Casey’s Cafe

DT@Casey's Cafe-Narooma#

What I love about Narooma, apart from its sleepy town attitude and exquisite dagginess, is that property developers and celebrities haven’t yet discovered its Byron Bay-esqe beauty. Maybe it’s too far from Melbourne to be worth the hassle, or the icy water temperatures just don’t suit Sydneysiders? This visit round, we finally make it to Montague Island. We join Wazza, a jolly gnome-like man, who is the perfect captain and host for the boat trip and the snorkel with a couple of seals, that aren’t particularly interested in us humans. At only eight-kilometres off the coast, the swell can get treacherous preventing the small vessels making the crossing and dropping visitors at the island. Landing is strictly controlled by National Parks and Wildlife, and you can only alight if you are doing a tour or staying at the lighthouse keeper’s quarters overnight.  Back in town, drop in to Casey’s Cafe, up on the hill in one of the three shopping hubs in Narooma. There is no set ‘Devonshire Tea’ as such, so you can order as many scones as you like, and team them up with whatever drink you’re after. Today’s scones are pumpkin and date, and are robust i.e., firm and heavy and a bit dry, and would probably be better eaten with a smear of butter. The jam is a homemade blueberry compote and the fresh cream is whipped in a cannister, making it too light and airy for me. Indoors, the cafe is cheery and bright with floor to ceiling glass to take advantage of the pretty views out to sea (in the distance).

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A small selection of handmade organic loose-leaf tea served in a good-sized pot.

Price: $$

Overall: A popular cafe at the top of town.

Location: 120 Wagonga St, Narooma NSW 2546 Ph: 02 4476 1241
Reviewed in December, 2015

Steam Mills Restaurant

DT@Old Goulburn Brewery#

The old Goulburn Brewery is quite a find. Although in need of some TLC, a good feather duster also wouldn’t go astray, and an injection of capital, the historic building is another wonderful example of Francis Greenway’s work. Completed sometime after 1836, the Brewery became another feather in Greenway’s cap, adding to his more known works such as the Macquarie Lighthouse, Hyde Park Barracks and Government House. Formerly known as Bradley Grange, the integrated set of buildings housing the various activities associated with brewing, malting, milling, coopering, smithing and stabling remain intact, and with an overhaul could become an unmissable place to visit in Goulburn. The day we visit it’s nearing 40 degrees, so we settle into the coolness of the Steam Mills Restaurant, rather than outside in the cobbled courtyard. When my Devonshire Tea arrives, I get a whiff of a strange smell but think it’s my partners ploughman’s lunch. To my horror I realise the lightly whipped cream is slightly off and send it back. With not much of an apology, I’m later brought a scoop of vanilla ice-cream as a replacement as there is no cream in the house. A shame, as it’s an integral part of a Devonshire tea. I press on minus the cream with the average strawberry jam spread over the bread like scones that have the texture of breadrolls rather than scones. If you need to see more than just the restaurant and outside grounds, do a self-guided tour ($7.50) through some of the rooms, and read up on the man himself, Francis Greenway.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

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

Price: $$

Overall: Impressive historic property that could be brilliant with some TLC.

Location: Goulburn Brewery, 23 Bungonia Rd, Goulburn NSW 2580
Ph: 02 4821 6071 goulburnbrewery.servebeer.com
Reviewed in December, 2015

Ladybird Cafe

DT@The Ladybird Cafe - Mt Colah#

It’s hard to believe how many garden centres there are in Sydney, especially when you start taking notice of them. The sneaky Four Seasons Plant Bug Garden Centre in Mt Colah is a small centre, but sells the essentials. You can’t escape the well-stocked gift shop (even I picked up a few gifts here) and the cutely named Ladybird Cafe out the back. It’s a hot day when I visit and temperatures in northwest Sydney are well into the mid 30s. This is important to note, as the café is semi open, with only some fans to make a sweaty situation more comfortable. We made the most of the casual and unhurried atmosphere and strategically positioned ourselves between the fans. The small scones looked like mini bread rolls and are brought in from an outside bakery. The jam is an average strawberry and the cream so light that it dissolves quickly in the humidity. My biggest gripe is that there isn’t enough jam and cream for both scones, and although I didn’t ask for any extra, I am sure the friendly staff would be happy to oblige.

Scones: 

Jam: 

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Tea: A selection of Project T loose-leaf teas served in a plunger pot.

Price: $$

Overall: A cute cafe hidden amongst the plants.

Location: Four Seasons Plant Bug, 525 Pacific Hwy, Mount Colah NSW 2079 Ph: 02 9477 1222 plantbug.com.au
Reviewed in December, 2015

The Garden Cafe

DT@Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Garden#3

I’ve passed by the entrance of the Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Garden many times, but have never found the inclination to stop. For one, the entrance comes up on you pretty quickly, secondly, you don’t expect a botanic garden in the middle of the bush on the Princes Highway, and thirdly, you’ve either fuelled up in Batemans Bay if you are coming from the north or in Mogo if you are coming in the opposite direction. What a shame, as this lovely little haven is a heavenly place to take a break from the bitumen. Admission to the 42ha site, which is part of the Mogo State Forest, is free, and there are several short walking tracks of varying distances, BBQ facilities, an arboretum, display gardens, a very small plant nursery and of course the Garden Cafe at the Visitors Centre. There’s quite an extensive menu, considering it’s location, and all sweets are home-baked, including the scones, which have a creamy and buttery texture. The jam is your average run of the mill strawberry but the thickly whipped fresh cream is a treat. The sprig of fresh mint garnish is a nice touch. Open Wednesday to Sunday 9-4pm.

