While in Australia, one of the best meals was surprisingly from a little eatery called Boonerwurrung Cafe which overlooks scenic vistas of Cranbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

I stopped in after a brisk tour of the botanic garden and before we had to depart. I wasn’t expecting much from this little cafe. I peered into the glass case of ready-made snacks and meals and decided on the one last chicken, spinach and caramelized onion panini that was on the bottom shelf.

It really didn’t look like much, but I figured it was a relatively healthy and portable choice. I had several indulgently rich business dinners and welcomed some simple fare.

The panini was much too big for one meal but split in two, it was a great choice for a snack I could save for later on. I paired it with a cappuccino to make sure that I was alert for the rest of the day of touring Australia.

The cashier who was also the waitress handed me a metal contraption with a number waving from the top to place on my table. A few minutes passed as I rested my aching feet. The panini had to be toasted.

What came did not look visually interesting. I took a sip of the cappuccino and it was creamy, hot and chocolate-y…a mark of superb execution. I bit into the panini and it was stimulating, yet comforting all in one bit. The chicken was tender and thinly sliced. The spinach nicely wilted and the cheese added a complexity and saltiness that brought out the sweetness of the caramelized onion. I would say if there was one ingredient that stood out, it was the caramelized onion. The bread had a nice robust, chewy texture that gave the entire creation structure.

By this time, our tour guide for the day was sitting across from me at the table watching me as I devoured half the panini with greedy anxiousness restrained by a desire to savor each bite.

A great meal is always something to be appreciated. However, when you are able to be surprised by a delicious meal in the most unexpected places with the most unsuspecting appearance, it is a tremendously gratifying experience.

I asked for something to wrap the other half of the panini with. The waitress came back with a sheet of brown wax paper. I placed the rest of my treasure at the center and brought the edges of the wax paper around it until I had securely protected it. I slipped it into my backpack, smiled and thought of the next time.

Boonerwurrung Cafe, Royal Botanical Gardens
Cranbourne VIC 3977
Phone: +61 (0)3 9252-2443

Loni Stark
Loni Stark is an artist at Atelier Stark, self-professed foodie, and adventure travel seeker who has a lifelong passion for technology’s impact on business and creativity. She collaborates with Clinton Stark on video projects for Atelier Stark Films. It’s been said her laugh can be heard from San Jose all the way up to the Golden Gate Bridge. She makes no claims to super powers, although sushi is definitely her Kryptonite.