85A Bay Road, Waverton, NSW
The Grumpy Baker is a small chain of artisan bakeries with a handful of locations scattered across Sydney. They specialise in a range of sourdough breads, but also have a small selection of sweets and savoury pastries. On recent expeditions in the car with my dog to our favourite dog park, we’ve driven past the Waverton shop each time, and for some time I thought I must try it. Then one day after the dog had had enough exercise we walked up the hill to check it out, buying a loaf of delicious bread and a couple of sweet slices for dessert that evening. I also noted a pie oven on the counter, with several delicious looking labels, but no pies as it was close to closing time. I vowed to return one day in good time to sample the hot savouries.
The Waverton shop is within a long walk of home, so one day while at home alone I took to the streets to get some exercise, climbing up and down the numerous hills of the North Sydney area. The exercise was well needed, because the end goal was The Grumpy Baker and an appointment with that pie oven for lunch. I planned to get a sausage roll and a pie, but when I arrived and saw the size of the pies and rolls, I quickly recalibrated and settled for just one sausage roll. The label said it was a “sausage roll with caramelised onions and dates”. And it looked huge. Plenty for a meal all by itself. I took the roll on the sky blue china plate and sought a seat at a table out the front, next to a large group of retiree-aged cyclists, who had stopped for a coffee break. As I sat down, one of the staff came out and chided the cyclists for rearranging the outdoor tables, pointing out a line on the footpath beyond which the cafe was not legally authorised to place furniture. The cyclists pushed the extra table in a bit, but the staff lady insisted they pull it completely inside the legal boundary.
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2/166 Princes Hwy, Ulladulla, NSW
Away for a long weekend at Lake Conjola on New South Wales’ south coast, I checked out the top eating joints in the area. The number one ranked eatery in the nearest large town of Ulladulla was Hayden’s Pies. And before we left, a work colleague of my wife informed her that while we were down there, we had to try Hayden’s Pies. So naturally we did.
The main strip of Ulladulla is situated running up and over a steep hill from sea level at Ulladulla Harbour. Hayden’s Pies is situated on the site of a large hardware store just over the crest of the hill from the centre of town, the the Princes Highway – or the Princes Pieway as indicated on the sign.
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57 Hampden Road, Battery Point, Tasmania
When Mrs SB&R and I were planning our trip to Tasmania, one of her work colleagues gave her a list of place to visit in Hobart. Jackman & McRoss was high on the list, recommended for its bakery products, coffee, and its signature scallop pie – a culinary item peculiar to Tasmania, which is well known for its scallop fisheries. Walking up the hill from Salamanca Place, we discovered the bakery nestled in the historic Battery Point area, which is mostly residential, with only a few shops clustered around one intersection. One of these shops is Jackman & McRoss, and it seems to draw a big crowd as the only eating establishment in the immediate area. Painted underneath the name on the outside of the Federation era building is the slogan “Bakers of fine breads, cakes & pastries”. It’s a shame the word “purveyors” isn’t in there somewhere.
Inside, the small area in front of the display counters is packed with customers queueing to order coffee or get a croissant or other pastry to take away. The counters are stuffed to the gills with amazing looking cakes and Viennoiserie. And to the right side is an opening beyond which several roms of what obviously used to be a house have been converted into places with cafe tables. We are fortunate to grab a free table at an inside room, and sneakily move over to a window table later on. On the menu are not one, not two, but three different sausage rolls: pork and apple; duck, cranberry, and walnut; and Thai spiced chicken! Also in the display counter is something I’ve never seen before, labelled with a little sign, describing it as: “vanilla slice with crème patisserie, fresh strawberries, & brisee pastry”. All right! Let’s try the highly unusual duck sausage roll, with the vanilla slice for afters.
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11 Murray Street, Hobart, Tasmania
On holiday in Hobart over the Christmas break, I took the opportunity to try some of the local offerings. Walking down to the waterfront near Constitution Dock (where the Sydney to Hobart yachts come in at this time of year), you pass Daci & Daci Bakers, a quality looking French style bakery in a beautifully renovated old sandstone building that is no doubt historical, as are many of the buildings in this part of the old Van Dieman’s Land colony. The interior is smartly presented with brass, wrought iron, and dark wood panelling, and the place is bustling with activity as people pour in through the doors to either sit at the cafe tables or snatch a take-away pastry or two and a baguette for later.
In a suitable nod to its Australian location, they have a silver tray of sausage rolls on display amidst the croissants, galettes, and tarts. The pile of generously stuffed looking rolls bears a label declaring them to be “Moroccan lamb sausage rolls”, and bearing the hefty price tag of $10 if you take one away in a brown paper bag, or $14 if you sit at a cafe table and eat inside.
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112 Longueville Rd, Lane Cove, New South Wales
Pottery Green is a cosy and dark nook with rustic farmhouse wooden beams and walls, nestled in the otherwise somewhat run-down main strip of Lane Cove. The interior is cosy and warm in the winter chill, but there are also tables out on the footpath for brave souls or those who want to catch some sun. Amidst a tempting selection of cakes and pastries, they have a hot savoury selection boasting two types of sausage rolls: “plain beef” and “pork and veal”, for $4 and $5 respectively. For my first taste I plump for the pork and veal, and accompany it with the traditional vanilla slice.
