Shop 2, 130 Hampden Rd, Artarmon, New South Wales
I’ve walked past this place several times on exercise-driven peregrinations, and often been tempted by the luscious looking cakes and pastries on display, but had never been in the right state of hunger to pop in and try something. But on a long Sunday walk I arrived here around lunch time, and decided that now was the time. The cakes looked great, but obviously I had to sample the sausage roll and vanilla slice first.
It was a hot day, with the sun beating down hard outside, so I chose one of the two small inside tables and grabbed some cool water from the jug on the counter, while waiting for the woman behind the counter to bring out the selections. The sausage roll comes on a rectangular white plate, while the vanilla slice is served on a traditional circular one.
The roll is long and thin, with dark golden pastry that looks a bit worse for wear in the pie warmer, topped with golden crisped breadcrumbs. The pastry is crisp and a bit flaky. It’s nice that it’s not oily, although this thought only crosses my mind because my expectations from the visual impression are that it might be overly oily. The meaty ends poking out of the pastry wrapping are charred, and the filling shows signs of shrinking away from the casing. It looks like it might be okay, but doesn’t promise anything particularly exciting.
When revealed through an initial bite, the meat filling inside is a bland pinky grey colour, but has some small chunks of onion and specks of black pepper. The texture is undistinguished but okay – at least it doesn’t have the telltale mealy texture of lots of added breadcrumbs. And the flavour is decently seasoned and peppery. Honestly, the worst thing about the meat is the unappealing colour. Overall… it’s okay. Nothing actively bad or off-putting but definitely nothing great either, a good solid average.
Moving on to the vanilla slice, there’s a lot to say about appearances, and not all good. It’s a sloping wedge shape, taller at one end than the other, long and thin but decently tall. It has two layers of flaky but rather soggy looking pastry, two layers of pale yellow custard that looks a bit aged on some corners, and is topped with an unusual thin layer of sponge cake dusted with the barest minimum of icing sugar. Disturbingly, there is also a stray blue hundreds and thousand and a couple of flakes of chocolate, betraying close proximity to other cakes at some point. But the aged appearance of the custard is the most off-putting, belying a significant amount of time in the display case, which is never a good sign.
It’s easy to pick up but biting into the slice reveals the soggy pastry impression is disappointingly accurate. The custard is more creamy than custardy, and is virtually flavourless. It’s not even sweet! Sweetness is mainly provided by the cake layer and the icing sugar. There’s no vanilla impression either, it’s like eating a block of water. A soggy block of water. Nothing truly disgusting, but so unappealing on so many fronts that it’s definitely one to be avoided. Even if fresh, I can’t imagine this would be much good.
Despite these poor results, the cakes here still look really good, and I’m keen to try one of those one day to see if they stack up any better.
Sausage roll: 5/10
Vanilla slice: 3/10