Vina Bakehouse, Chatswood

Level 2, Westfield Shopping Centre, Chatswood

This bakery lives in a food court in the giant Westfield shopping complex in Chatswood, wedged between a cafe and an Asian noodle place. It sells freshly baked bread and a selection of cakes, tarts, and slices, as well as pies and sausage rolls. I’ve been here a few times before and don’t have a particularly high opinion of their bread items. I once bought a “bagel” here, only to discover that it was nothing more than a fluffy white bread roll in a very rough and ready approximation of a shape with a hole through it.

Vina Bakehouse

But being in the area around lunch time, I decided to take the plunge. I procured a sausage roll and a vanilla slice and took a seat at one of the food court tables nearby to examine and taste. An elderly lady and what I presume to be her granddaughter sat at the table with some lunch of their own as well, and the girl looked at me curiously as I photographed and considered my meal.

Sausage roll, Vina Bakehouse

The sausage roll looks very promising, with a deep golden brown crust on what looks like nicely flaky pastry and a nicely cooked end of meat showing within. But the first bite betrays the lie, as my teeth sink into the nastily soft meat filling. It’s cooked well enough, but seems to be mostly soggy breadcrumbs flavoured with a bit of meat. There are nice thin ribbons of julienned carrot and some chunks of really soft onion to add flavour, as well as a touch of spiciness, but the texture is a real killer. The flavour is a little too mild and there is an odd tang to it that is undefinable. The pastry brings things down even further, as it is thin and oily. Really, the best thing about this roll is the visible appearance before you take a bite.

Vanilla slice, Vina Bakehouse

The slice looks less inviting to the eye. Several of them are wedged into the cake display between some apple turnovers bursting extravagantly at the seams with whipped cream and a batch of “profiter rolls”. Unwrapping mine, I see it is a many-layered construction, with – count them – four separate layers of pastry, separated by three layers of chunky-looking dark yellow custard. The top is dusted with a thick layer of white icing sugar.

Vanilla slice, Vina Bakehouse

Picking it up, the first bite is a revelation. The pastry is something like Greek filo, with hundreds of paper thin layers. They really took the mille-feuille “thousand leaves” literally with this one! And it’s delightfully crisp, without a trace of sogginess from proximity to the custard. It breaks crisply and easily, shattering into thousands of tiny pastry shards, without squeezing out the custard too much at all. The custard itself turns out to be deliciously smooth and creamy, with a nice strong vanilla flavour. The slice is extremely messy as the crumbling layers of pastry shed onto the paper bag it came in, with some of the shards clinging to the sticky custard. The whole affair is dominated by the pastry texture, but the custard adds a good dose of sweet vanilla and creaminess. It is a great blend of flavours and textures.

Vanilla slice, Vina Bakehouse

After the lovely appearance of the sausage roll leading into distinct disappointment from the first bite, this ugly duckling vanilla slice turned out to be the majestic swan of the meal. About the only thing it has going against it is that it was tricky to eat hand held, and would probably be better attacked with a plate and a fork.

Sausage roll: 3/10
Vanilla slice: 8/10

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