Braving the chill winter air on an outside table, the goodies arrive on two china plates. The pork and veal sausage roll looks great, with a rich golden brown pastry casing, bursting at the ends with generously stuffed, caramelised meaty filling. On a first bite, the meat filling is deliciously moist, with meat juices seeping through the lower pastry layer. The meat seems to have shrunk a bit during baking as it has come free of the pastry tube and slides around freely inside, which makes things a little tricky on the structural integrity front.
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1 Market Place, Berrima, New South Wales
Berrima is a lovely old town, bypassed by the busy Hume Highway some years ago, allowing it to fall back into a dreamy country town state. But it is within day tripping distance of Sydney, so the rustic village has been taken over by antique shops, handicrafts, art galleries, and gourmet food outlets, run by the friendly locals.
On the fine day when we visited the town, there was a vintage car club holding some sort of gathering, so the streets were lined with old cars – some really very old indeed – and all kept in good nick. After wandering the main street for a bit, and getting some lunch in Stone’s Patisserie (also reviewed), we stumbled across Two Skinny Cooks.
This advertises itself as a “larder door”, and mostly does a trade in prepared meals to take home and reheat, and meal ingredients such as sauces and pre-marinaded meats to be cooked at home, plus various jams, chutneys, mustards, and so on. The titular two skinny cooks prepare it in a kitchen out the bac and package the goodies for people to take with them. But besides this, they also make pies and sausage rolls – both for carrying home frozen, but also a selection hot for immediate consumption.
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Grand Arcade, 7 Bong Bong St, Bowral, New South Wales
On a leisurely weekend drive through New South Wales’ Southern Highlands region, we stopped for lunch in Bowral, the town where Don Bradman grew up, and famous for the Bradman Oval and Bradman Museum. But in recent years, Bowral has become notable for a different, and culinarily oriented reason.
It is the home of the Gumnut Patisserie, established in 1995, and quick to win an impressive list of honours. It won the Baking Association of Australia award for best patisserie in New South Wales in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2012, and 2013. And as the comma at the end of the list on their window shows, they seem determined to win it again in the future. Not only this, but in 2015 they won the grand prize at the Sydney Royal Easter Agricultural Show for Best Vanilla Slice. Clearly this is a place we cannot ignore.
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Borough Market, Southwark, London, United Kingdom
While searching for a small sweet treat to round off a lunch of two sausage rolls, plus a beef and stilton pie which I found at another stall in London’s Borough Market, I happened across the stall belonging to Ginger Pig. This was a butcher, selling all manner of cuts of pork and pork products such as sausages, black puddings, and pork pies. But besides this meat designed to take home and cook or eat later, they also had sitting on the counter a tray containing a glowing golden treasure: four large, plump, delicious looking sausage rolls.
Drawn inevitably to this promise of culinary wonder, I saw that they had a warming oven behind the counter, and several enormous sausage rolls therein. A sign proclaimed that they came in two varieties: pork, and pork and stilton! Unfortunately, I was almost full already, and was thrown into a horrible quandary: to sample one of these delectable looking rolls, or to skip them and seek a thin slice of cake or tart. Because these rolls were not merely plump, they were truly fat. Big and chunky. Compared to the previous rolls from Northfield Farm and Boston Sausage, which cost £1.50 and £1 respectively, these cost £4 each – but they looked worth it, they were so big.
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Borough Market, Southwark, London, United Kingdom
After the slightly disappointing sausage roll from Northfield Farm’s stall in London’s Borough Market, I continued wandering around, looking for more interesting things to sample. In a far corner of the market, right next to Southwark Cathedral, is a row of hot food stalls, preparing lunch treats for passersby. Amongst the grilled cheese sandwiches, kebabs, and enormous dishes of paella, was a place named Boston Sausage. They did a line in sausages on bread rolls, and burgers. But also on the menu, under the heading “Appetisers”, was the golden item: sausage rolls. And only £1 each, so I assumed they must be fairly small.
I went over and asked for one, but the guy told me that they were just putting a batch into the oven, and they’d take about 15 minutes. I said I’d return and went for a bit more of a wander through the bustling market. After about 15 minutes I returned, to the loud spruiking voice of one of the staff proclaiming, “Hot sausage rolls! Come and get ’em! Best sausage rolls in the universe! Better than my mum makes!” There was a metal tray piled with the rolls hot out of the oven, and they were going quickly as people were attracted to the yelling and the delicious smells of the stall.
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126 Pacific Highway, Roseville, New South Wales
One of my favourite places for a nice dinner out is El Karim, a long-established, slightly fancy Lebanese restaurant on the highway in Roseville. I’d planned a dinner out with Mrs Snot Block & Roll and booked a table for two, little suspecting the surprise that was to come. The menu had been redone since our last visit, and now listed amongst the various small mezze plates – such as falafels, fried haloumi, lamb kofta, and the delicious honey and zaatar calamari – was “El Karim sausage rolls”. You know what had to be done.
The dish cost $16, and appeared at the end of the meal, as the custom here is to bring dishes out separated in time so everyone can share a few things at a time. The plate contained four rolls, which would do a good job of sharing between four people if you’d ordered a bunch of other things to sample the menu. Each one was maybe half the size of a regular bog-standard sausage roll.
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