2/119 Harbord Road, Freshwater
It’s the first day of spring! What better way to celebrate than by taking Canine Snot Block & Roll to a lovely dog park by the beach and following up with a trek to a new pie shop? My normal haunt on the northern beaches of Sydney is Fran and Sylvia’s Upper Crust at Collaroy, but today I searched Google Maps for something new not too far away. I spied Cherie’s Pies and Cakes, which is open until 14:30 on Sundays, so made for a perfect lunch stop after letting Canine Snot Block & Roll run around and chase tennis balls for a while. (That’s Canine Snot Block & Roll, front and centre in this photo:)
Cherie’s is on the moderately busy Harbord Road, and I was wondering where to find a parking spot as I approached, when lo! A small row of shops appeared, with 90° parking on the street right out front. There were a few spaces empty, so I grabbed one. The row consists of a generic take-away food and mixed grocery business, Cherie’s, a fruit shop, a butcher, a newsagent, a pharmacy, and a bottle shop nestled side by side in the one long building. There’s no seating inside Cherie’s, with just enough space for a counter and a drinks fridge, but there are four small tables on the footpath outside.
Continue reading Cherie’s Pies and Cakes, Freshwater
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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83 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest, New South Wales
I’ve reviewed two different vanilla slices from St Malo already, but when I went in recently they had yet another type in the display! The first two were very fancy and really good, and labelled as “pistachio mille feuille” and “vanilla mille feuille”, but this one was simply labelled as “vanilla slice”. It also looked much less fancy and more like the sort of snot block you get at a cheap roadside bakery, rather than something produced by an upmarket French patisserie. It had to be tried!
The first thing I notice is that it’s quite small. The second thing I notice is the price: a whopping $6. That’s the price I’d expect for something much fancier. Well, I know St Malo is a quality bakery, so hopefully it will live up to the outlay. I fork over my $6 and receive a plate with the slice and a knife – no fork. Not to worry, I plan on tackling it the traditional way, by hand.
Continue reading St Malo Bakery, Crows Nest: addendum 2
153 Katoomba St, Katoomba, New South Wales
Katoomba is a small town in the heart of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, and a perfect destination for a day trip. It’s on the edge of the Blue Mountains National Park, which is part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, and walking distance from some of the biggest tourist attractions in the park. As such, it has a host of shops, cafes, restaurants, and – strung in a sequence along the main street – three bakeries within the space of about 20 metres. They are on different positions along the poshness to down-to-earthness scale. Possibly the most down-to-earth is the Blue Mountains Buttery, which has some good old working-class vanilla slices where the others tend to go for fancier cakes and pastries.
Continue reading Blue Mountains Buttery, Katoomba
112 Longueville Rd, Lane Cove, New South Wales
Pottery Green is a cosy and dark nook with rustic farmhouse wooden beams and walls, nestled in the otherwise somewhat run-down main strip of Lane Cove. The interior is cosy and warm in the winter chill, but there are also tables out on the footpath for brave souls or those who want to catch some sun. Amidst a tempting selection of cakes and pastries, they have a hot savoury selection boasting two types of sausage rolls: “plain beef” and “pork and veal”, for $4 and $5 respectively. For my first taste I plump for the pork and veal, and accompany it with the traditional vanilla slice.
Braving the chill winter air on an outside table, the goodies arrive on two china plates. The pork and veal sausage roll looks great, with a rich golden brown pastry casing, bursting at the ends with generously stuffed, caramelised meaty filling. On a first bite, the meat filling is deliciously moist, with meat juices seeping through the lower pastry layer. The meat seems to have shrunk a bit during baking as it has come free of the pastry tube and slides around freely inside, which makes things a little tricky on the structural integrity front.
Continue reading Pottery Green Bakers, Lane Cove
Via S. Gottardo, 6780 Airolo, Switzerland
Driving through the Alps from Switzerland to Italy, we passed through a number of small towns. As lunch time loomed, we stopped at the town of Airolo to look for some food. Not much was open, but we found a panetteria and pasticceria called Beffa. Being southern Switzerland, this was an Italian-speaking region. After some halting words with a young lady who didn’t speak any English, we managed to get some panini, freshly made in a back room. And sitting in the pastry display was a set of millefoglie, the Italian version of a vanilla slice.
We got a small round table in the dimly lit cafe section of the pasticceria. An adjacent table held five elderly men who were drinking espressos and having an animated discussion in Italian. This was the sort of place where old men gather to while away the hours gossiping with their friends. After eating our sandwiches, I turned my attention to the millefoglie presented on a similarly aged plate.
Continue reading Pasticceria Beffa, Airolo
318 Chiswick High Street, Chiswick, London, UK
On a business trip to London, I was staying in the Chiswick area for a few days. My explorations of the Chiswick High Street on foot uncovered the delicious looking Valerie Patisserie, which enticed with a window display full of luscious cakes and pastries, crowned by a huge piece of decorative frilliness rendered in dark and white chocolate. Amongst the mouth-watering cakes and slices in the window was a neat row of milles-feuilles, looking for all the world like classic Aussie vanilla slices, complete with the traditional drawn brown icing lines on a top of white icing.
I discovered this early in the day, on a post-breakfast walk before a day full of business meetings, and had already bought a more robust scone from a nearby bakery to serve as morning tea. So I filed the shop away in memory, to return that evening after the work had been completed for the day and buy one of the slices to take back to my hotel after dinner for dessert. The price was £2.95, and for that the lady behind the counter, rather than tossing it in a brown paper bag as would happen back home, placed it in a neat cardboard box emblazoned with the logo of the patisserie, using no less than three logo stickers to seal the box. This was then carefully lowered into a paper carry bag with handles, again decorated with the shop’s logo.
Continue reading Patisserie Valerie, Chiswick, London
783 Military Rd, Mosman, New South Wales
Having already procured lunch from elsewhere, I decided a dessert was in order, and found Homestyle Bakery on the busy main street of Mosman.
This is one of the anonymous shopfront bakeries with functional but perfunctory ageing steel and glass sliding doors that are ubiquitous in suburbs crying out for a little touch of urban renewal to spruce them up. It’s operated by a Vietnamese woman who serves me with a minimum of fuss, as I photograph the tray of offerings that bears the label “French vanilla sliced”.
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Shop 5A, 23-25 Burns Bay Rd, Lane Cove NSW
Looking up a local bakery to go for lunch, I had originally intended to go to The Pottery Green bakery at Lane Cove. Upon arriving, they didn’t have any vanilla slices, so I went for a walk and found The Cake Man instead. This is a place occupying both sides of an entire arcade between the pedestrian mall and the parking lot at Lane Cove, a locality in the northern suburbs of Sydney. They have a take-away cafe with a few dining tables, a separate fancy cake shop, a restaurant and wine bar, plus their actual bakery and kitchens at this location.
The sausage roll and vanilla slice were described exactly thus by little plaques in the display cabinet and pie warmer – although there was also a “caramelised mille feuille” which looked tempting. The server requested I took a seat at the tables outside, and the items were bought out to me on little plates with serviettes and cutlery.
Continue reading The Cake Man, Lane Cove
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.
Continue reading St Leonards Bread & Cakes, St Leonards