SURELY they mean Beech Cafe, we thought as we made our way to lunch in country Cobram, which is hundreds of kilometres from any coastal sand. But sure enough, as we pull up at this former kiosk, there's a stretch of white, sandy beach in front of extensive grassy Kempsey Reserve that would put many better-known coastal beaches to shame.
According to cafe proprietor Paul Gemmill, Thompsons Beach is the largest inland beach in Australia. There are several more along the Murray — on the inside loop of the river as it bends and loops its way along the interstate border.
With the slogan "Life's a Beach in Cobram", Gemmill recently held a fishing competition and 200 anglers turned up.
The smartly refurbished cafe suffered floods up to dining-table height during the recent deluge. Everything is back to normal now, however, with the 100-seater open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Former Sorrento Hotel and Portsea pub chef Alfonso Santoro and local chef Zach Webby serve great casual dishes to an appreciative clientele of mainly locals. The lunch menu includes their signature beach burger, chicken and lime quesadillas, an open steak sandwich and an innovative pizza menu.
However, we opt for a light pink salad of smoked salmon, rocket, cream cheese and roasted capsicum ($15), which is perfect in the autumn sunshine with a glass of Cape Horn marsanne ($7 a glass, $21 a bottle) and beer-battered snapper with pear and walnut salad ($17), which seems to match the beachside setting.
We then share a Sunday roast pizza ($15) with roasted pumpkin puree as a base topped with roast beef, roasted potato, caramelised garlic, peas and mozzarella. A glass of chilled Monichino rosso dolce ($7 a glass, $25 a bottle) is the ideal accompaniment.
Reviewed by Tricia Welsh, who was hosted by Tourism Victoria.
Beach Cafe, Thompsons Beach, Kennedy Reserve, Cobram, phone 5871 2929. Open Mon-Fri, 11am-late, Sat-Sun, 8.30am-late. To stay: nearby options include RACV Cobram (racv.com.au/wps/wcm/connect/resorts/RACV+Resorts/RACV+Cobram+Resort), Tokemata Retreat (www.tokemata.com.au), Cypress Apartments (cypressapartments.com.au).