85A Bay Road, Waverton, NSW
The Grumpy Baker is a small chain of artisan bakeries with a handful of locations scattered across Sydney. They specialise in a range of sourdough breads, but also have a small selection of sweets and savoury pastries. On recent expeditions in the car with my dog to our favourite dog park, we’ve driven past the Waverton shop each time, and for some time I thought I must try it. Then one day after the dog had had enough exercise we walked up the hill to check it out, buying a loaf of delicious bread and a couple of sweet slices for dessert that evening. I also noted a pie oven on the counter, with several delicious looking labels, but no pies as it was close to closing time. I vowed to return one day in good time to sample the hot savouries.
The Waverton shop is within a long walk of home, so one day while at home alone I took to the streets to get some exercise, climbing up and down the numerous hills of the North Sydney area. The exercise was well needed, because the end goal was The Grumpy Baker and an appointment with that pie oven for lunch. I planned to get a sausage roll and a pie, but when I arrived and saw the size of the pies and rolls, I quickly recalibrated and settled for just one sausage roll. The label said it was a “sausage roll with caramelised onions and dates”. And it looked huge. Plenty for a meal all by itself. I took the roll on the sky blue china plate and sought a seat at a table out the front, next to a large group of retiree-aged cyclists, who had stopped for a coffee break. As I sat down, one of the staff came out and chided the cyclists for rearranging the outdoor tables, pointing out a line on the footpath beyond which the cafe was not legally authorised to place furniture. The cyclists pushed the extra table in a bit, but the staff lady insisted they pull it completely inside the legal boundary.
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Rua dos Clérigos 64, Porto, Portugal
Continuing our trip around Portugal, Mrs Snot Block & Roll and I stopped next at Porto, home of port wine and, from 1990-1993, J. K. Rowling. While walking around and admiring the scenic sights of this lovely city, we passed a number of pastelerias, and saw in the window of one what looked like the most amazing vanilla slices. They were large cubical blocks, with about 98% filling in between two thin layers of pastry. But having eaten recently, I wasn’t up for trying one at the time.
But then late in the day we visited the Clérigos Church and tower. This is situated near the top of one of Porto’s many hills, so the tall bell tower is visible from all over the city. After checking it out, we had dinner nearby and the were walking down the road back to our hotel when we spotted the pasteleria O Forno dos Clérigos (“the oven of Clérigos”), with an amazing array of luscious looking sweets in the window and the display cases inside.
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4400 Illawarra Highway, Robertson, New South Wales
I’ve driven past this place many times, but usually on the way home from a day trip to Bowral, after already filling up on country baked goodies (perhaps at the Gumnut Pattiserie), so I’ve rarely stopped here. It has a good reputation for its pies, and they offer both a wide selection of savoury varieties, as well as sweet ones.
So one fine day I took to the road with Mrs Snot Block & Roll and our dog Canine Snot Block & Roll for a leisurely road trip down the coast via the Grand Pacific Drive and the spectacular Sea Cliff Bridge, which was built to replace the old coastal road along the bottom of the Illawarra Escarpment after it fell into the ocean. This is a much more scenic drive than the freeway on top of the escarpment, and affords many places to stop and enjoy the views.
Continue reading Robertson Pie Shop, Robertson
239a Victoria Road, Gladesville, New South Wales
I was passing through Gladesville late one morning when I felt the need to stop and have a break, and a snack. After parking the car, I used Google Maps to search for a bakery in the strip of shops that runs along the main artery of Victoria Road. It showed Baker’s Delight (a bread bakery chain – no hot food or cakes), Sunny Vi Huong Hot Bread, and Art of Baking. I tried Art of Baking first, but discovered it to be a super fancy wedding cake place, with no actual cakes for sale – just a door leading to a tiny room with enough space for maybe three people to stand, with a counter where you sign up to place an order for a $1000 cake. I clearly wasn’t going to get a sausage roll here.
So I walked down a block to Sunny Vi Huong Hot Bread, nestled on a corner spot by a narrow laneway. Now I’m not one to judge a book by its cover, but I was not particularly surprised to find that this was a Vietnamese bakery, almost indistinguishable from the dozens of others that populate suburbs all across Sydney. They usually do a good range of French style breads, plus the odd pastries. The better ones use the bread and fresh ingredients to assemble banh mi pork rolls, as this one offered from a display case at the front of the shop.
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2/166 Princes Hwy, Ulladulla, NSW
Away for a long weekend at Lake Conjola on New South Wales’ south coast, I checked out the top eating joints in the area. The number one ranked eatery in the nearest large town of Ulladulla was Hayden’s Pies. And before we left, a work colleague of my wife informed her that while we were down there, we had to try Hayden’s Pies. So naturally we did.
The main strip of Ulladulla is situated running up and over a steep hill from sea level at Ulladulla Harbour. Hayden’s Pies is situated on the site of a large hardware store just over the crest of the hill from the centre of town, the the Princes Highway – or the Princes Pieway as indicated on the sign.
