The Cliffhanger Cafe

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It’s easy, when rushing by on the motorway (M1) between Sydney and Wollongong, to bypass the less obvious spectacular lookout locations along the Bulli Tops escarpment. Such is the nature of motorway travel. But if you have the time, tucked away down the quiet road near the more prominent Panorama House, is Hopetoun Park. Hopetoun Park is a pretty recreational park that has a walking path passing through it leading to Sublime Point further north along the escarpment and down to the beachside suburb of Austinmer. It also has The Cliffhanger Cafe perched cliff side to take advantage of the expansive views of Wollongong’s northern beaches. I visit early on a Saturday morning during a winter cold snap, so virtually have the place to myself. It’s large and bright with floor to ceiling glass to take advantage of the views, and outdoor seating in warmer weather. When my Devonshire Tea arrives I do a double take at the huge portions of jam and cream – they are massive and disproportionate to the size of the scones. Don’t get me wrong, I commend the kitchen staff for this as far too many cafes don’t serve enough jam and cream. I do however feel guilty leaving so much jam and cream, and although the jam is average and low quality, the cream is thick and freshly whipped. The scones are fresh and have a lovely texture but won’t win any awards. Check with the café staff as the menu says that scones are only served until 11.30am even though they are listed on the extensive dessert blackboard menu.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A small selection of Twining tea bags. The tea bag is served alongside a small pot of hot water.

Price: $$

Overall: A visitor hotspot so expect it to be busy in good weather.

Location: M1, Bulli Tops NSW 2516 Ph: 02 4267 1096 www.thecliffhanger.com.au

Reviewed July, 2015

 

The Lookout Cambewarra Mountain

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To nab an outside table to properly experience the spectacular panoramic views over the Shoalhaven River and beyond is all about luck and timing. I’ve visited a couple of times and it really depends on the weather and the time of year, but either way expect groups of cyclists and camera wielding visitors – it’s that kind of place, a destination in itself. The Lookout Cambewarra Mountain is a 100 plus year old tea room perched on the Cambewarra Range. It’s strategically placed between Kangaroo Valley and the Princes Highway, so it’s easy to slip it in to an itinerary if road tripping between Berry and the Southern Highlands. If heading north or south along the Princes Highway, it’s a short diversion that’s definitely worth it for the views and the scones. The Devonshire Tea has been greatly improved with the latest change of ownership. The scones are fresh with a creamy and fluffy texture, and along with the view, a definite drawcard. The mixed berry jam tastes homemade with none of the syrupy sweetness that comes with commercial grade jams, but a bigger serving would be good considering the size of the scones. Ditto with the cream, which is thickly whipped.

Scones: 

Jam:

Cream: 

Tea: A vast variety of loose-leaf teas, it is a tea room after all, served in an adequate sized teapot

Price: $$

Overall: Smashing views but be prepared for crowds if you visit on weekends, especially if the weather is good.

Location: 1 Cambewarra Lookout Rd, Beaumont NSW 2540 Ph: 02 4465 1321

Reviewed July, 2015

Berry Jetz Cafe

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Visitors to beautiful Berry are spoilt for choice when it comes to cafes. It’s not quite, one on every corner, as competition is fierce with boutiques and homeware stores vying for space, but there’s definitely enough to have you tossing coins to help decide which one to try. Berry currently still endures the Princes Highway traffic, and will do until the bypass is completed. What happens after that is anyone’s guess, but perhaps many locals (not businesses) will be happy to have their town back. Until then, Berry’s popularity with day-trippers and passersby will remain strong. After a look at the interesting Berry Museum, which is housed in a former bank, it’s scones at Berry Jetz Cafe. A lively and inviting café, I opt to try both the plain and date scones, which incidentally are brought in from the Berry Bakery and not baked on the premises. My friend and I both agree that the plain scone is the pick of the two, simply because it has a better texture and tastes fresher. The date scone is sweet and dry and we both leave it. There’s very little jam considering the size of the scones but requesting more isn’t a problem. Although you may not want more as it’s very average, quality wise, and although the cream is fresh it’s prepared in a whipping siphon so is particularly light.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A standard variety of T2 loose-leaf teas served in a teapot. There are other teas available that aren’t on the menu, so ask if you want something slightly different.

Price: $$

Overall: A bright and conveniently located café with a friendly and welcoming vibe.

Location: 1/94 Queen St, Berry NSW 2535 Ph: 02 4464 3320

Reviewed July, 2015

La Rose Cafe

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Over the years I have kept an eye out for the likelihood of scones being served at La Rose Cafe in Myers Sydney City. The café looks over the beauty department on the ground floor and shares the Mezzanine level with women’s lingerie and sleepwear. Since it’s all about women, you would think that scones are available, but this is the first time I see them (it is the middle of winter). However, I don’t know why they have bothered, as these forlorn little buggers, individually wrapped in plastic, look very unappealing. And even more unappealing is the one small sachet of Kraft strawberry jam and the small squirt of super sweet can cream they are served with. The highlight of the overpriced endeavour is the pot of Tea Tonic tea, although the coffee cup and small teapot doesn’t do my coconut tea justice. When I visit there is a special – ‘scone and coffee for $7.50′ but I have to pay a bit extra to have the Tea Tonic tea.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A surprisingly extensive selection of Tea Tonic loose-leaf teas served in a small pot.

Price: $$

Overall: An ideal location if you need a quiet break from the women’s lingerie department but skip the scone special.

Location: Myer, Mezzanine Level, 436 George St, Sydney NSW 2000 Ph: 02 9238 9111 www.myer.com.au

Reviewed July, 2015

The Local Press

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It’s hard not to judge a book by its cover or a bottle of wine by its label, but we all do it. So when I first see the bland brick block that commandeers Orange Grove corner (the name of the public kiddies play area/park and the public school across the road) and houses The Local Press café, I’m inclined to walk right by. But with a splash of green signage on the brickwork and a buzzing sunny courtyard and cosy interior, this is definitely a locals secret and worth a stop. Scones are a Sunday Special and I am thinking a winter thing by what I saw on their Facebook page in June, so be sure to call up and check if you are making a special trip. Both the tea and the scones are served on separate breadboards in keeping up with the current trend. There are three homemade scones that are more rock cake than soft fluffy scone: think heavy and rustic rather than English tea party. The jam is more tart than sweet and the cream thickly whipped. I ask for a second serving of jam as there isn’t much in the small dish, and it isn’t a problem. Don’t be shy about asking for a hot water top up for your teapot – the teapots are small but the tealeaves strong.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A selection of T-Nomics loose-leaf teas served in a cast iron pot that holds far less than it weighs.

Price: $$

Overall: A buzzy and very local café.

Location: 19/331 Balmain Rd, Lilyfield NSW 2040 Ph: 02 9818 1255 www.thelocalpress.com.au

Reviewed July, 2015

Lemongrass Express

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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