Coles Cafeteria

During the 1930s Coles opened Australia’s first in-store cafeterias and a visit to the Coles café became a popular family outing. The Coles Bourke Street flagship store  was opened in 1928 and traded until 1987.

Coles Cafeteria, Bourke St, Melbourne (Circa 1953). Photo courtesy State Library of Victoria

The highlight of a trip to Melbourne during the school holidays was lunch at “Coles Cafeteria”. I can still hear the lift attendant announcing “Level 6 – Cafeteria” as the elevator came to an abrupt stop &

the heavy doors jolted open. As you neared this floor you could to hear the loud chink of crockery, the delicious aroma of your lunch approaching & the loud hum of shoppers chatting. When you entered, the noise increased tenfold & you were transported into a hectic frenzy of fast moving food. The enormous dining hall was crammed full of green laminated tables constantly being cleared of dishes & wiped down by Coles ladies in white coats with matching hats. As soon as we arrived, Mum’s eyes were scanning the hall for an empty table. If she spotted one I was immediately parked in a seat with all our parcels, while Mum went & stood in the queue with our tray. More often than not, we had to share a table with strangers, getting a whole table to yourself was a rare event.

The food was good & the prices were cheap. There was roast beef, chicken casserole, trays of roast vegies, sandwiches, cakes & lots more. Coles Fish & Chips were incredibly tasty with the crunchiest golden batter I’d ever eaten. The accompanying chips were hot & salty & served out with a large metal scoop. All meals were served up on thick white plates & cups with green patterned edging. My favorite part of the meal was “Frog in the Pond” – a clear plastic cup filled with jelly (red or green) with a chocolate frog inserted in the middle, surrounded by a few smarties & a dollop of cream. They also made the best “banana splits” with lots of chocolate topping & a generous sprinkling of chopped nuts & cream. No meal was complete without a creamy, fizzing “Lime Spider”.


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