The Little Red Grape Bakery, Sevenhill

148 Main North Road, Sevenhill, South Australia

I arrived here with Mrs Snot Block & Roll on a cold, rainy morning for an early breakfast, as it was one of the few places in the Clare Valley region open before 9am on a Sunday. We asked if they had a breakfast menu, but received a politely apologetic response in the negative. The place is simply a bakery with a coffee machine – whatever you see on display is what’s available. But since that included good looking sausage rolls and vanilla slices, there was no real decision to be made anyway! The bakery is actually attached to a cafe of the same name which serves meals and acts as a cellar door for one of the local wineries, but the cafe wasn’t open at this time.

The Little Red Grape Bakery

The sausage roll is an enigmatic yet ultimately frustrating compilation of excellent meat in a frankly awful pastry blanket. It looks promising, with golden brown flaky pastry on top, wrapped around a plump roll of meat filling. The first bite delivers a pleasant experience as the flavour of the meat explodes in the mouth. It is delightfully savoury, with a hint of herbs and the right amount of saltiness to bring out the savoury umami flavours of the meat. Any additional spices are subdued, but there are huge chunks of onion adding to the taste, which is like a friendly home-cooked stew, cooked well, and simply all round a great flavour experience. The texture is in that perfect zone between too soft and too dry. It’s really very good. It would suit a full flavoured Cabernet Sauvignon.

Sausage roll: The Little Red Grape Bakery

Unfortunately, the roll is let down by the pastry, and in a big way. It appears golden and flaky on top, but that is just the outermost surface layer, and the appearance is tricksy and false, much like Gollum. Underneath is a thick, doughy layer of soggy undercooked pastry that hasn’t been given enough heat to puff up. Around a lesser filling, it would be completely unforgivable. Here, however, it merely serves to remind us that nothing can ever be perfect – as we lament such a delicious meat filling spoiled by this sorry, soggy mess. It’s a tough call overall, but ultimately the meat rescues the floundering shipwreck of pastry, rather than the pastry ruining the meat, leaving a slightly positive experience.

Sausage roll: The Little Red Grape Bakery

Moving on to the vanilla slice, we have another interesting variant in the icing stakes, with a thick layer of vanilla buttercream icing on top, with neatly raked parallel ridges like a Japanese Zen garden. It looks less than ideal, to be honest, promising an overload of sugary sweetness. The block underneath is a single thick layer of an extraordinarily pale creamy yellow custard, in between two thick layers of very pale brown flaky pastry. It all looks a bit anaemic – however the appearance is somewhat deceptive. It is tricky to pick up and bite into because of the soft buttercream icing, but a first bite reveals an excellent balance of flavours and textures.

Vanilla slice: The Little Red Grape Bakery

The pastry is firm enough to hold the thick block of custard, but yields with a nice snap to the bite as it squeezes the custard out a bit. The custard has enough integrity not to fall to pieces with this treatment, but oozes gently out. When broken off by a bite, the custard reveals a somewhat chunky texture, very much like a baked cheesecake filling. This is a good sign of hand made custard, and it is actually really delicious. The subtle colouring is enhanced by the firm but not overstated presence of vanilla on the palate.

This is really a great vanilla custard, not an overly eggy or artificial one. It is barely sweet at all, which is a good thing, because the icing imparts plenty of sweetness to the mixture on chewing. Still not sure about soft and thick buttercream icing, but overall this slice works really well, supported by the excellent taste and interesting cheesecakey texture of the custard. The pastry is supportive and good without being excellent, but that’s perfectly acceptable here. It could have scored higher with a more conventional icing.

Sausage roll: 6/10
Vanilla slice: 8/10

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