2070 Bells Line of Road, Bilpin, New South Wales
On a lazy Sunday drive into the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, I like to head out on the Great Western Highway, and then return via the more northerly route of Bells Line of Road, which is more scenic and has less traffic. Along the way you pass through the small settlement of Bilpin, which with its cool highland climate, is a great place to grow apples and stone fruits. Lining the road through this area are several roadside stalls where you can stop and buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Some are mere shacks, while a couple are larger and offer tables and cafe refreshments.
On this day we stopped for an afternoon break at The Pines Orchard Cafe, right across the road from the more well known Bilpin Fruit Bowl with its giant colourful fibreglass bowl of fruit out the front. The Fruit Bowl has a small kitchen right in the middle of the shop, where ladies make and bake apple pies seemingly constantly, and you can buy them either hot out of the oven, or cooled down to take home. The Pines Orchard is not quite so fancy, but upon entering and perusing the bakery cabinet I spot something which looks like a vanilla slice. They’re square cut slabs resting in a tray, topped with a delicious looking layer of passionfruit icing. Mrs Snot Block & Roll wants to get a coffee, so I ask her to add a vanilla slice to her order and I head across the room to find a table.
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1 Market Place, Berrima, New South Wales
Berrima is a lovely old town, bypassed by the busy Hume Highway some years ago, allowing it to fall back into a dreamy country town state. But it is within day tripping distance of Sydney, so the rustic village has been taken over by antique shops, handicrafts, art galleries, and gourmet food outlets, run by the friendly locals.
On the fine day when we visited the town, there was a vintage car club holding some sort of gathering, so the streets were lined with old cars – some really very old indeed – and all kept in good nick. After wandering the main street for a bit, and getting some lunch in Stone’s Patisserie (also reviewed), we stumbled across Two Skinny Cooks.
This advertises itself as a “larder door”, and mostly does a trade in prepared meals to take home and reheat, and meal ingredients such as sauces and pre-marinaded meats to be cooked at home, plus various jams, chutneys, mustards, and so on. The titular two skinny cooks prepare it in a kitchen out the bac and package the goodies for people to take with them. But besides this, they also make pies and sausage rolls – both for carrying home frozen, but also a selection hot for immediate consumption.
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930 Old Northern Rd, Glenorie NSW
Glenorie sits an hour or so’s drive from Sydney, in the rural northwestern region that seems to have escaped rampant suburbanisation and remains a haven for people who prefer a slower pace of life, wide open fields, and properties large enough to raise horses on. Amidst the small clusters of villages that exist to support this lifestyle sits the shopping region of Glenorie, with a supermarket and a handful of small stores selling scented soaps, hand made rag dolls, and antiques. And amongst these is the Glenorie Bakery, which seems to be a modern building but constructed in the style of a century old woolshed.
Walking inside reveals an expansive interior space, filled with all manner of antique farming, baking, and retail equipment. The decor is “1900s farmhouse”, and rust appears to be the decorating material of choice. There’s an old… plough or something hanging from the ceiling, wooden wagon wheels reclining against the walls, and sheafs of wheat decorating large rustic wooden shelves containing enough knick-knacks to stock a large antique shop or rural museum. There are some large dough mixing machines which look like they were retired some time before the Second World War.
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11 Old Hume Hwy, Berrima, New South Wales
The little town of Berrima sits just off the Hume Highway south of Sydney, perfectly positioned for a day trip or a stop on the way to Canberra. And a pleasant stop it is, with several interesting shops full of knick-knacks and places to eat and drink. One of those places is Stone’s Patisserie, which is run by a skilled pastry chef. Besides a luscious looking array of cakes and pastries, the premises has cafe tables and light meals. These meals include pies and sausage rolls.
The sausage roll I ordered looks astonishing, with an intricate latticework of pastry covering the whole thing, dripping with a rich golden brown egg wash in the crevices. This indeed looks like the construction of someone who has mastered the art of pastry. But have they mastered the art of the sausage roll? The physical construction is shortish but very fat, thick stubby cylinder more like a drinking glass than the more familiar longer skinny shape. It looks gorgeous. But how will it hold up on taste?
