The Vintage Tea Salon

DT@The Vintage Tea Salon-Bowral#

The Vintage Tea Salon is the bomb! What can I say? The quality of the scones to the tea served in silver teapots is exceptional. Located in one corner of Dirty Jane’s Emporium, a cavernous shed housing small unmanned shops selling anything from second-hand vintage clothes and furnishings, to brand new homewares, the tea salon is doing a roaring trade. It’s not just the quality of the food that has me hooked, but it’s the little touches like the vintage tea ware, including the milk jug and the sugar bowl, to the cosy nooks that you can crawl in to on chilly days. The menu is impressive too. As if the plain, lavender, date, and rose scones aren’t choice enough, there’s a coffee/walnut/white chocolate scone on the specials board the day I visit. Each order comes with two scones, but if you ask nicely, they’ll let you pay a dollar or two extra to have a couple of flavours. I try the rose scone, which comes with pretty rose-coloured cream that’s topped with a few tiny rose petals. The scone is crisp and light, and as if it needed to look any prettier, a rose bud is imbedded in the top. The rich berry jam is delectable, and couldn’t be any better. The lavender scone is much the same, light and crisp, and is served with mouth-watering thick lemon curd and thickly whipped fresh cream. It doesn’t matter whether you do your browsing through the shed before or after, just make sure to take a break at the tea salon.

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Tea: A superb range of loose-leaf teas by Highlands Tea Company (including their Specialty Tea range). My tea was served in a posh silver teapot.

Price: $$

Overall: A ‘must eat at’ establishment in the Southern Highlands.

Location: 391-397 Bong Bong St, Bowral NSW 2576 Ph: 02 4861 3231 dirtyjanes.com
Reviewed in July, 2016

The Courtyard Cafe

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I think I’ve managed to beat the crowds in Berrima. Visitors to this 1830s established village are still probably perusing the shops, poking around the Berrima Courthouse or lost in the hedge maze in the gardens of Harper’s Mansion. With my sightseeing done and dusted, and a few packets of loose-leaf tea stowed in my handbag, I’m an early bird at The Courtyard Cafe, there are still plenty of tables available both inside and out. It’s Saturday morning and the scones aren’t long out of the oven. Fresh, light and fluffy with a light dusting of icing sugar – what more can you ask for in a scone? It’s a shame that the jam is average and the cream super light and airy, but the scone carries these guys even though they aren’t up there in the quality stakes.

Scones:

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Tea: The usual variety of loose-leaf teas served in a small pot.

Price: $$

Overall: A homely cafe that seems popular with the locals.

Location: 116 Old Hume Hwy, Berrima NSW 2577 Ph: 02 4877 2729
 Reviewed in July, 2016

Farm Club Cafe and Farm Shop

DT@Farm Club Teahouse and Nursery-Werai#2

Farm Club Australia prides itself on authentic country hospitality and farm fresh produce. Maybe sharing a table and possibly my meal with the homestead’s resident Irish wolfhound comes under country hospitality. The Irish wolfhound is just one of the quirks of this relaxed eatery, and if you don’t want to share your meal, then a table inside is probably a better option than on the deck or the lawn. Raising a bunch of fancy farm animals for eating; think Angus beef, Toulouse geese, Wessex saddleback pigs – you get the picture, is a definite drawcard for foodies. If you’re up for a spot of shopping, one corner of the cafe is dedicated to a farm shop selling quality products, including the Highlands Tea that’s on the menu. There’s even an array of gardening tools to get you started if inspiration takes hold, plus specialty soaps and some rather attractive leather goods. There’s a choice of either a serving of one or two scones, which is a good idea, especially if you’ve already indulged in lunch. My DT looks better than it tastes. My scone errs on the dry side and is more bread like than scone. The jam is good enough but nothing more than your stock standard cafe variety, and considering we’re on a farm I am expecting something homemade. The spread is topped off with lightly whipped fresh cream. If you want to extend your stay, check in to the accommodation, which is available in the Cowboy Bunkhouse, Tarella Farmhouse, The Old Dairy Cottage, or in the Ashgrove House. Open Wednesday to Sunday.

Scones: "</p

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Tea: A good selection of Highlands Tea Company loose-leaf teas served in a good-sized pot.

Price: $$

Overall: Go for the wide open spaces and the ‘living on the land’ vibe.

