298 Willoughby Road, Naremburn, New South Wales
This place looked promising from the outside, with a blend of traditional bakery with just a hint of fanciness in the exterior decoration. Heading inside, there was the odd experience of being served by a swarthy Latino guy in jeans and a white T-shirt and bearing three days’ worth of stubble. He would have looked more suitably placed riding a motorbike to his DJ gig on some Mediterranean island than serving meringues and tarts in a fancy bakery in suburban Sydney.
I didn’t see a vanilla slice, so I asked if they made them, and the Ibiza DJ said in a lilting Spanish accent that they had none at the moment, but would be making a batch that afternoon. So I made do with a sausage roll and a chicken pie and went outside to sit at a sunny table in the late autumn chill and perform at least the first half of the reviewing duties.
The sausage roll looked great. It was generous and plump, with a thick flaky pastry with a perfect egg-wash golden brown on top. The meat inside was substantial and blended with lots of freshly chopped herbs, which were evident as numerous green specks throughout, interspersed with some tiny bits of onion. The main impression was one of herbaceousness. This is a sausage roll that would partner well with a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand. The texture and moisture content were good, and the herby flavour was positive, but it felt like the meat could have done with something just a bit more, a touch of pepper or even salt perhaps to cap off the savoury flavours.
The pastry could not be faulted, though. It was delightfully flaky and baked to perfection. It lifted the meat filling and made the whole thing really very good. A great lunch experience. With the roll done, all that was left was to move onto the chicken pie and await another day to return and review the dessert half of our combo.
My wait was to be frustrated multiple times. My next visit here was immediately before a family lunch at a neighbouring cafe. I checked beforehand and saw that Delicia indeed had a tray of vanilla slices in the display on this day, but I couldn’t get one as I was just about to eat lunch. I decided to nab one as a dessert after the family lunch had broken up. One and a half hours later, as we left, I popped back into Delicia, only to see the entire tray of slices had been sold! I made yet another visit specifically to get a vanilla slice a couple of weeks later, but again they were sold out.
It was only on my next attempt that I finally hit paydirt. The bakery is very popular, and there were people waiting outside the door for take-away coffee orders, as well as a queue of four people inside waiting to order. The displays contain numerous luscious looking cakes, tarts, strudels, and slices, and as I walked in I spotted six vanilla slices in the cabinet. Surely the four people queued in front of me couldn’t order six vanilla slices between them before I got served?
They didn’t, and I eagerly paid $4.20 for the biggest vanilla slice I have ever seen. (Compare them to the size of the tarts in the photo.) In area it was the size of my iPhone 6, and taller than it was wide. It’s a double-custard and triple-pastry layer construction, with white icing decorated densely with swirly brown stripes. The pastry layers are thick, obviously flaky, and a well-baked mid-brown colour. The custard is a promising pale yellow colour. As I unwrap it, the custard wobbles loosely and I am struck by the monumental difficulty of trying to pick this up without destroying it.
I give it my best shot, and take a bite through the layers, which causes immediate chaos in the structural stability stakes. The custard is soft and slippery, offering no traction to the pastry layers. The low coefficient of friction results in the top iced layer skewing perilously to one side while custard oozes out all over the place. With some desperate slurping and judicious biting of the most dangerous areas, the eating proceeds in a child-like, almost sensual manner, custard dripping down my fingers and, despite my best efforts, falling off onto the paper bag the slice came in.
The pastry is excellent. It has a pleasing snap and flakes into thin layers, while doing its best to support the custard, though this is a forlorn hope. The custard is a little too soft perhaps, but that’s forgivable. It’s ever so slightly eggy, which is noticeable because it has no real sensation of vanilla at all. It’s not bad, and would make a perfectly good custard in other desserts, but it’s not a vanilla custard. The icing is the weakest part of the deal, being too thick at around 3 mm, and therefore too sweet when combined with the rest in a mouthful.
It’s definitely good, but it promised to be so much better. I reflect as I slurp the last bit of dripped custard off the paper bag: more vanilla and slightly thinner icing would have made this great.
Sausage roll: 8/10
Vanilla slice: 8/10