Behind the Business | Natalie Ross – Café Lagarto

While visiting a café is usually driven by a desire for good food, it’s also a chance to carve out a slice of tranquillity. Nestled in the Lifestyle Centre Samford, lunchtime doesn’t get more serene than ordering a meal at Café Lagarto. We spoke to café owner Natalie Ross about creating a family-friendly venue that nurtures local art.

What was your main reason for opening a family-friendly cafe?

I’d had another business at The Lifestyle Centre for 6 years and watched the progress of the existing cafe from our windows as it changed hands three times. During that 6 years, I’d been running the canteen at my son’s rugby club as a volunteer and discovered a true love for hospitality, catering for people and organising events. When the previous owners decided to sell the cafe at the same time as my son decided to stop playing for that rugby club, one thing led to another. I’ve been delighted to work with a wonderful team of staff along with the landlords and see the cafe finally reaching its full potential.

How do you like to support local artists?

I love art. Music, photography, painting – all things creative. During COVID we took over the lease in the back rooms of the cottage adjacent to our usual seating. We ended up hosting a series of exhibitions by local artists. It was so special to be a part of facilitating the first exhibitions for a number of these artists and to have their beautiful works gracing the cottage walls. Cafe Lagarto has hosted live music on Sunday mornings since before we owned the venue. More recently, our music hosting has grown to see us developing into a live jazz music venue, hosting the talented Leena Salim, and Danny Mose – both local musicians who perform on alternate months (last Saturday of each month). We hope to incorporate additional jazz musos in 2023 and may also host the occasional extra special live music event.

Can you tell us more about your internationally-themed dinner events?

This was an idea that I saw working quite well during one of the previous owner’s stints, when the cafe was called The Rare Pear. I always planned to bring it back, and it’s doing so well. Every month, our clever chefs create a 3-course dinner menu with a different culinary theme each month.  Sometimes we repeat popular cuisines, but we still have so many more cuisines to experiment with!  It’s a great opportunity for the chefs to play with different flavours and foods, for the customers to experience new things – and sometimes even experience that flavour from ‘back home’. The dinners are on the second Friday of every month.

Tanya Hall