The Bottle Forest Cottage is a little bit odd. There's nothing wrong with odd, of course, but the sight of teddy bears and plush cartoon characters strung up on the wire fence that surrounds the adjoining plant nursery seems a little sinister. I'm really not sure what Dora the Explorer or Elmo did to deserve that. Then again, I am not a parent and probably not qualified to say.
In any case, it's not easy to classify this place. It was all nursery for 18 months before owner Neale Johnstone refurbished the cottage and added the cafe eight months ago. Indeed, the part-nursery - with every kind of ceramic animal, mineral or vegetable on offer - part-cafe and part-museum-of-curiosities aesthetic works.
Inside the cottage are rustic floorboards, lace curtains, plush velour armchairs, kitsch trinkets and a selection of vintage photographs of the surrounding suburbs from the 1800s and 1900s. The front part of the cafe is closed in, with windows and peeling paint. It looks out to an oasis of plants, pebble footpaths and Bali-style huts. Out the back you can pick up bags of ''zoo poo'', plants and pots of every shape, colour and size. Tables and chairs are in nooks and crannies everywhere.
The service is friendly and laid-back. This could be explained by the first truly stinking-hot day of spring - it smells, tastes and sounds boiling. A young staff member in a sombrero languidly waters the plants, the trees sway slightly and cicadas jangle over the easy-listening soundtrack. Fellow customers lazily slurp Johnstone's mango smoothies and milkshakes and flick through the papers under the shade. Nobody is in a hurry and if it wasn't for the cafe's position on the highway and next to the station, it would be very peaceful indeed.
The chicken breast and haloumi burger ($9.90) is juicy, messy and satisfying. It comes with ''the stationmaster's special sauce'', which is zesty and tasty. The menu is fairly standard, well-priced cafe fare. They do an all-day brekkie, high tea for groups of six or more and there are some good-looking cakes and friands in the glass cases.
The latte ($3.50-$4) has a little too much foam but once I have made it through the folds of froth it's quite good, strong and mellow.
After lunch I poke around in the nursery and it might have been the heat but I almost bought a ceramic possum before remembering I don't have a garden.
I'll probably always regret putting it back.
The Bottle Forest Cottage Address 1330 Princes Highway, Heathcote Open Mon-Fri, 7am-4pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-4pm
- 02 9548 6143
- Opening Hours - Mon-Fri, 7am-4pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-4pm
- Author - Annie Stevens