47 Argyle St, The Rocks, Sydney, New South Wales
I’ve reviewed La Renaissance before, testing out their pork and veal sausage roll. But that’s not all they have on their menu, by a long shot. So it was natural that I should return to sample other wares of relevance to this blog.
Checking the shop’s history on their website, I find that this patisserie began in 1974, when a French pastry chef opened a shop in Roseville. The business subsequently moved to The Rocks in 1994, sited in an historical building built in 1842 (by an ex-Irish highway robber!), where it has been ever since. With this venerable history behind it, one would hope that the products have stood the test of time with their quality.
On this fine day, I sat in, and ordered the second type of sausage roll from the hot food menu, a pork, bacon, and fennel roll. And to follow, of course, one of the vanilla slices. The items are plated for me by a woman serving from behind a tall display counter, and I take them to a small cafe table in the flagstoned courtyard that extends out the back of the shop.
Continue reading La Renaissance Cafe Patisserie, The Rocks, part 2
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.
Continue reading The Pines Orchard Cafe, Bilpin
142 Malabar Rd, South Coogee, New South Wales
A sunny late autumn morning is perfect for a morning tea, and for exploring new bakeries. We took a drive over to Coogee and continued south to the Bakehouse South Coogee, which sits on a traditional corner store site surrounded by residential properties, and right across the street form the sprawling old Randwick Cemetery, which is situated on a gentle hillside with wonderful views.
The bakehouse is busy, with plenty of locals popping in for a coffee and a croissant or something a bit more substantial. Besides bread and pasties, the bakers do an impressive line in cakes, with a couple of dozen mouth-watering varieties all on display. One is an amazing looking multi-colour iced rainbow cake, which is also available by the slice, sitting right next to the huge vanilla slices.
Continue reading Bakehouse South Coogee, South Coogee
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.
Continue reading Two Skinny Cooks, Berrima
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.
Continue reading Glenorie Bakery, Glenorie
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?
Continue reading Stone’s Patisserie, Berrima
Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney, New South Wales
If you’re reviewing sausage rolls in Sydney, there is one place you need to go to sample the ultimate example of the sausage roll elevated to an art form. That place is The Bennelong, Sydney’s most iconic restaurant space, enjoying spectacular harbour views from within the miniature set of pearly white shells at the southern end of the Sydney Opera House. This is not just a place you rock up to on a Saturday at lunch time and grab a roll and a snot block in a brown paper bag. This requires planning, finesse, and a willingness to pay for the experience.
On an evening when Mrs Snot Block & Roll had decreed that we should attend the Australian Ballet, we had an excuse to make a booking at this prestigious restaurant for a before-show meal. When chef Peter Gilmore, famously of the outstanding Quay restaurant (listed as one of Restaurant magazine’s 50 best restaurants in the world since 2009), took over running The Bennelong in 2015, he decided to split the food experience into a formal dining area and a more casual seating area by one of the bars. This casual area is known as “Cured & Cultured”, and has an emphasis on fresh “produce-focused” dishes, served raw or cold, though there are a few hot cooked dishes on the menu. All of the plates are designed for tapas-like sharing. And one of these sharing plates is the “suckling pig sausage roll with black garlic sauce”, which comes in at a hefty $24.
Continue reading The Bennelong, Sydney
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.
Continue reading Gumnut Patisserie, Bowral
9 Oaks Avenue, Dee Why, New South Wales
On a leisurely weekend drive to the beach suburb of Dee Why, we popped into Oaks Patisserie for an afternoon snack and cuppa. This is a small bakery on a somewhat dingy old retail strip just around the corner from the busy Pittwater Road, so the ambience is not great. Inside, however, is a mouth-watering array of cakes and pastries, which look colourful and artfully assembled. I ordered a sausage roll and vanilla slice and they were delivered by staff to one of the two outside tables for us to contemplate.
The sausage roll looks promising enough at first sight, with golden flaky pastry and ever so slightly burnt bits on the ends. However, on the first bite a different experience is revealed. The pastry is a little on the dry side, not greasy or buttery at all. The pastry case has pulled away from the meat filling, leaving a hollow space in between, but pastry is actually middling to okay.
Continue reading Oaks Avenue Patisserie, Dee Why
1296 Pacific Hwy, Cowan, New South Wales
The Pie in the Sky is a bit of a legendary pie shop, operating for almost 30 years on a site on the old Pacific Highway, a winding two-lane road that used to be the only way to travel north of Sydney before the opening of the F3 freeway. The place is nestled on top of a cliff overlooking the freeway below, and across a vast panorama of eucalypt forest in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, across to the Hawkesbury River.
It’s a favourite weekend hangout for motorcycle riders and vintage and sports car drivers, who prefer the scenery and thrills of the old road over the bland freeway. We arrived at lunch time on a Sunday, to find the car park area almost full to overflowing with motorbikes and fancy cars. Fortunately we located a spot that must have just been vacated, and joined the queue, a good 40 people long, to buy our lunch.
Continue reading Pie in the Sky, Cowan