Sweet taste of success turns sour
Three years ago Mad Clappin’ Harry’s opened its doors in the historical old government building and has quickly become a favourite, thanks to their fresh, homemade, all-Aussie dishes.
Outback beef with Emu Export au jus, milkshakes made with fresh fruit and bush chook chicken are just a few creations developed by Brooke Patterson and Simon Liddell.
Born from a desire to boost the small town of Marble Bar and to bring fresh food to the great Aussie outback, the inspiring duo brought Harry to life in an effort to start something good for the community, according to Ms Patterson.
“Prior to opening the cafe I’ve worked for years in community development. I’m a councillor by trade not a chef, and it was just an opportunity to do something a bit different but still in that realm,” she said.
“Community development is our main passion and food is too, so if you feed people they’re happy and they’re less likely to do dumb things.
“For me my passion for creating came from being a mother. I have an eight-year-old son who has been diagnosed with autism and, from the ages of three to five, he wouldn’t sleep very well and would stay awake during the early hours of the morning.
“He wanted me near him but not next to him and within earshot, and I thought ‘what can I do in the middle of the night to stay awake and be productive’, so that’s how baking started.
“I’ve always cooked since I was a kid though, and always from scratch; that’s just how I was taught and I don’t know any other way.”
Unbeknown to most, Mad Clappin’ Harry’s was part of a bigger picture than just a cafe in a small town. Mr Liddell says it was the beginning of a health and wellbeing movement centred around a plan to boost Marble Bar.
“I’ve always seen a lot of potential in Marble Bar. Before, you’d come into town on a Saturday and you couldn’t get petrol, there was nowhere to get fresh food and there was no spark in the town,” he said.
“The plan was to create other economic stimulus for the town through a garden and start a market there with the cafe and eventually spark up opportunities to grow small businesses in town.
“We had plans to branch out, take things like preserves, home-made bread and other fresh options to the surrounding communities — stuff they already have but healthier versions at a cheaper rate.”
Harry’s has already begun its slow steps to success for Marble Bar with tourism growing over the past 12 months and tourists coming from all over the country to visit the small town with a population of just 200. “The four-wheel-drive clubs plan their trips and we’ve had a few come in now who have actually put us in their planner whereas before, a lot of the groups would skip over the town because it’s a little bit out of the way,” Ms Patterson said.
“We had people come in and say they were from Ceduna in South Australia and in a caravan park out there were told they had to come here. It’s been amazing.”
It was the customers who made the venture worthwhile, according to Ms Patterson.
“The highlights have been when we’ve gone that extra mile for people and opened up when we haven’t needed to or outside our hours for people because they were hungry and we’ve gone ‘right, we’ll do this for you’,” she said.
“It’s just the gratitude and appreciation people have shown us.”
Far from a one-trick pony, Mad Clappin’ Harry’s have taken their eclectic and innovative creations to the famous Marble Bar Ball the past two years as well as countless other catered events.
“Seeing how proud our staff have reached in getting to a point in their hospitality skills, being able to cater for a big event in their home town and do it with ease — they did so much and they’re only 14 to 15 years old, and there aren’t a lot of opportunities for that kind of development,” she said.
It was the Emu Export au jus from the Marble Bar Ball which skyrocketed the cafe to viral fame after Perth’s Bell Tower Times caught onto their tasty creation.
“We had the exact same just the year before, we’ve always put Export in our meats; it’s just this year we decided to go out on a limb and call it what it was and the reaction was great,” Mr Liddell said.
But it wasn’t only beef gravy the famous beer became a key ingredient for.
“I’ve always cooked with beer; like an Italian with wine, Emu Export has always been cooked into my food, my Dad did it before me and that’s just how I know how to cook,” Ms Patterson said.
“Prior to the closure we entered a pie-making competition and we won two bronze medals. It was our first-ever competition and we’re not pie-makers.”
With great heights comes great falls and Harry’s has, unfortunately, taken a tumble.
After being forced to close temporarily at the start of summer to allow the building owner to remove asbestos, Mad Clappin’ Harry’s has been forced into early closure due to a range of legal issues.
However, it’s not the end just yet.
“It sucks; we came back from a pop-up store in Newman to see the potential for expansion, and having to close the doors sucks eggs,” Ms Patterson said.
“We’re determined for it not to be the end, we’re not switching off the life support yet.
“We’re toying with the idea of a food truck to get us mobile because being cooks without a kitchen is hard but we’re still doing on-site catering and happy to travel for people because we’re not over, we’re not ready to say goodbye.”
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