Scones:

Jam: 

Cream:

Tea: A broad selection of Pukka and Twinning tea bags served in a classic teapot.

Price: $$

Overall: A chilled out space where you can feel a million miles from anywhere.

Location: 489 Princes Hwy, Batemans Bay NSW 2536 Ph: 02 4471 2400 erbg.org.au
Reviewed in December, 2015

Kitchen Cafe

DT@Kitchen Cafe-Mayfield Garden#

Out of the 500 odd Devonshire Teas I have consumed over the years, the Kitchen Cafe at Mayfield Garden and a centuries old tea room in Copenhagen, are the only establishments that have served lemon butter with my scones. The waitress in Copenhagen even assured me that this was traditionally English, so I guess that’s why the Kitchen Cafe has decided to serve it as a tribute to its 160-acre English inspired garden. Sitting within a 5,000 acre working farm, the privately owned cool climate garden started taking shape in the mid 1990s and although another 50 years of growth would be ideal, the gardens are well-worth the drive for a look at the ponds, follies, 80 metre cascade and the many follies embedded in the landscape. I visited the gardens in 2011 when parking was in a paddock and the café was in a tent. Since then, much has changed, and I park on fresh gravel and dine on fluffy and slightly crisp scones in the semi-industrial styled Kitchen Cafe. Mayfield branded medlar jelly, strawberry jam and lemon butter arrive still in their jars, so you can help yourself to as much as you want. The medlar jelly is a first for me, and its smooth and subtle flavour is a winner. Lemon butter fans will be content and so too will be traditionalists. All spreads are good quality and the freshly whipped cream although not too thick, is just right on this cool day. The café also caters for shoppers; selling Borne in Bathurst Chutneys, Bilpin Bush Honey and Mayfield Gardens’ own range of chutneys and jams, with the addition of hand creams, homemade soaps, and tea towels. Behind the café, the nursery has a good range of cool climate plants for sale and a children’s playground blends in well to the landscape. The water garden ($10 per adult), café and nursery are open daily, and the private English gardens can be visited during the biannual open days.

Scones: 

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

Price: $$

Overall: Industrial cool meets country chic.

Location: Mayfield Garden, 530 Mayfield Rd, Oberon NSW 2787
Ph: 02 6336 3131 mayfieldgarden.com.au
 
Reviewed in January, 2016

Dining Car Cafe

DT@Dining Car Cafe-York#3

I’m not a train nut, but I admit that I do appreciate the unique and endearing qualities of old train carriages. As my partner lives in a 1920s red rattler, he’s always keen to visit train museums. This is why during a brief overnight stay in York, we find ourselves at the National Railway Museum. After a week of dishing out for entrance fees to many London attractions, we are relieved to find a worthy fee-free attraction. The cashiers lining the entrance ways can be alarming and have you instinctively reaching for your wallet, but grab a map instead and drop a few coins into the donation box, because this museum – whether you’re bonkers for trains or not – is sensational! The three monstrous halls, which was a former motive power depot, house over 100 locomotives starting with the wagonway vehicles from the early 1800s as well as the “Palaces on Wheels” exhibit. This collection of Royal Train saloons were used by Queen Victoria and up until the 1970s, Queen Elizabeth II. A 2007 Japanese Shinkansen has floor space, and one shed has so much train paraphenalia that it is virtually piled on top of each other. A ‘men’s shed’ workshop is in full view so voyeurs can watch men tinker on future exhibits, and trainspotters can sit on the outdoor balcony, peering over the train lines that feed into York station. A place this size needs a few waterholes. Scones can be had at Mallards Cafe and the Countess of York train carriage offers a more upmarket menu, serving High Teas. We settle for the Dining Car Cafe that’s adjacent to the Royal Carriages, purely because I like the dim intimacy of this huge hall with its huge Union Jack flags suspended from the ceiling. Also the open style cafe has a series of booths as well as the usual dining furniture – I’m a sucker for booths. The self-serve food is tastfully presented with the well-proportioned fruit scones piled high in a cane picnic basket. My only gripe is the particularly small portions of jam in lidded plastic capsules, and the tubs of Rodda’s clotted cream sitting out on the bench. The cream at room temperature, is runny from lack of refrigeration, so there’s nothing clotted about it.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A standard selection of quality Harrogate loose-leaf teas served in a good-sized pot.

Price: £5.60

Overall: Train nuts will go wild. Where else can you sit amongst carriages used by British monarchs?

Location: National Railway Museum, Leeman Rd, York YO26 4XJ Ph: +44 844 815 3139 nrm.org.uk
Reviewed in October, 2015