Lemongrass Express

DT@Lemongrass Express Cafe - Kingsgrove#2

Unless you live in the area and are working on your garden, Plants Plus in Kingsgrove isn’t like many of the other nurseries around Sydney, namely those around Dural and Terry Hills that feel like a special destination. There’s a big indoor dining area and a sunny deck to suit all weather conditions. I visit on a sunny Saturday and the place is quiet with only a handful of diners in Lemongrass Express Cafe. I phone ahead before I make the schlep out there to see whether they serve scones. Although I have the thumbs up, it isn’t what I expect with a scone, tea or coffee sold as a $5.50 special. One small scone arrives already dressed with jam and cream. Where’s the fun in that? However, surprisingly the scone tastes good, home-baked rather than preserved and packaged, but the average jam and super light cream from an aerosol can doesn’t make an impression.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A small selection of Twining and Lipton tea bags served in a small teapot.

Price: $

Overall: A quiet café in a tired nursery.

Location: Plants Plus Kingsgrove, 58 Moorefields Rd, Kingsgrove NSW 2208 Ph: 02 9554 5811

Reviewed June, 2015

Cafe Botanica

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To me, Cafe Botanica looks stark rather than warm and inviting. The scones sitting in the glass cake container on the counter aren’t particularly appealing, but I am determined to give this café a shot. It’s my second attempt at a Devonshire Tea here and I’m not being turned away this time – still an hour from closing time. The café must get large groups, as all tables are big enough for at least six diners, including the picnic bench-like tables in the annex. Sit at the large picture windows that look beyond the bitumen car park to lush gardens and Swane’s Nursery. With a light sifting of icing sugar on the top, the scones have been transformed to light and fluffy pillows of loveliness. The strawberry jam is average but is good enough, and the cream is way too light for my taste but at least it’s fresh.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A selection of Twining tea bags served in a standard sized teapot or a few choices of loose-leaf tea in a plunger pot.

Price: $$

Overall: The café is more comfortable than its looks.

Location: Swane’s Nursery, 490 Galston Rd, Dural NSW 2158 Ph: 02 9653 9051

Reviewed June, 2015

The Schoolmaster’s House

DT@Old Schoolmaster's House-Ebenezer

Driving through the ‘Macquarie Towns’ of the Hawkesbury River region is a history lesson of the early colonial years. Settled in the early 1800s by free settlers, there’s not a lot left that points to the early settlement apart from a few buildings in the Australia Pioneer Village in Wilberforce. Rose Cottage, the oldest timber slab cottage in Australia, is still standing on its original site and is surrounded by the original houses relocated from other towns. Head further along the river to find the fascinating Ebenezer Church, cemetery and schoolhouse, and what’s left of an ancient gum tree, which was the former place of worship for the locals before the church was built. The Church was built in 1803 and is the oldest operating church in Australia. It’s tiny, and the British and Australian flags behind the altar remind me where we, as a nation, began. The adjacent schoolmaster’s residence (circa 1810) was built for very small people who weren’t afraid of steep ladder-like stairs and has some interesting tidbits such as furniture, photos and records of the early settlers. This is also where you order a very simple but delicious Devonshire Tea that’s taken at one of the outdoor tables in the paved garden. The scones are made just like nanna’s, using a simple but tried and tested recipe producing light and fluffy scones. The cream is whipped thick and the jam is nothing flash but definitely not the sickly sweet synthetic kind. Wander the pretty grounds down to the shoreline of the Hawkesbury River and stroll through the cemetery that dates back to 1812.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A standard black tea (tea bag) served in a small pot. Ask, and the volunteer will pull out a box containing a variety of tea bags, that by the sounds of things, rarely gets pulled out. My green tea is served in a small cup.

Price: $

Overall: A step back to yesteryear.

Location: Ebenezer Church, 95 Coromandel Rd, Ebenezer NSW 2756 Ph: 02 4579 9235 www.ebenezerchurch.org

Reviewed June, 2015

The Boastshed Cafe and Bar

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Run, walk or cycle the 8km collection of steel boardwalks, gravel and cement paths, and footpaths that circumnavigates Narrabeen lagoon. In warm weather hit the water on a stand up paddleboard, kayak, windsurfer, paddle boat or join fisherman anchored in the deeper tidal channel. My cycle around the lake, which incidentally starts and finishes at Dee Why beach, coincides with Narrabeen Market Day and adds another interesting element to my visit. On the weekend this track is a well-worn path for families cruising around so it’s more of an amble than a fitness session. But don’t let the lack of calorie burning dissuade you from stopping at The Boatshed Cafe and Bar for a pot of tea and scones. Whether you’re cosy and warm upstairs gazing at the expansive views over the water, or in the outdoor seating area alongside the path, the location is impressive. The scones are homemade and although not mind-blowing, are tasty and fresh. What lets it down is the super-duper melt-before-reaching-the-scone cream, which we’re not sure, is from a can or from a lousy cream siphon, and the one teeny tiny jar of Beerenberg jam. I ask for more jam and am given one even tinier three-quarter filled Heinz sachet. Tight fisted or non-scone eaters? Either way, I wouldn’t order it again.

