32 Main St, Lithgow, New South Wales
A few months ago, I took a winter weekend getaway driving trip with Mrs SB&R and Canine SB&R to the country town of Mudgee. Along the way, we stopped for a break and to stretch our legs at the intermediate town of Lithgow. Lithgow is a bit of a sleepy town and there wasn’t much open on this morning, but we located a cafe named Vanilla for a hot drink and a sweet treat. It also seemed to be operating as a florist.
Stepping inside is like stepping from a freezer into a nice warm living room with a roaring fire in the fireplace. It’s warm and cosy, and populated with a few locals enjoying a respite from the harsh weather of the former coal mining town. The cake selection in here looks pretty good. And they had vanilla slices!
Because of Canine SB&R, we were compelled to take a seat in the freezing outdoors, on the footpath outside the cafe, rather than in the nice warm interior. The vanilla slice was served on a smal plate, dusted with icing sugar.
It looks a little odd. The icing is very thick – much thicker than would normally be comfortable – and it has a weird greyish tinge to its yellowness, making it more a light ochre brown than vibrant yellow. The custard shows ageing and drying along the cut edges, evdence of having sat too long in the display and suffering the ravages of the dry mountain air. But it does have visible black flecks which I assume are vanilla seeds, so at least it has real vanilla in it (or so I hope). Given the very name of the cafe is Vanilla, one would hope they use actual vanilla in their baking.
I have to get past those dried custard edges, so plunge in with a big bite. And the custard isn’t bad. It does have a slight touch of gelatinousness to it, but not so much that it descends to rubberiness. Overall it has a good texture, and tastes really strongly of vanilla, so the seeds were not lying. It’s actually nice. The icing is soft and thankfully not too sweet. That thickness of really sugary icing would have been way too much, but this is sensibly balanced and a full bite through the layers had good flavour combination. The icing is a bit chewy, almost caramelly in texture – I feel like it probably has condensed milk in it. Different, but in a good way.
The let down is the pastry. It’s soft and soggy, betraying the fact that this slice must have been sitting there for some time. There’s just no crunch or flake left in it, and it adds only a pasta-like extra bite to the tooth. A shame, because it spoils what would have been a solid 7 score, perhaps even edging towards 8. But with this pastry, there’s no way it can rate that high.
Vanilla slice: 6/10