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Last time I visited the Drummoyne Bakehouse, I reviewed the sausage roll and one of the two different vanilla slices available. Yes, they had two types: one with vanilla icing, and one with iced sugar on top. I chose the vanilla icing, and the slice earned the maximum 10/10 with its combination crisp shard-like pastry, rich vanilla custard, and extra vanilla and sweetness from the icing.
This time, I had to try the second option. After selecting a pie for the savoury part of lunch, I took it and my icing sugar slice over to Drummoyne Park, to sit in the shade of a tree and let our dog play in the grass while eating.
The slice is the same construction as the icing version, with the only difference being the dusting of powdered white sugar on top in lieu of the pale yellow icing. The three layers of pastry looks crisp and well baked, thick and biscuity, with lots of flakes evident. The custard is pale yellow and creamy looking.
As with the previous slice, the first bite threatens to demolish the slice, with shards of pastry going everywhere and soft custard oozing out from between the pastry pressure plates. Blobs of custard drip onto the paper bag and I have to manoeuvre the slice carefully through all three rotational axes to avoid more falling out. It’s a nibble and lick job, as biting the layers just squeezes more custard out.
Continue reading Drummoyne Bakehouse Cafe, Drummoyne, pt. 2
364 Pacific Highway, Lindfield, New South Wales
It’s been a long time between drinks here at Snot Block & Roll, mostly precipitated by the acquisition a few months ago of Scully, our toy poodle puppy. Raising a puppy limits time available for other activities, alas reviewing sausage rolls and vanilla slices among them! But happily Scully is growing into an adolescent dog and is becoming trained, so it’s easier to take her on trips and to find spare time once more.
On this fine spring day, partly cloudy so not too hot, we ventured forth on an expedition to a small local market at East Lindfield. It was indeed small, but pleasant because it wasn’t the same stallholders who travel around the north Sydney area and can be found at a different local market each weekend. There was a burger van and a stall selling Russian food like blinis and pirogies, but we decided to leave the market and seek out a bakery nearby: Christophe’s Pâtisserie Française at Lindfield proper, a short drive west.
Christophe’s is part of a row of old style narrow shop fronts directly facing the Pacific Highway in its role as the main artery through Lindfield. It’s noisy and there’s nothing but a strip of bitumen footpath between the highway and the shop fronts. But the patisserie invites with a display of delicious looking French pastries in the window and an impressively boastful array of certificates plastering one window with pictures of gold and silver medals. These turn out to be local business awards, so not an especially wide competition, but still, presumably it means there is something worth checking out here.
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125 Adelaide St, Blayney NSW
Blayney is a small town on the way from Bathurst to Cowra. We had occasion to stop on the way through for lunch, so naturally I sought out a likely looking bakery for a bit of blogging research. We spotted Ryan’s Bakery & Coffee Lounge, and grabbed a table outside despite the 11°C temperature, since we had a newly acquired puppy in tow and couldn’t take advantage of the warm seats indoors.
The place had a rustic, country style menu, with a selection of pies the most exotic of which was “bolognese” and a special “sweet chilli chicken”. The woman behind the counter hovered near me as I eyed the selection of cakes and pastries, even following me along the counter as I did my survey to the far end, where I spied what looked like a couple of trays of vanilla slices… except with hot pink icing! I asked the woman if they were vanilla slices, and she said yes. So I considered my order.
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4 Sowerby St, Goulburn, New South Wales
One fine autumn Saturday we took a driving trip to Goulburn, the first inland city established in Australia, proclaimed as such in 1863. Goulburn is mostly known as a former stop on the long drive between Sydney and Melbourne, and held the distinction of having the most patronised McDonalds outlet in Australia. But with the opening of the Hume Highway bypass in 1992, many travellers now avoid stopping in the city, and it has reverted to a more sleepy country nature.
The biggest tourist attraction in Goulburn is The Big Merino, a giant concrete sculpture of a ram. Directly across the street from the Big Merino is Trappers Bakery, which was the first hit when I pulled out my phone and searched for “best bakery in goulburn”. So we pulled into the large car park for what is obviously a very popular place. Trappers Bakery is housed in a large rural style brick building with a corrugated iron roof, and it was doing a roaring trade around lunch time, with customers arriving every minute or two. Not only is it a bustling food stop, but adjacent is the Trappers Bakery Motel, offering rooms for travellers on the road.
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463 Miller Street, Cammeray, New South Wales
The previously reviewed Cammeray Cakes has closed down, but just a few doors down the street now sits Maggio’s Italian Bakery. This is an establishment that was spawned out of the nearby Maggio’s Cafe, which has been an institution in Cammeray since 1998. The new bakery shopfront takes some of the strain from the always busy cafe, allowing people to buy loaves and take-away cakes and pastries without battling the sit-down clientele of the cafe.
Being an Italian bakery, they are heavy on cannoli, biscotti, bomboloni, and various tortes, but they didn’t have anything resembling a vanilla slice when I scoped the place out. They do however have a pork sausage roll, as well as a small selection of meat pies. I ordered a roll and retreated to a nearby wooden seat under a shady tree outside to inspect their take on the Australian classic.
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