Cafe 21

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Situated at the end of Smith Street Mall closest to the Waterfront Precinct, Cafe 21 is the only cafe I could find in the CBD that serves scones. It’s busy at lunchtime, and in the summer the air-conditioned seating fills up quickly. There is plenty of seating in the mall but directly across from the cafe is a construction site, and during the week it is very noisy. I have a moment of de ja vu when I see the scones. The plain and spicy baked apple look exactly like the ones at the cafe at the museum, including the labels and also the loose-leaf tea lined up in front of the cash register. Perhaps it’s the same owner? However, the difference is in the quality. The plain scone isn’t great – average. The jam is an ordinary strawberry variety and the cream, although fresh is way too light. I’m scratching my head trying to work out why the scones don’t taste fresh because when I dropped by the day before they had run out by 3.30pm, so they can’t be from the previous day. Maybe I just got them on a bad day.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A selection of Lipton’s teabags or for a few dollars extra you can choose from a small choice of specialty loose-leaf teas.

Price: $$

Overall: Friendly staff and convenient right in the city centre.

Location: 28 Smith St, Darwin NT 0800 Ph: 08 8942 3111 www.cafe21.com.au

Reviewed February, 2015

 

 

Cornucopia Museum Cafe

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I make a stop at the Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory to check out the 750kg stuffed crocodile called ‘Sweetheart.’ At the same time I find a gallery filled with beautiful Aboriginal art pieces and a fascinating exhibition on Cyclone Tracy. The Cornucopia Museum Café is next to the gallery and has a lovely outlook over lush lawns and the sea. It’s very relaxing and large enough to cater for bigger groups. If the heat is getting to you, there’s always seating available in the air-conditioned section. With two choices of scones, I opt for the spicy baked fruit rather than the plain, although both look delicious. The spicy fruit scone reminds me of Christmas, tasting like a moist plum pudding. It’s so rich and filling that you definitely only need one. The raspberry jam is super rich, and for the size of the scone, I really needed at least three times the amount more. The cream is freshly whipped but firm from being in the fridge and the mint garnish is a nice touch.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A selection of Lipton’s teabags or for a few dollars extra you can choose from a small choice of specialty loose-leaf teas.

Price: $$

Overall: A lovely café overlooking the Timor Sea.

Location: Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Bullocky Pt, Conacher St, Fannie Bay NT
0820 Ph: 08 8941 9009 www.cornucopiacafe.com.au

Reviewed February, 2015

Eva’s Cafe

DT@Eva's Cafe-Darwin Botanic Gardens#2

The George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens in Darwin is probably not much more than a five-minute drive from the city centre. I can’t say as I arrive by bike and it’s taken about 15 minutes of pedal power on a rusted old bike with squeaky brakes. First established in 1886, the gardens were almost wiped out by Cyclone Tracy in 1974 and were re-established.  A network of paths crisscross the Gardens, which showcase a collection of Northern Australian monsoon flora such as mangroves, wet forests, native and introduced tropical plants. Even if you aren’t into flora, it’s a beautiful place for a stroll. Close to one of the main entrances is the former Wesleyan Methodist church that was moved from the city centre and reconstructed at the Gardens. It’s now known as Eva’s Cafe and with plenty of seating both inside, out on the lawn and out the back on the covered deck, it’s no doubt a popular spot. My scone arrives on an enamel camping plate and my jam in a disposable balsa wood dish. It’s certainly unique, and makes for a stand out presentation. The scone is definitely homemade and not commercially baked. It’s fresh and slightly crispy on the outside and goes perfectly with the rich raspberry jam. The cream is fresh but so light that it doesn’t have a chance of remaining intact for more than a few minutes due to the humidity. Don’t get caught out by the short opening hours: 8am – 2pm Monday to Friday and 7am to 3pm on weekends.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A small variety of SereniTEA pyramid tea bags served in an adequate size pot.

Price: $$

Overall: Every Botanic Gardens should have a café like this.

Location: George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens, Gardens Rd, The Gardens NT 0820 Ph: 0434 544 210 
www.botanicgardenscafe.com.au

Reviewed February, 2015

Dome Cafe

 


DT@Dome Darwin Airport#

Darwin International Airport is compact and currently going through some minor renovations and additions. As in all small airports the dining pickings are slim, but Darwin has a Dome franchise that takes up quite a bit of the floor space with their cushy lounge chairs and booths looking out over the runway. Following the Dome franchise formular makes this a popular watering hole, whether to catch up on some work, recharge phones (I spy a few sneaky suspects) and fill up before their next destination. Like any business at any airport worldwide, you’re paying for the real estate and the fact that you’ve got no where else to go, so I find the cost of my Devonshire Tea quite high in comparison to the quality. Actually apart from the tea, the scones, jam and cream are rather tasteless and synthetic. The scones taste bread-like and are lightly toasted, a surefire way to mask freshness. The berry jam is full of fruit but doesn’t taste any better from the lower quality stock standard commercial variety. The cream is a similar consistency and quality as the supermarket canned cream but is slightly better, but still a cheap light version of quality whipped cream. Dome Cafe franchises are huge in WA, Tasmania and internationally in Bahrain, UAE, Malaysia, The Philippines, Maldives and Singapore.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: Enough choice of loose-leaf teas to suit most tastes served in a good-sized pot.

