A Katoomba institution, the Paragon Cafe celebrates its centenary this year. It was established by Zacharias Simos in 1916 when he leased premises in Katoomba Street to start his business. The cafe walls are adorned with friezes including Roman inspired gods and goddesses, and chariots in full flight. What it is famous for, apart from its longevity, is its exquisite handmade chocolates.

The front window is presented with a wide collection of gifts, novelties and toys to appeal and draw you in. Inside is a cluster of booths along the walls with tables arranged in the middle, and signs directing to the Blue Room and Banquet Hall towards the rear of the building.

Around the picture rails are a wide assortment of photographs, documenting various celebrities who have dined at the cafe. Familiar faces of actors sit alongside politicians across the decades, some photos signed with a flourish.

The cafe embodies the tradition of an older time, embracing stylistic elements of the age of Art Deco. The atmosphere of a nostalgic time is further reinforced by soft jazz music playing in the background, and the wide assortment of paraphernalia associated with the cafe’s long life on display in cabinets.

It is a popular spot for tourists and locals, and has its own dedicated club – The Friends of the Paragon Cafe Inc which has a great website with a treasure trove of history, images and stories relating to the cafe and is well worth a visit. There is also a link to an article by R. Ian Jack providing an extensive history of the cafe.

If you’re in the area, drop in and experience the atmosphere, buy some of the amazing chocolates, enjoy morning, afternoon tea or lunch in the cafe, or book in for one of the jazz & dinner nights. The cafe’s Facebook site can be found here.

[Photo: inside the Paragon Cafe at the counter loaded with all kinds of temptation]