurposed wood tables, benches and banquettes, with chalkboard and butchers’ paper specials menus.
It’s the kind of cafe that gives the impression nobody will bat an eyelid if you and the dog both pull up at an outside table with sandy feet.
Allpress coffee is well made in a Flat White ($4) making it the best coffee experience I’ve had on this Northern Rivers trip. Unfortunately in an Iced Coffee ($7), it wasn’t quite as impressive. A friendly floor team of sun-kissed, blonde youngsters deliver our drinks, which also include a wonderful cold-pressed Carrot Juice ($7.50) made with carrots, oranges, lemons, ginger and organic turmeric.
Breakfasts here nudge more towards rustic than fancy, with the chalkboard special of Ham and Roast Mushrooms on Grilled Sourdough ($18) arriving under a poached egg and a handful of undressed leaves. The ham is great, but the good-looking mushrooms are lacking in both salt and texture, having been stewed in rather than fried.
Expect to find all your healthier Sydney favourites, from dressed up granola to a breakfast bowl salad, plus a host of gluten and dairy-free options. The emphasis on sourcing local, high quality produce also means they make a standout bacon and Scrubby Farm Gully eggs. Build it anyway you like, starting with a base of Eggs on Sourdough ($10.50) and adding on organic, free-range Bacon ($4) and a pot of Chilli Sauce ($1.50) if you so desire. Only the sourdough doesn't exceed Sydney heights.
The Belle General
12 Shelly Beach Road, East Ballina
Ph: (0411) 361 453