Dingles Cafe – Rockhampton: Plenty of positives

 Sadly Dingles Café has now closed!  Yet, there is no better way to invigorate your day than with top quality espresso and treats!  Further, the owners of Dingles knew what they were doing so read on to discover my four tips to a great cafe experience! Welcoming staff (and quick service), great espresso, delicious food, and fabulous interiors, preferably, like Dingles, in a beautiful historic building! 

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Rockhampton has an impressive history and equally impressive 19th and early 20th century buildings along the Fitzroy River.  To enthusiasts of yesteryear their history is immensely intriguing (link below).  Once the beef capital of Queensland, in its 60s and 70s heyday the old pubs and motels were flourishing and at least some of them easily acquired the sobriquet of exotic!

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Dingles combines many of the tics and eccentricities that motivate liberal eclectic: the historic building, hands on homemade focus, quality coffee, food and interiors!

Whilst skirting for a park near a favourite antiques store we happened past Dingles on the corner of William and Kent Streets.

I did a double take – “Stop the car!” Rockhampton is a bit light on quality café and espresso experiences: the drive by glimpse prompted paroxysms of excitement – followed by a pre-emptive ‘Now!’ (have you ever been in a car with an elephant? They like to wander)

The inviting exterior had full tables on adjoining streets, was beautifully dishevelled and sparked a mean desire to get inside and partake of the wares immediately.

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The striking thing inside was the bustling environment! So many people on an average week-day: a sign that Dingles is a ‘go to destination’ with locals which is, apart from the congenial appearance, exactly what you want to see.

We sat at the front looking out upon William Street and straight up we were asked for a coffee order.  William Street ends on the river with the Heritage Hotel on one corner.  Right opposite are the magnificent paperbark gum trees hugging the banks of the wide and imposing Fitzroy River.  For the uninitiated, the paperbark gum is one of Australia’s most beautiful and enigmatic trees.  Whilst reflecting on the consequential connections and beauty of the former, the elephant perused the menu and I headed to the cake display.

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Look at the history in those walls!
The ambiance is one of allowing the architecture to communicate its intriguing story in tune with stylistically flexible & contemporary interiors. 

Travellers, locals working close by, those in town for the day from the country (easy to spot!) and Mum’s dying for a coffee and a chat with their mates.

The coffees arrive!  A committed artisan touch apparent in the small, yet delicate handmade ceramic cups and saucers.
It is obvious from this gesture, that the owners want visitors to participate in an expanded aesthetic experience. 

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The Morning Bulletin from April 1978 described the Williams / Kent Streets ‘Diggora’ corner in the following way:

An old building with long historic links to this city has been given a new life and a new place in the community.

Then as now a timely connection exists between Dingles and the Heritage Hotel (then The Commercial Hotel a favourite from my childhood! In those days the Manager Mrs Flloyd, an exotic sophisticate, ensured her mysterious persona infiltrated all aspects of the interiors).  Both buildings were owned by Leah Johnson, whose associations with Rockhampton property go back to 1871.

Like the captivating graceful old gums on the river, the Dingles building has not only weathered many storms, but has asserted its spirit of reinvention resolutely and admirably.  (In 1976 Diggora Terrace was serendipitously saved from destruction by a Mr McDonald whose eye for buildings of note was caught by a rare instance of ‘terraces’ in Rockhampton).

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The espressos are the perfect colour, with rich moussey crema, and distinctive high flavour. This is a sign on one level of fresh beans as well as a barista who knows how to make exceptional espresso.  

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Dingles is both practical and sophisticated, the generous open spaces tempered by a cosy vibe courtesy of the interiors palette. 
I spoke to Alistair White about the buzzing atmosphere and queues.  ‘Pretty busy most of the time’. 

When asked if Covid had hindered foot traffic, Not at all, always on the go here.

When a cafe is consistently busy with all types of people, it suggests ‘getting things right’ – great things evolve from determination + an holistic yet unique vision. 

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Keeping to a habit of ordering just about everything, I got a brownie, carrot cake, and a caramel slice: the hovering guilt assuaged by being a first-timer! The elephant got his usual lightly toasted ham and cheese croissant.

While the cakes were delicious, as always not enough (elephants assert their size when sweets are on offer + they eat a lot too!) so I then ordered the sour dough toast.

Thick, fresh and toasted to perfection. Real butter and home made jam to top it off!

Without a doubt the best sour dough toast, jam and butter I have ever had.
Plus – two more coffees to wash it down –

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The café has been shrewdly demarcated to reflect different aspects and atmospheres within the operation. 

At once spacious and accommodating there are several separate areas to imbibe, including an adjacent waiting area if you are dashing in for take-away coffee and treats.

Moreover, there are distinctly private areas for large and small groups, like the attached.

It is exciting when you find a place like Dingles, with everything going for it – the interiors, friendly helpful staff and superb espresso and food!  The owners realising that all elements of the business must work seamlessly.

In this way the experience is greatly enhanced whether patrons realise it or not: thus positive memories will subtly linger long after leaving.

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Excellently quaffed!

We are completely looking forward to our next visit!

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Dingles Cafe

My thanks to Ann-Maree Dyer at Rockhampton Regional Library for much of the historic material in the article.

For a succinct history of Rockhampton by Anne Casey click here

Stay tuned while Rockhampton Art Gallery transitions to Rockhampton Museum of Art

Queensland towns to explore

Capricorn Coast

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