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.au

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

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

Gunners Barracks

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What can I say? The Gunners Barracks is no new-kid-on-the-block and knows a thing or two about how to serve a top quality Devonshire Tea. Although I don’t live far away, I’ve bypassed Gunners Barracks forever knowing it only served High Teas like sister property, The Tea Rooms at the QVB. When looking for a place to take a friend for a High Tea, by chance I see that Devonshire Teas are on the morning menu, which suits me perfectly. The harbour views from the verandah dining area (heated in winter) are breathtaking and the sandstone heritage building located near the tunnels and gun placements at Georges Heights, sensational. The Royal Albert crockery and heavy silver set on crisp white table cloths has my friend and I cooing in delight. The plain and sultana scones are light and fluffy on the inside and covered in a melt-in-your-mouth buttery crisp shell. The generous sized scones are well paired with the tart mixed berry jam and rich Australian-style clotted cream. However, by the time I get the cream on to the scones it’s been transformed to pouring cream and I wonder what happened to the promised clotted cream. I share my concerns with the maître-d and he assures me that it is clotted cream and even brings me the container from the kitchen. I learn that originally, the Welsh chef made his own rich Welsh clotted cream but received so many complaints they canned the idea and went with something more suitable to the Australian palate. I am simultaneously mortified and annoyed as this Australian-style clotted cream, that doesn’t even hold its form in cool winter weather, is far inferior to other random clotted creams I’ve tried, however I’ll leave the cream for you to decide. Devonshire Teas are available Monday to Friday from 10am until 12pm.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: An extensive and interesting selection of loose-leaf teas served in a lovely silver teapot with a hot water top up.

Price: $$$

Overall: Sensational location and quality that’s hard to beat.

Location: End of Suakin Dr, Georges Heights NSW 2088 Ph: 02 8962 5900
www.gunnersbarracks.com.au

Reviewed June, 2015

 

 

Tea & Niceties

DT@Tea & Niceties-Mt Tambourine#

Tea & Niceties is far away from the tourist strip in Eagle Heights and is surrounded by lush forest and pretty gardens, and is geared up specifically for special events, namely weddings. The restaurant or interior seating, feels very formal with white tablecloths and beautifully set tables, but if you want to catch some sun or a breeze, sit in the courtyard under an umbrella. My friend and I are impressed with the spread; swanky silverware, gorgeous tea ware, good quality tea and scones, jam and cream that surpasses anything we’ve tried up on the mountain. The scones are a bit dry and crumbly but are tasty nonetheless. The mixed berry jam is quite average, neither good nor bad, and the dollop cream is thick and rich just as dollop cream should be. Although not one feature is perfect, apart from the crockery, tea and teapot, once all put together this is one Devonshire Tea that shouldn’t be missed when visiting Mt Tamborine. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: 18 varieties of loose-leaf teas from Tea Centre served in a magnificent silver teapot.

Price: $$

Overall: A sophisticated Devonshire Tea not to be missed.

Location: 32 Eagle Heights Rd, Eagle Heights QLD 4271 Ph: 07 5545 3645
www.teaandniceties.com.au

Reviewed April, 2015

Mount Tamborine Vineyard & Winery

DT@Mt Tambourine Wines#2

Mount Tamborine Vineyard & Winery feels like the tourist or visitor epicentre of Mt Tamborine. I don’t know why, but maybe it’s because of the size of the outdoor seating area; there’s more than enough to cater for a busload of hungry and thirsty people. Then there’s the adjoining cellar door that offers tastings of the vineyards white and red wines. That brings me to the eatery or kiosk where you need to go up to the counter to order and pay. There are plain and fruit scones, and I try the latter for the variety. The scone is pretty tough and has a distinct cinnamon flavour that goes well with the fruit. Perhaps the plain scone is moist, but this late in the afternoon the fruit scone isn’t doing too well. The rhubarb jam is a treat, and an unusual choice of jam to serve with scones. My friend is not a fan of the thimble sized plastic container the jam is served in, saying it reminds her of receiving medication in hospital. The cream is served in the same type of plastic container as well and has potential, but has either melted or not been whipped enough.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: An impressive and unusual selection of loose-leaf and tea bag teas from Tea Tonic organic teas and other standard brands, served in a small teapot.

Price: $$

Overall: Large and busy, it feels like the tourist hub of the mountain.

Location: 128 Long Rd, Eagle Heights QLD 4271 Ph: 07 5545 3066
www.mttamborinewinery.com

Reviewed April, 2015