Location: 1 Greenhills Rd, Werai NSW 2577 Ph: 02 4883 4664
Reviewed in July, 2016

Collaroy Bakehouse

DT@Collaroy Bakehouse
Not much more than a hole-in-the-wall bakery, Collaroy Bakehouse sells the staples; bread, pies, and cakes. Just off busy Pittwater Road and across from the beach, the bakery also serves coffee so the few seats at the window and the tables outside are often occupied. Passing by, I duck in on the off-chance that there are scones with the trimmings. There’s no menu to speak of but I find a tray of fruit and plain scones in the cake cabinet with a handwritten note attached offering jam and cream. My plain scone arrives already dressed and I have no complaints as it is a small and basic bakery after all, not a cafe or restaurant. The scone comes the British way – unheated. It tastes fresh and is robust rather than light and fluffy, but definitely has a scone texture as opposed to a cake or bread roll. The strawberry jam is average, and although it’s sweet, there’s not a lot of it to be offensive. As it’s a chilly day the light and airy cream keeps it’s form, so once again doesn’t spoil a relatively good scone.

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Tea: A basic range of tea bags served as small, medium or large. My ‘small’ tea came in a small coffee cup.

Price: $

Overall: Cheap and cheerful.

Location: 1119D Pittwater Rd, Collaroy NSW 2097 Ph: 02 9981 7848
Reviewed in July, 2016

The Clay Pot Cafe

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It’s not often that you get a sconewich style Devonshire Tea. At The Clay Pot Cafe in Blaxland, at the foot of the Blue Mountains, you can get exactly that. Boasting six flavours of scones the day I visit, my scones arrive warm and already dressed with jam and cream. It’s a difficult decision when faced with the choice of pumpkin, apple and cinnamon, vanilla, date, orange and poppyseed, and fruit varieties. I narrow it down to two flavours as these babies are pricey at $6.50 a pop and are on the small size, considering the price. Getting out of my comfort zone, I opt for an apple/cinnamon and orange/poppyseed. The scones are indeed flavoursome and moist, and the blackcurrant jam tasty and better than average. They also certainly look impressive, but putting good looks aside, I find this particular sconewich impractical. I prefer my cream to stay thickly whipped until it dissolves in my belly. Put cream between two halves of a warm scone, and it has no chance of staying firm – mine melts before my eyes. At least the cream is freshly whipped, but not for long!

Scones: 

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Tea: A selection of tea bags served in a pot.

Price: $$$

Overall: A huge variety of scones but at higher than average prices.

Location: 134 Great Western Hwy, Blaxland NSW 2774 Ph: 0487 469 066
Reviewed in June 2016

Old Sofala Gaol Cafe

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Established during the 1850s gold rush, Sofala is touted as the oldest surviving gold town in Australia. More sleepy village than bustling business centre these days, Sofala is a pretty village that still attracts the odd fossicker to try their luck in the Turon River. Crammed with unique historic buildings, Sofalas’ standout properties include the Royal Hotel and the Old Sofala Gaol, that is more museum, shop and cafe than eerie gaol. The Old Sofala Gaol Cafe is cosy and warm on this winter’s day. Rather than stay stationary waiting for the Devonshire Tea to arrive, potter around the museum that houses a large collection of memorabilia from many locations as well as from Sofala’s early days. There’s also a room full of collectibles to rummage through. The original police residence has been transformed into a Bed & Breakfast, and offers four rooms and for groups, the old Joe Yates cottage across the road is available. The menu lists plain and date scones, so naturally I try one of each. The presentation on a breadboard with a garnish of strawberries is impressive, however the scones are tough, probably from being over heated. The jam is forgettable but forgivable due the lashings of slightly sweet whipped ‘real’ cream. Open Friday to Monday.

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Tea: A small range of loose-leaf teas from Fish River Roasters is served in a pot.

Price: $$

Overall: An historic landmark in a former gold rush village.

Location: Barkly St, Sofala NSW 2795 Ph: 02 6337 7064
Reviewed in June 2016

Aqua Bar & Dining

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With images of poker machines, sticky carpets and bain-marie lunches and dinners in mind, I head to the Dee Why RSL Club on Sydney’s northern beaches. You can imagine my surprise when I step through huge sliding doors to find a schmick if not cavernous club with not a bain-marie in sight. After a makeover a few years ago, Dee Why RSL is all floor to ceiling glass, water features and big open spaces and contemporary design and neutral tones. Although the club offers a plethora of drinking and dining choices, destination is Aqua Bar & Dining, the club’s all-day dining option. The cake cabinet is piled high with plain and date scones, and although there are two per serve – by chef’s orders, I must stick to only one option. This is a tad annoying, as I really don’t see the issue with not being able to have one of each. After much deliberation, I go with the date scones, which are fresh and moist. The lousy two tiny sachets of Kraft strawberry jam aren’t sufficient and the cream, although there’s plenty of it, is light and airy.

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Tea: A basic range of Aurora tea bags

Price: $$

Overall: Bright, cheery and schmick.

Location: Dee Why RSL, 932 Pittwater Rd, Dee Why NSW 2099 Ph: 02 9454 4000
Reviewed in June 2016