16 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest, New South Wales
This is one of those wonderful places you get in Australia – the French bakery run by Vietnamese staff. The Vietnamese learnt the art of baking during the French occupation of French Indochina from 1887 to 1954, with the result that today many of the best baguettes and pastries in Australia are produced by Vietnamese immigrants. Indeed, the bread and cakes here are superb. But as we all know, the true measure of an Aussie bakery rests on those two standards of the true blue diet: the sausage roll and the vanilla slice.
I approached La Baguette with every intention of purchasing a sausage roll and a vanilla slice – although in my mind I remembered this is one of those establishments that refers to their vanilla slices as “Napoleons”. I was however thwarted by the fact that they didn’t have anything resembling a vanilla slice or labelled as either that or “Napoleon” in the counter display. And when I asked them, they said that they didn’t make them! Undaunted, I procured a sausage roll, advertised on the menu as a “pork and veal sausage roll”.
The roll looks promisingly flaky on the outside, though this specimen is very brown with a well-cooked glaze of egg wash. This innocuous layer of pastry conceals a true wonder within. The meat is unlike the vast majority of sausage rolls, clearly hand mixed by the bakers, and incorporating fine slivers of carrot, shallot, and chives in the minced pork and veal. The mixture is herby and delicately spiced and tastes delicious. It is cooked to a nice firmness without being hard, and has a pleasing juiciness. This would make a top notch gourmet sausage. The pastry around it is almost secondary, but provides a suitable wrapping, with good flakiness and texture. It’s very brown, but not burnt.
Overall, this is a sausage roll that is hard to beat. It feels a little bit gourmet, but is still down to earth enough to satisfy. I am just a bit disappointed that my memories of them having vanilla slices as well turned out to be false.
(By the way, the sausage rolls are excellent, but the pies here are… not. Stick with the sausage roll. Trust me.)
Sausage roll: 9/10
Vanilla slice: N/A