Where did Colonel Sanders, Frank Sinatra and Marlene Dietrich dine out when they came to Sydney? Well, the original Harry’s Café de Wheels in the suburb of Woolloomooloo, of course!
During the 1930s depression, Harry Edwards opened a caravan café near the front gates of Woolloomooloo naval dockyard such that the working man could get a decent feed at a fair price, in hard times. Word of his ‘pie n’ peas’ and crumbed sausages spread and Harry’s van took off.
In 1938 he closed up shop and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) for the duration of World War II.
On his return from the War, in 1945, he reopened his caravan and it has operated continuously since.
Harry’s assumed the grand title ‘Café de Wheels’ due to the fact that the post war City Council insisted that mobile food vans moved at least 12 inches per a day. Harry complied and the Café de Wheels moved forward 12 inches one day and back 12 inches the next day until the council ruling was overturned.
In the mid 1970s when the van’s wheels went missing one night it unofficially became Harry’s Café de Axle. In 1978 Rear Admiral David Martin, while enjoying a pie and a glass of Champagne (as one does), commissioned the van as HMAS Harry’s.
Dear Reader when you are in Sydney don’t forget to go down to ‘the Loo’ for a pie at the again wheel-less, now National Trust listed, Harry’s Café de Wheels. The 1945 version of Harry’s Pie Cart, which was retired in 1985, can be seen in the Powerhouse Museum.
While the menu concentrates on pies, pasties, sausage rolls and hotdogs are also available. The hotdogs were introduced in the 1970s to appeal to visiting American sailors.
Harry signature pie is Harry’s Tiger – ‘a chunky lean beef pie served with mushy peas, mash & gravy’. It comes with my personal recommendation so you won’t be disappointed. My picture alongside, from Harry’s website, depicts this delicacy.
For the record, Harry Edwards sold the business in 1975 and since 1998 about ten other franchise outlets have opened in Sydney and slightly further afield.
Mon-Tue – 8.30am – 2am
Wed -Thur – 8.30am – 3am
Fri – 8.30am – 4am
Sat – 9.00am – 4am
Sun – 9.00am – 1am
Getting there – Bus 311 from City or walk down from Kings Cross
Address: Cowper Wharf Rdway
Directions: Corner Cowper Wharf Roadway & Brougham Road