Scones: 

Jam:  to 

Cream: 

Tea: A selection of Temple Tea Co pyramid tea bags served in a pot that surprisingly is bigger than it looks.

Price: $$

Overall: Location, location, location.

Location: 11 Narrabeen St, Narrabeen NSW 2101 Ph: 02 9913 8938 www.theboatshedcafe.com.au

Reviewed June, 2015

The Boathouse Shelly Beach

DT@The Boathouse Shelly Beach#

After the fine dining restaurant Le Kiosk closed in 2014, it took another year until the former stone tearoom to finally open its doors. Opening earlier this month, The Boathouse Shelly Beach is the latest offering in the Boathouse portfolio. Beginning with The Boathouse Palm Beach and another at Balmoral Beach, this property takes a three-in-one approach, featuring a kiosk, café and restaurant that’s open in the evening. Built in 1923, the tearoom not only provided refreshments for visitors to Shelly Beach, but also in the 1920s doubled as a dance hall. So it’s only fitting that a former tearoom should serve scones, and by the looks of how quickly the scones are selling, the popular traditional British pastime lives on at Shelly Beach. The presentation is impressive. The tea arrives first with a small separate jar housing the tea leaves that are to be deposited into the teapot. Sweet. The scones are served on a breadboard and little glass jars are used for the jam and cream. Considering the size of the scones, there definitely needs to be more jam, which disappointingly is very ordinary. The cream is fresh and whipped, but could be thicker. The winners are the buttermilk scones: buttery and crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside – delicious! Points also go to the fresh strawberries, a nice touch. Make sure you get a table that looks across the beach towards Queenscliff, even on a rainy winters day the view is simply sensational. This is the only Devonshire Tea I have managed to find in Manly, proving that this hip beachside community is not too cool for scones after all.

Scones:

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: The standard variety of loose-leaf teas served in a cast iron kettle (Tetsubin in Japanese). It looks good but doesn’t hold much tea.

Price: $$$

Overall: Superb ocean views and buzzing atmosphere make this a winner.

Location: 1 Marine Pde, Manly NSW 2095 Ph: 02 9934 9977 www.theboathousesb.com.au

Reviewed June, 2015

Steakhouse Coffee

DT@Sreakhouse Coffee-Bathurst

I have pretty much tried every scone or Devonshire Tea possibility in Bathurst. I continue to check cafes hoping for a discovery that I can add to my ‘Top Pick’ list – but not today. Although Steakhouse Coffee, formerly Village Meats Bathurst Cafe, has been around for a while, it’s the first time I see the scones in the cake cabinet. The whole experience is all a bit of a mess. It starts when I pay and ask for a receipt but am left standing in front of the counter looking like a fool having to ask again. When my scone arrives it comes solo and is cold and rock hard, and I can only imagine how old it is. I have to flag down the waitress, who is friendly but clearly preoccupied today, to ask where my jam and cream is. It promptly arrives and I am surprised that the jam is tart and tastes more homemade than mass-produced and is better than average. The cream on the other hand is very light and airy, but nothing can resuscitate a truly lousy scone. My partner emerges from Coles (he refuses to join me), shakes his head and says, “I told you so!”

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A limited selection of loose-leaf teas served in a plunger teapot.

Price: $$

Overall: Conveniently positioned across from the Coles supermarket.

Location: 39-47 William St, Bathurst NSW 2795 Ph: 02 6334 6200

Reviewed June, 2015

Cafe Bella Dee

DT@Cafe Bella Dee#

There’s no doubt about it, flowerpot scones are definitely a quirky way to have scones baked and delivered. At Cafe Bella Dee the potted scones are so popular that they take prime position on their menu. No ‘blackboard special’ or ‘every other day when the chef feels like it’ for these babies. Tucked away in the quiet streets of San Souci, and in walking distance of the pedestrian/cycle path that skirts Port Botany and the mouth of the Georges River, Cafe Bella Dee is a local secret spot ensconced in suburbia. Baked in a terracotta pot that I assume is not your usual garden variety, the scone has a consistency of a dense cake crossed with a scone. On the top, the scone is crispy but down towards the bottom of the pot it becomes soggy. The vanilla infused whipped cream tastes like Chantilly cream and is thick enough but the strawberry jam is average. Considering the size and density of the scone, there are definitely not enough of both. The spread is delivered on a breadboard with a newspaper-type place mat, which is cute and adds to the novelty.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A selection of T2 silk tea bag teas served in a good-sized teapot.

Price: $$

Overall: A lively suburban café well away from hectic Rocky Point Road.

Location: 36 Tuffy Ave, Sans Souci NSW 2219 Ph: 02 9583 9016

Reviewed June, 2015