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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Last year Mrs Snot Block & Roll and I took a trip to Tanzania, and spent a lovely week and a half on safari, photographing wildlife. At the end of the trip, we spent a few days in Zanzibar, where we enjoyed the exotic melange of cultures, including the spicy flavours and the excellent seafood. On the way home, we spent some time waiting for our flight in Zanzibar International Airport. While killing time, I wandered around the tiny terminal building and spotted a small cafe.
On closer inspection, the display of hot food had plates of beef and chicken samosas, triangular chicken pies, and… sausage rolls! Beef sausage rolls, to be precise, from the signage, which is probably going out of its way to assure any prospective buyers that it is halal and contains no pork.
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Rua das Padarias 8, 2710-623, Sintra
Business meetings done, it was time to get on to the vacation part of my trip to Portugal. Rather than spend all the time in Lisbon, Mrs Snot Block & Roll and I took a 40 minute train ride out to the village of Sintra, just outside the sprawling suburbs of Lisbon. Sintra lies nestled in a range of hills where the old royal families of Portugal built their castles and palaces, so it’s both a natural scenery wonderland and a cultural and historical site worth visiting. The village has several steep pedestrian paths, often with steps required to climb up or down the hillside. At the top of one such street we found a cozy cafe to stop for lunch: Pasteleria Vila Velha.
We chose quiches for lunch, and for a sweet treat afterwards I got one of the mil folhas (Portuguese for mille feuille; i.e. a vanilla slice) sitting in the display.
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Avenida da Igreja 2, 1700-204, Lisbon, Portugal
On a combined business/vacation trip, I flew into Lisbon around lunchtime on my first ever trip to Portugal. Lisbon’s airport is very close to the city centre, and even closer to my hotel in the Entre Campos neighbourhood north of the city centre. So close that rather than take a taxi or the metro, I decided to walk from the airport to the hotel. The distance was not a problem, but the day was hot and sunny. Before we left, Mrs Snot Block & Roll had suggested that we could stop about half way and have a drink at a cafe. Checking on Google Maps, I had located a likely sounding cafe named Pau de Canela (“Cinnamon Stick” in Portuguese), with good reviews.
Portugal is famous for its traditional custard tarts, the pastéis de nata, but when we arrived at the cafe what caught my eye were some intriguing looking vanilla slices. They were labelled “mil folhas”, which is clearly the Portuguese equivalent of “mille feuille”, so that was a good start. Mrs SB&R ordered a coffee and grabbed a mil folhas for me. No sausage rolls in sight, alas, so it seems we still have a thing or two to teach the Portuguese about baking.
The slice has a traditional looking construction although it is quite flat and the custard is a thin single layer sandwiched between two very thick sheets of flaky pastry. The custard is a very dark yellow colour, darker than almost any other I’ve seen, and there’s not a lot of it. The pastry looks nice and flaky, and is topped with the traditional white icing with brown swirly pattern running across it diagonally. The slice is supplied on a plate with a knife and fork. Being in a foreign country, I’m a bit reluctant to commit a diplomatic faux pas by eating it wth my hands in front of a busy cafe crowd, so I rely on the cutlery.
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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
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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Shop 2, 130 Hampden Rd, Artarmon, New South Wales
I’ve walked past this place several times on exercise-driven peregrinations, and often been tempted by the luscious looking cakes and pastries on display, but had never been in the right state of hunger to pop in and try something. But on a long Sunday walk I arrived here around lunch time, and decided that now was the time. The cakes looked great, but obviously I had to sample the sausage roll and vanilla slice first.
It was a hot day, with the sun beating down hard outside, so I chose one of the two small inside tables and grabbed some cool water from the jug on the counter, while waiting for the woman behind the counter to bring out the selections. The sausage roll comes on a rectangular white plate, while the vanilla slice is served on a traditional circular one.
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57 Hampden Road, Battery Point, Tasmania
When Mrs SB&R and I were planning our trip to Tasmania, one of her work colleagues gave her a list of place to visit in Hobart. Jackman & McRoss was high on the list, recommended for its bakery products, coffee, and its signature scallop pie – a culinary item peculiar to Tasmania, which is well known for its scallop fisheries. Walking up the hill from Salamanca Place, we discovered the bakery nestled in the historic Battery Point area, which is mostly residential, with only a few shops clustered around one intersection. One of these shops is Jackman & McRoss, and it seems to draw a big crowd as the only eating establishment in the immediate area. Painted underneath the name on the outside of the Federation era building is the slogan “Bakers of fine breads, cakes & pastries”. It’s a shame the word “purveyors” isn’t in there somewhere.
Inside, the small area in front of the display counters is packed with customers queueing to order coffee or get a croissant or other pastry to take away. The counters are stuffed to the gills with amazing looking cakes and Viennoiserie. And to the right side is an opening beyond which several roms of what obviously used to be a house have been converted into places with cafe tables. We are fortunate to grab a free table at an inside room, and sneakily move over to a window table later on. On the menu are not one, not two, but three different sausage rolls: pork and apple; duck, cranberry, and walnut; and Thai spiced chicken! Also in the display counter is something I’ve never seen before, labelled with a little sign, describing it as: “vanilla slice with crème patisserie, fresh strawberries, & brisee pastry”. All right! Let’s try the highly unusual duck sausage roll, with the vanilla slice for afters.
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Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Dunn Place, Hobart, Tasmania
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery is the premier museum of Tasmania, and so a logical choice for spending a few hours when visiting Hobart. As such, I sought out its hallowed halls to peruse the natural history, human history, and art displays, spread over two floors and two different historical buildings.
The interiors of the buildings have been modernised and hold state of the art displays and visitor amenties, including a cafe in the courtyard, aptly named the Courtyard Cafe, complete with Muttaburrasaurus skeleton outside. Sitting here for a rest and to eat the sandwiches we’d brought for lunch, Mrs Snot Block & Roll returned from inspecting the food for sale to report that there was a tray of vanilla slices!
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11 Murray Street, Hobart, Tasmania
On holiday in Hobart over the Christmas break, I took the opportunity to try some of the local offerings. Walking down to the waterfront near Constitution Dock (where the Sydney to Hobart yachts come in at this time of year), you pass Daci & Daci Bakers, a quality looking French style bakery in a beautifully renovated old sandstone building that is no doubt historical, as are many of the buildings in this part of the old Van Dieman’s Land colony. The interior is smartly presented with brass, wrought iron, and dark wood panelling, and the place is bustling with activity as people pour in through the doors to either sit at the cafe tables or snatch a take-away pastry or two and a baguette for later.
In a suitable nod to its Australian location, they have a silver tray of sausage rolls on display amidst the croissants, galettes, and tarts. The pile of generously stuffed looking rolls bears a label declaring them to be “Moroccan lamb sausage rolls”, and bearing the hefty price tag of $10 if you take one away in a brown paper bag, or $14 if you sit at a cafe table and eat inside.
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