Recently I was watching The Project (Australian current affairs TV show) and I saw a promotion for a story coming up that stopped me in my tracks. I knew it would be of interest, not only to myself, but to our HWWT readers. After seeing the segment on chef Craig Shanahan I knew we had to visit and support his newly opened cafe, The Blind Chef Cafe & Dessert Bar, in the Western Sydney suburb of Penrith. Not only were we wowed by the delicious food, but also by accessibility features Craig has included to ensure the cafe provides an accessible dining experience for all.
THE BLIND CHEF CAFE & DESSERT BAR PENRITH
Craig has a passion for food and as a qualified chef he has created a wonderful setting for customers visiting The Blind Chef Cafe & Dessert Bar.
If you are wondering about the cafe name, it’s a reflection of Craig’s personal experience. At two years of age Craig lost an eye to cancer and at the age of 23 he was found to have a brain tumour the size of a mango, which was pressing on the optic nerve of his other eye. The tumour did irreparable damage which left Craig legally blind.
Just before the pandemic hit Craig had a goal to open his own cafe, a place that was welcoming to all abilities. Despite the setbacks associated with Covid, Craig opened The Blind Cafe & Dessert Bar earlier this year and judging by the busy cafe it has already become a favourite with locals.
The all day menu means you don’t need to be an early riser to take advantage of the breakfast and brunch options. Gluten free menu items are also available.
Thoughtful presentation is a hallmark of Craig’s style. Every surface and detail throughout the restaurant has been chosen to make it easier for customers who are blind, have low vision or those visiting with a Guide Dog. In fact, the design works well for everyone with a wide aisle and well spaced tables which make it easier for families with a pram and those using a wheelchair or walking frame.
It’s usually only in the movies you see the owner of a restaurant pop out and chat to patrons but Craig made the rounds, offering a rare personal touch. Getting to know the person behind the cafe and understanding his passion and drive makes for a unique and more engaging dining experience.
ACCESSIBILITY AT THE BLIND CHEF CAFE & DESSERT BAR
What a joy it is to walk into a cafe and not need to move furniture to get through with a wheelchair. We could navigate the cafe so easily with BJ’s wheelchair.
The menu at The Blind Chef Cafe & Dessert Bar is available in large print, Braille and on a tablet with voice output.
The cafe is level throughout and ramp access is provided into the cafe.
A small car park is directly out front of the shop with designated parking for The Blind Chef Cafe & Dessert Bar customers and there’s an allocated accessible parking bay.
Ramp access is provided from the car park up the small step to the pathway to the cafe.
Within the cafe there is a large unisex stand-alone accessible bathroom.
If you’re lucky you may also meet Rocko, Craig’s Guide Dog. Despite all the attention of visiting television crews he appears to remain grounded.
You can follow along for regular updates on The Blind Chef Cafe & Dessert Bar’s Facebook page. From speaking to Craig it sounds like he has some great plans for the future with themed evenings. We will definitely return. The cafe is 40 minutes from home for us so that’s a sign it really is that good!
We paid for our meal and the review is based on our excellent experience.
The Blind Chef Cafe & Dessert Bar is located at 1/253 High Street Penrith.
If you don’t live locally to the cafe, why not make a day of it and visit some of the other attractions in the region? We combined our visit with the lovely accessible walk along the Nepean River.
The Museum of Fire at Penrith is also a favourite with us and don’t just think it’s an attraction for kids, the history of the fire service and various vehicles are sure to keep adults engaged too.
Read our full review of the Museum of Fire here.
BJ also rates Aqua Golf as a must-do activity when he’s in the Penrith area and it’s a family-friendly accessible activity not far from the cafe too.
Aqua Golf is situated at the rear of Penrith Panthers Leagues Club.
Lastly, keep in mind the location of The Blind Chef Cafe & Dessert Bar is at the foot of the Blue Mountains so combining it with a day trip to the mountains is also possible.
We’ve put together an accessible guide to the Blue Mountains that may help you plan your trip.