83 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest, New South Wales
I have wanted to review this bakery since the beginning, but every time I went in they had nothing resembling a vanilla slice in their selection of cakes of the day. Until this day.
St Malo is a fancy French bakery which does a line in fresh bread, croissants and other flaky pastries, and beautiful looking cakes and muffins. They also make delicious pies, as well as the other object of this review, sausage rolls.
On this day I went in, intending to have a pie for lunch and not expecting to get anything else. But as I looked into the cake display, I saw gleaming there a magnificent shining creation, resplendent in its French elegance. It was three layers of pastry separated by layers of custard, with intriguingly attractive red stains in it, and topped by a sprinkle of ground nuts and a dusting of cocoa. This, I thought, is in essence a vanilla slice. Upon inquiry, I was told that it was a “pistachio and raspberry mille-feuille”. Well, a mille-feuille is basically a vanilla slice, so good enough!
I immediately changed my order to a sausage roll and this slice. They arrived at my table on elegant plates, with cutlery, and the sausage roll had a tiny bowl of tomato sauce on the side. Eschewing the sauce at first, I turned my attention to the roll. It is long and thin compared to most sausage rolls, and the pastry is almost disturbingly smooth, almost like a cannelloni tube. It has a nice golden colour though, and hints of flakiness in the surface texture.
The first bite reveals the French styling of this bakery, with the pastry being rich and buttery. It has a slightly firm, almost shortcrust feel to it, but releases a few fine flakes as it is bitten. This is a pastry you could make a meal of in itself. The meat in the roll is good, but unexceptional. It is cooked well and tastes fine, with a hint of seasoning and the flavour of the onion pieces incorporated into it, but it’s not exciting. This would be a great sausage roll for someone who prefers milder flavours to something strongly spiced. Perfectly good, but just missing a little je ne sais quoi.
Moving on to the slice, I examine the intimidatingly decorated block, wondering how to tackle it. It is supplied with a cake fork, but I am determined to make an effort at hand-held eating. I pick it up and attempt to bite into the cocoa-dusted end. The pastry layers are really firm and crispy, and the custard is very soft, resulting in the layers splaying to all sides at once and custard oozing out everywhere on being bitten, followed by me inhaling a bit of the cocoa powder and having a bit of a coughing fit. However, it tastes absolutely delicious.
After a couple of bites, followed by licking and slurping the oozing custard, I resort to putting the slice down and attacking it with the fork. The pastry is the crispest I have seen yet, and yields only with very firm pressure, with a highly satisfying crunchy snap. The custard is delicate and light and has a rich, creamy vanilla flavour, which is offset by the tang of the raspberries dotted throughout. The pistachios on top and the cocoa add other textures and flavour complexity, making this truly a dessert to savour. The combination works beautifully. This is heaven on a plate. Honestly, the only reason this doesn’t earn full marks is that it’s too fancy and embellished to be just a standard “vanilla slice”. I can’t find any other reason to dock a point.
Sausage roll: 7/10
Vanilla slice (“pistachio and raspberry mille-feuille”): 9/10
Addendum: I visited St Malo later and have written a follow-up review of another significant menu item.