PUBLISHED ON THE SOUTH SYDNEY HERALD:
REDFERN: In February the Purple Goanna Café on 137 Redfern Street will start over as “PepperBerries at Redfern”. Newly at the helm will be Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo, the well-known Aboriginal hospitality teacher from Yaama Dhiyaan. “We want to provide fresh and easy Indigenous food for everyone and make this place feel like home. We hope this café will be a destination for everyone,” she said.
The café will be painted and adorned but the new menu is still under discussion. “We are going to have nice pies or cakes with great coffee. The menu is really healthy and food will be easy to grab to go.” The ingredients are seasonal and will be supplied from various places, including the Blue Mountains and South Australia. “I will be there from 6 to 8am in the morning to help service our customers,” Aunty Beryl said.
PepperBerries at Redfern will retain its focus on Aboriginal food. Aunty Beryl explains how she generated the café’s new name: “I decided to call it PepperBerries after native pepper, which grows on the bush and has a pungent flavour.” She said some dishes such as pies would be seasoned with pepper berries.
Students from Yaama Dhiyaan are on board to put their hospitality studies into practice here. “It is another place for students to gain work experience as chefs and baristas.” Aunty Beryl wants to be a part of the new change in Redfern. “I have lived here for over 50 years and I have seen many changes here. I want to be part of the change and I want young people to be part of it too,” she said.
Operating in Redfern for some eight years, the café has been through great transformation, having been renamed and redesigned several times. Founded in 2007 by long-term Redfern residents Linda Burney and Bonnie Briggs, the café began its life as Survival Expresso Bar. The next year, the café was under the management of Colin and Sue Vincent. They offered Indigenous food along with Indigenous art, so they called it Bush ’n’ Berry Indigenous Art Café. It wasn’t until 2010 that Suzanne Grech took over what then became the Purple Goanna Café. Whatever the changes, the café has always been known for its Aboriginal caterings.
“I can still recall my favourite food there was crocodile burger,” says the Aboriginal artist Adam Hill, who occupied an art studio upstairs from 2007 to 2010. During that time, the café was a meeting spot for Aboriginal artists, who were invited to exhibit or sell their artworks at the premises. Adam has also seen how Redfern has evolved. “Many cafés pop up here and the quality of the coffee offered locally has improved a lot,” he said. Adam will again have his studio upstairs and this time has called it BLAK SPOT.
Aunty Beryl said that she missed the old days when everyone in Redfern gathered together. Adam Hill is convinced that PepperBerries at Redfern will be reinvigorated as such a meeting point. “The café used to be a spot where Aboriginal people met. I am confident that Aunty Beryl will bring this feeling back. It will once again be a place for the community,” he said.