LIKE a lot of people my age who have been around Lismore long enough to be nostalgic about a period in the 1990s considered (by us) to be the high-water mark of the live music scene, I have some fond memories of the Winsome Hotel.
In the late '90s I was a regular there; playing and watching other hopeful youth try to make it big in Lizardville before conquering the world. The pub had several make-overs in the Noughties and was still considered by many to be the best music venue in town when it was closed down in 2009. One of the last times I played there was with my band Red Belly Black along with a great band from Adelaide called The Huckleberry Swedes. It was the night of the Lismore Lantern Parade, the place was packed and a good time was had by all.
So it was exciting to walk back into the grand old dame as part of the monthly Winsome Cafe Restaurant. The restaurant is a fundraiser for the Lismore Soup Kitchen which took over the pub in 2009. They provide meals to the needy seven days a week and short-term accommodation for vulnerable people in the rooms upstairs.
Walking into the pub it still looks pretty much as it did in my memory, although perhaps a bit more classy with black tablecloths and candles on the tables.
Local singer/songwriter John Gift supplied background music for most of the night, along with singer Georgina Pollard.
The menu had vegetarian and meat options from India, Thailand and Italy and a special African dish prepared by guest cooks Djidji Sanvura and Kitumaini Bisoka.
The place was fully booked and the atmosphere was friendly with a "we're all volunteers here so don't expect five-star service" feel. Somebody sitting near me was having a Thai prawn curry and the smell of the coconut milk and coriander got me, so I'd made up my mind about what I was having before I'd even read the menu.
My friend and colleague Liina Flynn ordered the vegetarian bean dish from Africa which came with bread and semolina. It also came with meat and the waiter nearly fell over himself apologising and insisted on bringing a new one, which he did in world-record time.
The bar is not licensed, so you can bring your own drinks and you have to pay cash at the bar when you order. (There are no EFTPOS or credit card facilities.)
We were feeling indulgent so we did dessert as well, sharing all three on the menu between four people. There was a flourless chocolate cake, a lemon and lime tart and a slightly weird avocado cheesecake.
Restaurant manager, chief cook and bottle washer Sharon Dwyer had invited the Echo to come along and said in the four months it has been running, the night has been a great success.
"I'd like to invite everybody to come back and enjoy the atmosphere of the Winsome again and support the Soup Kitchen," she said.
The restaurant is open on the second Saturday of the month, with the next one on August 11. Sharon said bookings are essential as spaces are limited and they have had to turn people away. For bookings, call Sharon on 0447 224 205.