Price: $$$

Overall: A comfy place to hang out if you have a long wait for a flight.

Location: Darwin International Airport, 1 Henry Wrigley Dr, Marrara NT 0820 Ph: 08 8928 1244
www.domecoffees.com.au

Reviewed February, 2015

 

Flora Bean Gallery Cafe

DT@Flora Bean Gallery Cafe#

Talk about secret Sydney! This little vegetarian café living in the shadow of a flourishing florist is sensational. My visit coincides with a florist’s busiest time of the year, Valentines Day, and you can’t get through the door for red roses. Next door in the café, all is relaxed and I am tempted to try everything on the menu. I refocus to why I am here, the lavender scones, and going by their Facebook page they are supposed to be pretty amazing. Both the tea and the scones arrive on their separate timber serving boards, with a chocolate heart and a sprig of lavender sprucing up an already impressive and contemporary presentation. The scones are unusual, I even ask whether they have used a different flour, but I am told it’s the lavender that creates this taste and texture. Fresh and slightly crumbly, my friend says that they remind her of a ‘scoffin’ – part scone, part muffin. I call them modern. There is more than enough of the freshly whipped cream, but unfortunately far from enough of the exquisite homemade plum and clove jam.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A decent choice of interesting blends of loose-leaf teas served in a good-sized pot.

Price: $$

Overall: A ‘must do’ scone stop if you are in the area or not, as it’s well worth the trip.

Location: 359 Rocky Point Rd, Sans Souci NSW 2219 Ph: 02 9529 4448

Reviewed February, 2015

The Laughing Goat Cafe

DT@The Laughing Goat Cafe-Kogarah

Don’t be surprised if you see a goat wearing a shimmering gold coat (or something else) tied up out the front of The Laughing Goat Cafe. Undoubtedly it is the café’s mascot, but I leave my goat introductions until after my scones, and by then the goat is gone, so I am none the wiser. Having a goat around, or even eating at a cafe named after a goat, has to be lucky – it is the Year of the Goat after all, so my timing is impeccable. The Laughing Goat Cafe shares the same roof as Southern Antiques, taking over the space from Beties Cafe that did a pretty good Devonshire Tea. I’m glad they’ve kept the same lovely tea cups and saucers, that’s a plus, but the scones don’t cut the grade. My friend and I both agree they are quite bland and gluey, needless to say my friend has decided not to share. I know it’s all about presentation when it comes to food, but seriously? The cream? It’s straight out of a can, and when I see the waitress grab it off the counter I visually slump in disappointment, and it doesn’t work sprayed on to the plate like that. The jam doesn’t score much better, coming in below average. It looks like a popular hang out, so maybe the rest of the menu is superb!

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: Along with a few standard loose-leaf teas there are a further seven imaginative organic blends.

Price: $$

Overall: Perfectly located for a combined dining and shopping outing.

Location: 243 Princes Hwy, Kogarah NSW 2217 Ph: 02 8021 0550
www.thelaughinggoatcafe.com

Reviewed February, 2015

Burnett House

DT@Burnett House-Darwin#2

Just a word of advice. If you are visiting Darwin during the wet season or the hot summer months, arriving for afternoon tea after walking three kilometres may have you arriving dishevelled and more than a bit hot and bothered, or like myself, lathered in sweat. Burnett House near Cullen’s Bay is a pleasant stroll and not particularly far (at least not for me) but there is a reason a mid afternoon siesta is popular in the tropics. Designed by architect Beni Burnett, Burnett House was built in 1939 and has withstood the 64 Japanese attacks in 1942/43 and Cyclone Tracy in 1974 to become one of the few remaining original colonial houses in Darwin. Administered by the National Trust, Burnett House and its splendid garden is lovingly tended to by a mountain of volunteers who come out in full force on Sunday afternoons armed with sweet delights. When I arrive, I am directed to a shady spot in the garden, which are few and far between. Simply because it’s a popular place! The scones aren’t warm, but served cooler than room temperature (remember it’s 32 degrees with 90 per cent humidity), so aren’t presented at their best. The strawberry jam is ordinary but good enough and the cream thick and cool from the fridge. You have to down these babies fast if you want don’t want the cream to resemble milk. It’s all rather civilised and I feel a tad like I am in a far away colonial outpost where I’ll be sipping a G&T in a few hours. Burnett House is open daily from 10am until 1pm for a visit, and for afternoon tea on Sundays from 3pm until 5pm.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A choice of five types of Twinnings tea (tea bags) served in a good-sized pot.

