2/119 Harbord Road, Freshwater
It’s the first day of spring! What better way to celebrate than by taking Canine Snot Block & Roll to a lovely dog park by the beach and following up with a trek to a new pie shop? My normal haunt on the northern beaches of Sydney is Fran and Sylvia’s Upper Crust at Collaroy, but today I searched Google Maps for something new not too far away. I spied Cherie’s Pies and Cakes, which is open until 14:30 on Sundays, so made for a perfect lunch stop after letting Canine Snot Block & Roll run around and chase tennis balls for a while. (That’s Canine Snot Block & Roll, front and centre in this photo:)
Cherie’s is on the moderately busy Harbord Road, and I was wondering where to find a parking spot as I approached, when lo! A small row of shops appeared, with 90° parking on the street right out front. There were a few spaces empty, so I grabbed one. The row consists of a generic take-away food and mixed grocery business, Cherie’s, a fruit shop, a butcher, a newsagent, a pharmacy, and a bottle shop nestled side by side in the one long building. There’s no seating inside Cherie’s, with just enough space for a counter and a drinks fridge, but there are four small tables on the footpath outside.
I’d expected pies and sausage rolls, but I was pleased to notice that the cake display also held a tray of vanilla slices!
Being hungry after racing around the park with Canine Snot Block & Roll, I grabbed a sausage roll and vanilla slice, plus a satay chicken pie from the interesting looking selection of hot goodies in the warmer built into the white tiled back wall. Byt the time I had my selection, the table I’d intended to sit at had been claimed by a man with a newspaper, so I grabbed another table a bit closer to the road.
Starting with the sausage roll, it looks decent but slightly on the thin side, rather than being generously stuffed. It has flaky golden pastry with a sprinkle of browned semolina or breadcrumbs or something similar on top, and with a nicely browned looking meat filling showing at ends. On appearances, this could go either way – it doesn’t look amazing, but certainly neither does it look unappetising in any way.
Taking a bite, the filling turns out to be nicely meaty, with textured hunks of what tastes like ground pork, well seasoned and tasty without being over salted. There’s none of the bland and off-putting paste-like texture that comes from additives like breadcrumbs. There are a few small flecks of green herbs and onions showing. The meat is soft and moist, and towards the end a bit of pepper kicks in to intensify the flavour profile a bit more. The pastry is fine without being exceptional, thin and flaky, well baked, no sogginess. There is absolutely nothing at all wrong with this. Although it doesn’t approach the transcendent heights of some sausage rolls, this is well textured, well cooked, and well flavoured. Definitely a roll to try again another time.
After the satay chicken pie (which was very spicy and delicious!), I move on to the vanilla slice. It is a three-pastry and two-custard layers construction, on the long and thin side of the vanilla slice aspect ratio register. The pastry layers are on the thinnish side but they look firm, crisp, and nicely flaky. The top is iced in plain white icing of moderately appropriate thickness, with a half hearted stroke of brown in a minimalist homage to the traditional brown “matchstick” pattern. It wobbles a bit as I pick up the aluminium plate to survey the best angle of attack. The icing looks sticky but is moderately firm and remains on the slice rather than transferring to the fingers like some icings do.
Picking it up is tricky and it turns out that unfortunately the pastry is not nearly as solid and crisp as it looks, with the slice flopping around like a fish on a line. The middle layers slide out sideways under the pressure of the first bite. It’s going to be very messy. The custard is very creamy and has a nice smoothness with just enough vanilla to avoid blandness. The icing is sugary sweet but also provides a bigger hit of vanilla, complementing the milder custard. The flavour combo works fine, but alas is let down by the soggy and limp pastry. With fresh crunchy pastry this could have scored two points higher, but I can only judge on what I taste. Flavour-wise, very good, but the pastry crunch just wasn’t there.
Sausage roll: 8/10
Vanilla slice: 6/10