Lai’s French Hot Bread & Cakes, North Ryde

144 Coxs Rd, North Ryde, New South Wales

So, this food review blog is actually going to be a combined effort from a number of contributors. Talk began one lunch time with the friends I work with, about the nucleus of an idea where we are food reviewers for one single food item. An item that you can get anywhere. But it should be an item with lots of variability. Something you know when it’s a good one, and know when its a bad one. Vanilla slices! Ubiquitous, beloved, and there’s posh ones and daggy ones and everything in between. Did a brief search, and there’s one other vanilla slice review site, but it’s Melbourne based and seems to have been abandoned for most of the last decade.

Then came the next evolution of the idea – review a complete meal, main and dessert! It was decided then, that the blog would review sausage rolls and vanilla slices. The name “Snot Block and Roll” quickly followed and a plan was afoot to set up the site and start reviewing!

On to my very first review. After a couple of recent failed attempts to locate a suitable bakery on the weekend, I went on a lunchtime expedition to the neighbouring suburb of North Ryde. Parked the car, headed out to cross the road to the bakery I had gone to once before… and found this place instead!

Lais french hot bread and cakes.

Nestled amongst cafes and takeaways, this tiny bakery invited me in with its bright display cases showing off a selection of cakes and pastries. I looked around quickly and saw they had a pie oven behind the counter too, and excitedly ask for “A sausage roll and a vanilla slice please!”. The items are placed in crisp white paper bags, and I take a seat al-fresco style to taste them.

Sausage roll from Lais French hot bread and cakes.

The sausage roll is hot, and the herringbone texture scored into the upper surface immediately creates an expectation that the pastry will be light and flaky. Taking a bite, I find the pastry to be a little soggier than expected. The filling is pale in colour, and seems overly bulked out with breadcrumbs. Missing a real of sense of being meat. There are fairly large pieces of diced onion, and a hint of peppery spices. There’s no sense of it being one ingredient encased in another – instead, the soft pastry and mushy interior feel like I’m taking bites out of a log of some extruded material. I wasn’t offered tomato sauce (either free, or for a price), and certainly wouldn’t mind adding some to this sausage roll. Highlight was the burnt crispy bits on the ends!

And now, the dessert. They had two types of vanilla slices on display, and I was asked “do you want the one with yellow top, or white?” I asked the server to choose, secretly hoping I would get the white one. Success! The yellow-topped one looked vastly inferior.

Vanilla slice from Lais French hot bread and cakes.

I clumsily take it out of the white paper bag, dislodging some of the thick coating of powdered sugar. It’s big and tall, and how-am-I-going-to-eat-this-without-cutlery? There are two asymmetric layers of custard sandwiched between three layers of pastry. I see right away that the pastry exposed from beneath the dislodged sugar looks tired and pallid, almost grey.

I consider going down the route of sampling the vanilla slice in deconstructed fashion… but end up picking the whole thing up and taking a bite from the corner. The top pastry layer flips up, showering my whole face and shirt with white powder. I cough and splutter, and breathe out a puff of white powder from my nose. I brush myself off, clean my glasses, and shrug off amused looks from nearby diners.

The pastry lacks any crispiness, and just softly tears off with each bite without offering resistance. Like the pasta sheets in lasagna. But, enough about the pastry. The custard is superb. It’s light in both colour and texture, fluffy and full of little pockets of air. No artificial-colour lolly-banana thing going on here. There’s a tangy note of citrus, and not overly sweetened. The texture is closer to that of a light baked ricotta cheesecake – rather than a gelatinous cube – and it’s heavenly.

Overall, a mixture of good and bad elements, but still a good value lunch at just $5.30. If another vanilla slice has custard this good, it could be very hard to beat.

Sausage Roll: 5/10
Vanilla Slice: 6/10
Reviewer: AndrewC

2 thoughts on “Lai’s French Hot Bread & Cakes, North Ryde

  1. I wanted to get whichever item the store owner considered to be “a vanilla slice”, and not affect her choice.

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