Price: $$

Overall: A simple afternoon tea, Colonial style including the steamy tropical heat as a backdrop.

Location: Myilly Point Heritage Precinct, 4 Burnett Pl, Larrakeyah NT 0820 Ph: 08 8981 0165
www.nationaltrustnt.com.au

Reviewed February, 2015

Expresso Head

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I stick my head into the tiny space that is Expresso Heads in downtown Dee Why (that’s the commercial hub not the surf side one) to ask whether they have any scones. Not expecting a positive reply, the waitress says that they have sold out (it’s only 11.30am) but she’ll pop down the road and pick up some more from the bakery. It doesn’t sound positive, but she assures us that Devonshire Teas are certainly on the menu. And so they are. We settle under one of the shady umbrellas on the wide footpath, which incidentally houses about 99 per cent of the café seating. Once the bakery scones are transferred from discreet paper bag to plate, the transformation and presentation is quite surprising. The small crusty but soft on the inside scones are dusted with icing sugar so on first bite they taste a little sweet. True to the menu, the cream is impressively double thick, the strawberry jam acceptable and for those who like to calorie load and their scones well-lubricated – there’s butter. Later we wander down the street and discover that the scone source is Dee Why Hot Bread.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A few choices of T2 pyramid tea bags served in a good-sized pot.

Price: $$

Overall: A pleasant and friendly café in the hub of the Dee Why town action.

Location: Shop 1/11-13 Oaks Ave, Dee Why NSW 2099 Ph: 02 9982 4700
www.espresso-head.com

Reviewed February, 2015

Cove Cafe

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Terrigal Haven surely offers some of the best views in the area. With a few lookouts and a couple of cafes/restaurants perched waterside, you’re never short of a nourishing seaside view. If you’re visiting to dive the HMAS Adelaide wreck that was purpose prepared and sunk in 2011 to form an artificial reef off Terrigal and Avoca Beach, then you won’t have far to go for a ‘after dive’ scone. In the same building and right next door is Cove Cafe, which incidentally has uninterrupted ocean views. By the looks of things, they change scone varieties daily, and today they have banana scones. Yep, you’ve heard it, banana scones. This is a first for me and the chunky banana embedded scones definitely work. Moist and soft and served with ample and decent raspberry jam, the only disappointment is the too light cream. No biggie, the scones are still worth the trek even if you aren’t diving.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A large choice of T2 loose-leaf teas served in a good-sized pot.

Price: $$

Overall: A magical place looking over Terrigal beaches and the coastline beyond.

Location: Scenic Hwy, The Haven, Terrigal NSW 2260 Ph: 02 4384 5083
www.covecafe.com.au

Reviewed February, 2015

Banjo’s Cafe

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I often chuckle when I see write ups in high-profile glossy travel magazines about the merits of Bathurst, and I wonder whether it’s the same place I have been visiting at least twice a month for the past five years. By visiting, I mean doing the mundane; grocery shopping, buying worming tablets for the dog or screws from Bunnings, it’s the service hub for Hill End 85 kilometres away. I have taken advice from these articles and lunched at Cobblestone Lane, which does indeed deserve merit, but you clearly pay for what you get – the same as anywhere. Then there is the rest of Bathurst and Banjo’s Cafe exists in this realm. The cafe is popular and inviting, sitting at one of the entrances to the older of the two Stockland Shopping Centres. The ‘hot scones’ are on the menu but this is the first time I have seen any in the cake cabinet as I pass by. The scone is dry and more like a bread roll, and I really can’t tell when it was baked – definitely not today. It is served with a sachet of jam, a big no no, and the cream is so light it melts before hitting the scone. Whether seven days in the country has muddled my brain, to me ‘white tea’ means ‘white tea’ (as in green, black, you get the picture – and I have a bunch of it at home). At Banjo’s, ‘white tea’ is listed under ‘tea’ but literally means ‘tea with milk’. So when my black tea, which smells a bit like Billy Tea, arrives with a side of milk, I am a bit confused. The girls behind the counter scratch their heads trying to understand what could possibly be wrong. All I can think of are those travel writers (I am often one of them) that breeze in to a place and see only the very best of what is on offer, but how about the other 99 per cent?

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

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

Price: $$

Overall: A popular and bright cafe but give the scones a wide berth.

Location: 34 Stocklands Centre, William St Bathurst NSW 2795 Ph: 02 6332 2855
www.banjoscafestocklands.yqme.com.au

Reviewed January, 2015