28 Pacific Highway, St Leonards, New South Wales
This is a mostly anonymous hole-in-the-wall bakery on the heavy traffic road of the Pacific Highway as it cuts through the suburb of St Leonards. It’s so anonymous that the signage can’t even seem to decide if it’s called “St Leonards Bread & Cakes” or “St Leonards Pies & Cakes”. The shops fronting the major bus stop here have a gritty, run-down feel, with traces of graffiti on the walls, and this place is no exception. It’s operated by a Vietnamese family, and so naturally the French style bread hot from the oven is delightfully soft in the middle and crusty on the outside. They offer a fresh hand-made Vietnamese pork roll, which seems popular, as well as a range of the usual standards.
I secured a sausage roll for $2,70 and a vanilla slice for $3. Being no places to sit in the immediate vicinity, I walked 50 metres or so to the nearest intersection, where a blocked off side street offers a tiny refuge from the traffic with a couple of bench seats.
The sausage roll is a slightly small affair, squashed quite flat, and with an unpromising pale pastry topped with a yellowish egg wash. It looks more biscuity than flaky, and this proves to be the case on the initial bite. The top layer is very crunchy, and overall the pastry leaves a dry mouth feel. It might go better with a cheese platter than around a sausage roll. The meat is better, being firm but moist, heavily spiced with rosemary, and with very obvious slivers of carrot and chunks of onion throughout. Although it tastes fine, it’s nothing special, and serves only to elevate the disappointing pastry to an overall score of pretty average.
The vanilla slice is pleasingly rustic looking, with ragged edges to the fairly thin pastry. Visually it shows some flaky layering, but the flakes are thick and biscuity, rather than delicate. The custard is bright yellow and gelatinous looking, and the whole assembly is topped by a remarkably thick passionfruit icing of almost the same lurid yellow colour, dotted with black seeds.
Tackling the slice is not difficult, as the pastry gives way with a soft snap before squeezing out the custard. The custard actually tastes like a packet mix, though that said, it’s quite nice and has a pleasant strong vanilla flavour and a smooth creaminess to it. It probably was a packet mix custard, but they certainly prepared it right. The icing gives a nice accent of sweetness and a touch of tang from the passionfruit. Really, this is a by-the-numbers snot block, but there’s nothing terrible about it. It could do with a slightly crisper and flakier pastry, but other than that it’s solid in its position as slightly above average.
Sausage roll: 5/10
Vanilla slice: 6/10