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Avenue 16 Septembre 1947, Tende, France
Continuing our driving journey through Europe, we found ourselves passing through the lovely Parc National du Mercantour, hugging the Italian border in the south-east corner of France. We stopped at the small village of Tende, deep in the heart of the park, for a few hours to look at the museum, which houses displays of stone age people who lived in the region thousands of years ago, as well as to have a walk around and to get some lunch.
After sightseeing for a while, it was time to eat. Not much was open, but we found a cafe called La Merenda on the main street running through the village. It looked a little run down and not particularly promising in the food stakes, but there wasn’t much choice. They did have some quiches and a tart des legumes, but also in a small sweet pastry section there were lurking a few mille-feuilles, the French version of the humble vanilla slice. Well, this was an opportunity not to be missed.
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Grand Arcade, 7 Bong Bong St, Bowral, New South Wales
On a leisurely weekend drive through New South Wales’ Southern Highlands region, we stopped for lunch in Bowral, the town where Don Bradman grew up, and famous for the Bradman Oval and Bradman Museum. But in recent years, Bowral has become notable for a different, and culinarily oriented reason.
It is the home of the Gumnut Patisserie, established in 1995, and quick to win an impressive list of honours. It won the Baking Association of Australia award for best patisserie in New South Wales in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2012, and 2013. And as the comma at the end of the list on their window shows, they seem determined to win it again in the future. Not only this, but in 2015 they won the grand prize at the Sydney Royal Easter Agricultural Show for Best Vanilla Slice. Clearly this is a place we cannot ignore.
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123 Fern St, Gerringong, New South Wales
Gerringong is a small town nestled on the coast a couple of hours south of Sydney. The town spills down a steep hill to a picturesque beach surrounded by grassy headlands. It’s one of those tidy little towns close enough yet far enough from a major city to turn into a haven for day trippers, and thus end up with a main street full of trendy antique shops and rustic country home goods, but so far this transition seems to be only partly complete.
There are still some typical country town establishments, one of them being the local bakery and cafe, which goes by the original and creative name of the Gerringong Bakery and Cafe. It occupies a recently repainted brick building in the middle of the main strip, which looks very neat and modern from the outside. Inside, it’s clean, with modern fittings, but the building has have obviously been there considerably longer than the most recent paint job. The bakery holds a very typical selection of bread loaves and buns, as well as counter displays of various traditional Aussie treats: Neenish tarts, custard tarts, Anzac biscuits, meringues, apple slices, and also not one, but two lookalike items named after branded trademark names: wagon wheels and (giant sized) iced vovos.
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30 Station St, Mount Victoria, New South Wales
A leisurely Sunday drive up into the Blue Mountains west of Sydney for a day out provided the opportunity to sample bakery products from a bit further afield. We stopped for morning tea at Leura, having a Devonshire tea of scones hot from the oven (they had literally taken them out just minutes before serving them to us), with home made strawberry jam and double cream. The scones were chocolate chip and cranberry, which made things even more decadent. After spending some time in Katoomba, we found ourselves in Mount Victoria when lunch hunger hit. So we parked in this small mountain town and walked to the Piccolo Deli, which also serves as a cafe.
In the display counter were various pastries, both savoury and sweet. They had two types of sausage rolls: beef and onion, and pork and fennel, as well as a vegetable roll for the meat-free. A few rolls were hot in a pie warmer, but the friendly woman behind the counter said they could heat up anything for eating. Naturally, I ordered one of each of the sausage rolls, while Mrs SB&R chose the vege roll.
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Cnr Masonite Rd & Pacific Hwy, Heatherbrae, NSW 2324
Heatherbrae Pies is located a couple of hours north of Sydney, and is an ideal place to stop off for lunch or a snack on a road trip up the NSW coast. Ever since starting this food review blog, I’ve anticipated coming here to do a review. The opportunity arrived, I checked their website, and yes, they do indeed sell Sausage Rolls and Vanilla slices!
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37 Murray Street, Angaston, South Australia
This is really a cafe doing breakfasts and light meals throughout the day, not a bakery. However they had a very interesting looking vanilla slice sitting in the cake counter, so I took the plunge and added one to my breakfast order of muesli with fruit and milk.
I was attracted by the different appearance. This slice had three layers of pastry, with custard filling the gap between the lower two, and an equally thick layer of what looked like whipped cream or buttercream between the upper two. The whole was topped with a thick glossy layer of light brown icing decorated with white and darker brown diagonal lines.
Continue reading Soul with Zest, Angaston