364 Pacific Highway, Lindfield, New South Wales
It’s been a long time between drinks here at Snot Block & Roll, mostly precipitated by the acquisition a few months ago of Scully, our toy poodle puppy. Raising a puppy limits time available for other activities, alas reviewing sausage rolls and vanilla slices among them! But happily Scully is growing into an adolescent dog and is becoming trained, so it’s easier to take her on trips and to find spare time once more.
On this fine spring day, partly cloudy so not too hot, we ventured forth on an expedition to a small local market at East Lindfield. It was indeed small, but pleasant because it wasn’t the same stallholders who travel around the north Sydney area and can be found at a different local market each weekend. There was a burger van and a stall selling Russian food like blinis and pirogies, but we decided to leave the market and seek out a bakery nearby: Christophe’s Pâtisserie Française at Lindfield proper, a short drive west.
Christophe’s is part of a row of old style narrow shop fronts directly facing the Pacific Highway in its role as the main artery through Lindfield. It’s noisy and there’s nothing but a strip of bitumen footpath between the highway and the shop fronts. But the patisserie invites with a display of delicious looking French pastries in the window and an impressively boastful array of certificates plastering one window with pictures of gold and silver medals. These turn out to be local business awards, so not an especially wide competition, but still, presumably it means there is something worth checking out here.
For a place named Christophe’s Pâtisserie Française, complete with circumflex and cedilla, I expected a genuine continental pastry chef, but once inside it becomes clear that the staff are Vietnamese. This is not an ultra-fancy European pastry shop, but it does look fairly high end, a level or two above the average Vietnamese French bakery. Bringing it down to earth, they indeed have a pie warmer with a small selection of different pies and some sausage rolls, as well as a couple of different single-serve quiches. And in the cake display sit some smallish looking, but inviting vanilla slices, labelled with a utilitarian label-maker sticker as “VANILLA SLICES” – no pretentious “mille-feuilles” sign on lacy bordered paper held in a tiny metal stand here.
I select the sausage roll and vanilla slice combo and head outside to find a place to sit. Next door is a gelato shop with a small wooden bench against the window, currently unused. I resolve to buy a gelato after eating these and sit down completely guilt-free.
The sausage roll is on the small side, and oozes transparentifying grease onto the white paper bag it comes in. The pastry is golden brown and spalling off in small flakes like the outer layers of a granite boulder exposed to thousands of years of temperature variation in a desert. The meat filling at the ends looks well cooked and shows hints of carrots and herbs. It looks promising, if perhaps a touch too buttery.
A first bite reveals the construction to be technically sound. The pastry has a bit of crisp and flake, though it has perhaps suffered a bit of sogginess due to being in the pie warmer for a few hours. It has slightly more of a shortcrust, biscuity texture than a full-on puff pastry. The filling has obviously had some care paid to it, being meat minced with large chunks of onion, juliennes of carrot, and fresh herbs including whole rosemary leaves. Unfortunately this is let down by a lack of seasoning that leaves it feeling a little bit bland. There’s a hint of tomato flavour in there, but not much else. And it seems to have some breadcrumb filler mixed in – it’s definitely not as juicy or textureful as pure minced meat. It’s an odd beast. While technically careful, the emotional execution is lacking and the result is distinctly average rather than the flavour sensation that it promises to be.
Moving on to the vanilla slice, this is also in the small side, and comes wrapped in a circular patty case that appears to be made of aluminium foil, a bit of a novelty. The construction looks a bit rustic, definitely not a precision engineered French patisserie creation. There are three layers of moderately thick flaky pastry, darkish in colour so clearly well baked. The custard layers in between are a rich mid-yellow, with some sticky puckering where it has been sliced – promising evidence of a good texture rather than gelatinous straight lines. The top is covered with a thick dusting of pearlescent white icing sugar. The foil circle peels away cleanly, allowing me to pick up the slice easily due to its smallish size.
It yields to a bite without much difficulty, threatening to spread oozing custard all over the place, but never quite getting out of control. The pastry is a touch disappointing, being borderline crisp, but with definite evidence of sogging caused by sitting in the display a little longer than optimal. I expect when fresh this would be excellent. The custard is creamy and smooth, with a slight hint of gelatinising agent, but it squeezes and flows nicely and has a good mouthfeel, with no rubberiness. The flavour is good, with a rich vanilla, accentuated by the residual crunch of the pastry and the sweet icing sugar.
Overall, this is a good vanilla slice. I waver between awarding a 7 or an 8, but decide to fall back to the lower score because of the price: An outrageous $6.20 for what is really quite a small dessert. If the pastry had been crisper and the serving size a bit more generous this could have touched a 9.
Sausage roll: 5/10
Vanilla slice: 7/10