4400 Illawarra Highway, Robertson, New South Wales
I’ve driven past this place many times, but usually on the way home from a day trip to Bowral, after already filling up on country baked goodies (perhaps at the Gumnut Pattiserie), so I’ve rarely stopped here. It has a good reputation for its pies, and they offer both a wide selection of savoury varieties, as well as sweet ones.
So one fine day I took to the road with Mrs Snot Block & Roll and our dog Canine Snot Block & Roll for a leisurely road trip down the coast via the Grand Pacific Drive and the spectacular Sea Cliff Bridge, which was built to replace the old coastal road along the bottom of the Illawarra Escarpment after it fell into the ocean. This is a much more scenic drive than the freeway on top of the escarpment, and affords many places to stop and enjoy the views.
Passing through Wollongong, we headed inland and up the escarpment at Macquarie Pass, a most wonderful winding road that climbs through layers of dense eucalyptus forest with ferny undergrowth, requiring negotiation of numerous switchbacks an hairpins. Once past this, one approaches Robertson. And there outside the eastern end of the tiny town stands the Robertson Pie Shop. It’s a stand-alone building with a bright yellow sign (declaring it to be The Famous Robertson Pie Shop), a large car park in front, and a grassed area to one side with picnic tables for sitting and eating.
Venturing inside, one is confronted by the sprawling pie menu, printed on a board but containing numerous deletions, additions stuck on with tape, hand written modifications, and supplementary menu items on laminated sheets plastered all over the place. From this mountain of information, you can see that their beef bourguignon pie won a prize at the 2015 Great Aussie Pie Competition, and one of the menu items is the intimidating sounding “Volcanic chilli” pie.
The sweets section contains a delicious looking array of fruit pies as well as cheesecake slices and playfully decorated custard tarts. I was fully expecting vanilla slices, but there were none to be seen.
I selected a sausage roll, a chicken, leek, and camembert pie, and a small pecan pie for afters. Taking them outside to the seating area, we found a shady spot out of the hot sun, where Canine Snot Block & Roll could play in the grass while I indulged. I kept an eye that Canine didn’t wander too far, because of the “Beware of the snakes” sign posted on the lawn.
The sausage roll had a fattened shape, like someone had run over it with a monster truck, and was exuding grease into the white paper bag it came in. The pastry looked good – obviously very buttery, and showing a lot of flaking in large, thin scales, with an appealing golden brown bake on the outer layers. The meat on the other hand appeared very dark – a little too dark. Perhaps overcooked on the exposed ends? A few flecks of herbs were visible, but it was impossible to tell if they were fresh and dried out by the heat of the oven, or added in a dried state.
The pastry dissolved into myriad tiny flakes as it was bitten through. It was really very flaky, and pretty good. However it was let down by the meat filling. It was smooth and almost textureless, as though the meat had been put through a blender. And the odd dark colour permeated through the interior too. It was not dry, but then again not moist either – it definitely could have used more of the natural meat juices to give it a more appealing level of juiciness. On the plus side, it had small chunks of carrot and onion mixed throughout and was seasoned well, definitely way down the peppery end of the salt and pepper axis. The flavour was nice, and would have been a lot better if only supported by a texture that felt more like meat than plaster of Paris.
Overall: Good pastry, and good flavour, but that meat texture… really dragged it down.
Addendum: The chicken pie was very good, and the pecan pie also. And we didn’t see any snakes.
Conclusion: Come for the pies, not the sausage rolls.
Sausage roll: 5/10