Help solve Paragon mystery

The Paragon at Katoomba was one of the most opulent venues in Australia in its heyday. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The Paragon at Katoomba was one of the most opulent venues in Australia in its heyday. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

By Ellen Hill

A flattened cardboard box is the only clue to a decadent treat once found at one of the country’s former most opulent saloons, prompting the new owner to call for public help for information.

Paragon Cafe, Katoomba, owner Robyn Parker was given the well preserved Chocolate Barcelona Bar box by a customer.

However, the pre-1950s packaging does not include an ingredients list and Mrs Parker has so far been unable to find a recipe.

“I want to bring it back into production but I don’t know what was in it,’’ she said. “If anyone can describe it for us then we can do a bit of inventing.’’

Barcelona BarBlue Mountains, Lithgow & Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker said: “The Paragon is one of our most well known tourism businesses and it would be fantastic to restore as much of its history as possible. Of course I encourage everyone to sample the wonderful food, particularly the chocolates too.’’

Mrs Parker has received scores of pieces of memorabilia since taking over one of the most treasured gems in Katoomba about a year ago.

“People give me things all the time, from chocolate boxes to stories about their parents and grandparents who used to work here,’’ she said. “It’s like they know they can trust me with these precious things.’’

Among the prized donations and finds includes a complete candy maker and soda fountain, both of which need restoration; dozens of photographs, linen, chocolate moulds, chocolate boxes, menus, building plans and more.

Paragon dark and milk chocolates made on the premises still retains the original design on their packaging. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Paragon dark and milk chocolates made on the premises still retains the original design on their packaging. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Chocolate products displayed on antique silver trays in the glass cabinets at the front of the art deco beauty are made in the original chocolate factory upstairs.

Owning one of Australia’s most famous cafes was a dream come true for Sydneysider Mrs Parker, who glimpsed the luxurious icon while being driven past on family holidays as a child.

She aims to restore the Paragon back to its 1920s-30s heyday, when its sumptuousness knew no bounds and its saloon, dining room and cocktail lounge were brimming with film stars and politicians.

To do that will require the love, passion and protection of a community ready to spend time within the Paragon’s walls enjoying the leisurely experience of dining the old style way when food was savoured and decor noticed. Therefore, visitors are welcome to wander the rooms, take in the atmosphere and browse the memorabilia scattered around the walls and surface.

Robyn Parker dreamed of owning The Paragon when she was a child. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Robyn Parker dreamed of owning The Paragon when she was a child. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

“We are not a modern cafe,’’ Mrs Parker said. “This is an 80-year-old building with 80-year-old infrastructure, so we have to work a lot harder and a lot cleverer. We could rip it all out and put in Formica but it wouldn’t be The Paragon.’’

Phone the Paragon Cafe, 65 Katoomba St, Katoomba, on (02) 4782 2928 for bookings and details.

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