142 Sailors Bay Rd, Northbridge, New South Wales
Just a day after making a special expedition to Newtown for Miss Lilly’s, I had an appointment for my first COVID vaccination in the suburb of Northbridge. Since it was at lunch time, I took the opportunity to stroll around the Northbridge shops after my 15-minute safety rest, and found the High Street Bakery.
This is a bog standard suburban high street bakery, with the usual array of freshly baked loaves, a selection of small cakes and tarts and other sweets, and a pie warmer counter full of pies and sausage rolls.
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Corner of Pacific Hwy and Masonite Rd, Heatherbrae NSW 2324
Note: This is a new review of a place visited in 2015 by my co-contributor.
I recently took a long overdue holiday trip – not overseas because of COVID, but rather a road trip up the coast north of Sydney. Driving north along the highway, there are various towns and rest stops along the way. One of them, about 170 km (or two hours driving) north of Sydney, is renowned for its pies and sausage rolls. Although I’ve passed this way a few times, I’ve never stopped here before: Heatherbrae’s Pies.
The place is right beside the highway, accessed by a roundabout intersection. It’s hard to miss, as there are multiple roadside billboards announcing its presence, starting from about 10 km away. We arrived in the middle of the lunch rush, about 12:30, and it was clear that this place is very popular. We had trouble finding a spot in the car park, and then there was a queue of about 25 people in front of us to order pies.
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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!
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219C Kissing Point Road, South Turramurra, New South Wales
It’s a warm late winter Sunday – the perfect opportunity to take Mrs and Canine Snot Block & Roll for a drive! Of course, I had to do some research to make sure there was a nice bakery awaiting at our destination. And for this trip I chose something that has been tantalising me for some time now. Whenever I do a Google search of Sydney for bakeries, popping up like a gleaming apparition with an astonishing 4.9 star average rating, is Golden Bakehouse at South Turramurra.
It’s a strange thing. Despite the amazing Google rating, photos of the bakery look distinctly bland and average. This looks like your run-of-the-mill suburban bakery, dishing out good hot bread and banh mi rolls, but distinctly average patisserie goods. Something seems rotten in the State of Denmark here…
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28 Baker Crescent, Baulkham Hills, NSW
During this time of coronavirus restrictions, I was only able to travel a bit by virtue of having to return a borrowed item that was essential to the lender’s business. Having dropped off the item in Baulkham Hills, I checked out the nearest cake shop: David’s Cakes. Or perhaps Davids Cakes, with no apostrophe.
This is a typical suburban cake shop in a small cluster of corner shops amidst a residential area. Online reviews were not the greatest, but I’ll give anything a chance.
Walking in, they had coronavirus distancing spots stuck on the floor.
The place was interestingly decorated and had a bit of character with a collection of antique motoring items on shelves around the walls. A little more interesting than your average cake shop. And the products looked pretty good. Various tarts, flans, and quiches in the first display.
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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.
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Avenida da Igreja 2, 1700-204, Lisbon, Portugal
On a combined business/vacation trip, I flew into Lisbon around lunchtime on my first ever trip to Portugal. Lisbon’s airport is very close to the city centre, and even closer to my hotel in the Entre Campos neighbourhood north of the city centre. So close that rather than take a taxi or the metro, I decided to walk from the airport to the hotel. The distance was not a problem, but the day was hot and sunny. Before we left, Mrs Snot Block & Roll had suggested that we could stop about half way and have a drink at a cafe. Checking on Google Maps, I had located a likely sounding cafe named Pau de Canela (“Cinnamon Stick” in Portuguese), with good reviews.
Portugal is famous for its traditional custard tarts, the pastéis de nata, but when we arrived at the cafe what caught my eye were some intriguing looking vanilla slices. They were labelled “mil folhas”, which is clearly the Portuguese equivalent of “mille feuille”, so that was a good start. Mrs SB&R ordered a coffee and grabbed a mil folhas for me. No sausage rolls in sight, alas, so it seems we still have a thing or two to teach the Portuguese about baking.
The slice has a traditional looking construction although it is quite flat and the custard is a thin single layer sandwiched between two very thick sheets of flaky pastry. The custard is a very dark yellow colour, darker than almost any other I’ve seen, and there’s not a lot of it. The pastry looks nice and flaky, and is topped with the traditional white icing with brown swirly pattern running across it diagonally. The slice is supplied on a plate with a knife and fork. Being in a foreign country, I’m a bit reluctant to commit a diplomatic faux pas by eating it wth my hands in front of a busy cafe crowd, so I rely on the cutlery.
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83 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest, New South Wales
I’ve reviewed two different vanilla slices from St Malo already, but when I went in recently they had yet another type in the display! The first two were very fancy and really good, and labelled as “pistachio mille feuille” and “vanilla mille feuille”, but this one was simply labelled as “vanilla slice”. It also looked much less fancy and more like the sort of snot block you get at a cheap roadside bakery, rather than something produced by an upmarket French patisserie. It had to be tried!
The first thing I notice is that it’s quite small. The second thing I notice is the price: a whopping $6. That’s the price I’d expect for something much fancier. Well, I know St Malo is a quality bakery, so hopefully it will live up to the outlay. I fork over my $6 and receive a plate with the slice and a knife – no fork. Not to worry, I plan on tackling it the traditional way, by hand.
Continue reading St Malo Bakery, Crows Nest: addendum 2 →
153 Katoomba St, Katoomba, New South Wales
Katoomba is a small town in the heart of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, and a perfect destination for a day trip. It’s on the edge of the Blue Mountains National Park, which is part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, and walking distance from some of the biggest tourist attractions in the park. As such, it has a host of shops, cafes, restaurants, and – strung in a sequence along the main street – three bakeries within the space of about 20 metres. They are on different positions along the poshness to down-to-earthness scale. Possibly the most down-to-earth is the Blue Mountains Buttery, which has some good old working-class vanilla slices where the others tend to go for fancier cakes and pastries.
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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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