The Deck Cafe

DT@The Deck Cafe-Lovedale

Lovedale in the Hunter Valley wine region is like a breath of fresh air after the tourist mecca of Pokolbin, feeling far removed from the wine tasting tour buses and the usual crowds. The inviting Gartelmann Winery cellar door shares fine views with The Deck Cafe that’s perched on the edge of a picturesque billabong. The setting is enough to draw the crowds, and that it does. We arrive at mid morning on a Sunday without a reservation, and boy don’t we know it. Although there are some free tables, we’re told that there’s nothing available so we opt, even after the waitress tells us she will not be drying them for us, for the wet lounge chairs in the open. To be honest, in general the service is appalling, and one particular waitress needs an attitude adjustment. When we eventually receive our scones, the nicer waitress seems surprised that we are sitting on the wet furniture and ushers us back on to the deck to an empty table, saying that they’ve had a cancellation. We notice many cancellations, and I don’t understand why diners, if they agree to be quick (like us), can’t take a reserved table until the customers arrive. Surely this is a win-win situation for both customer and cafe owner? If you manage to avoid the surly waitress it’s a lovely spot. Peruse the oil, jam and chutney for sale from Matt’s Produce collection, and sample the rich summer berry and vanilla scented jam that’s served with the scones. The scones are perhaps another drawcard as they are well-sized, fresh, fluffy and hard to fault. The chilled and firm Chantilly cream is exquisite with more than a hint of vanilla, and is a real stand out. The servings of the jam and cream are far too small for the size of the scones, so we flag down a friendly waitress and request some more with no issues or surcharge.

Scones: 

Jam:

Cream: 

Tea: An interesting selection of loose-leaf and tea bag tea served in a Japanese iron teapot.

Price: $$

Overall: A sensational location by the billabong, but shame about the surly service.

Location: 701 Lovedale Rd, Rothbury NSW 2320 Ph: 02 4930 9007 deckcafelovedale.com.au
Reviewed in July, 2016
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Paragon Cafe

DT@Paragon Cafe-Goulburn#

The Paragon Cafe in Goulburn has been serving Greek dishes and cafe standards since 1940. Can you believe it? The cavernous space is more restaurant than cafe and reminds me of what a dance hall from that era, if you cleared out the furniture, might look like. It’s all hustle and bustle on a mid-week afternoon. It’s so hectic and big; you’d think it was Yum Cha in Sydney’s Chinatown! However, there’s nothing Chinese about the Paragon. It’s all booths and mirrored walls and one helluva long bar down almost one side of the restaurant. The menu is seriously extensive; expect old school dishes, so kale and quinoa devotees should look elsewhere. I am so excited to be here (I love anything with a history and booths), that I am flustered by the chock-a-block menu and can’t locate the Devonshire Tea. It’s certainly there, and the no fuss and efficient service has me tucking into light and fluffy scones in no time. I am disappointed by the sachets of jam – it seems a tad lazy. At least the super light cream taste’s like it’s from a cream canister as opposed to the sweet and sickly hybrid cream from a can, that’s a plus.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A basic selection of Twining tea bags served in a small teapot.

Price: $$

Overall: A step back in time with a menu to match.

Location:  Ph: 02 4821 3566 paragoncafe.com.au
Reviewed in July, 2016

Berrima Farmgate Cafe

DT@Farmgate Cafe-Berrima

Looking pretty is the norm rather than the exception in historic Berrima. Compared to most of the other cafes, you might say that the Berrima Farmgate Cafe looks like the plain Jane in a good-looking family. At first glance, the cafe, which feels tucked away although on a main-ish thoroughfare, doesn’t feel as though it has a lot of atmosphere and looks more like a takeaway shop rather than a cafe. However, take a quick look at Trip Advisor and it seems to be doing things right. I spot the Devonshire Tea up on the ‘take-away joint’ style menu on the wall, and take a seat in the larger part of the cafe under a rusty old farm gate pinned to the wall. There’s also the option to sit outside on the shady footpath, but it’s a bit chilly for me on a winter’s day. My scones have a creamy taste but they just won’t stop crumbling, so I end up with large pieces of scone on my plate that refuse to stay stuck together. The jam is very ordinary, erring towards the lower end on the quality scale, and there’s only enough for one scone or a very thin scrape on both. The cream is super-duper light, and I barely notice it at all! Spend your wait time checking out the random bits and bobs decorating the place.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A limited variety of loose-leaf teas served in a pot.

Price: $$

Overall: Simple decor and less crowded (the day I visit) compared to other cafes in Berrima.

Location: Shop 5 – 6 Wingecarribe StBerrima NSW 2577 Ph: 02 4877 2785
Reviewed in July, 2016

The Milk Factory Gallery Cafe

DT@The Milk Factory Cafe-Bowral#2

There’s something sophisticated about a gallery cafe. Maybe it’s being surrounded by art and people’s creations, and the hushed chatter that goes on (so as not to offend the artwork?). I don’t mind art, but what really impresses me are heritage buildings, or properties that tell a story. Although the Old Milk Factory in Bowral doesn’t make mention of it to the non-the-wiser visitor, and you have to look hard to see any resemblance, it has a story. In the 1870s, Bowral began shipping off its milk so by the 1930s the Milk Factory was built to help with the demand. Information about the site is thin on the ground, but putting two-and-two together I assume that milk and other milk products were processed here, deposited onto trains (the building can’t be any closer to the railway tracks), and hauled off to Sydney. It’s a fascinating thought, what went on here under 100 years ago. Today, rebuilt, the Milk Factory Gallery is an art gallery with a cafe offering two outdoor areas as well as indoor seating area for colder weather. When I visit, it’s still breakfast time, so the scones, infused with a hint of vanilla, aren’t long out of the oven. The jam is nothing more than an average strawberry jam, and although the cream is fresh it is very lightly whipped and doesn’t stand up to the warm scone test too well.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

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

Price: $$$

Overall: A pleasant alternative to Bowral’s Main St cafes.

 Location: 33 Station St, Bowral NSW 2576 Ph: 02 4862 1077
Reviewed in July, 2016

The Old Robertson Cheese Factory Cafe

DT@The Old Robertson Cheese Factory#2

The fact that this old building was once a cheese factory up until as recently as 1989 (anything in my life time is recent) is amazing. Actually the Robertson Cheese Factory was pumping out so much cheese that by the end of the 1930s, Robertson was hailed as one of the most productive dairy regions in Australia. The remains of this cavernous heritage building give visitors a chance to feel just a tiny bit of its glorious past. There’s an incredible use of space, with a deli, gelateria and kitchen/homeware shop as well as a cafe in a slightly separate area of the old factory. Pick up cheeses (naturally) and gourmet goodies for a Southern Highlands picnic, or settle in an arm-chair in front of a picture window looking out to the green meadows of Robertson. It’s late in the day (near to closing), so the scones aren’t great, but I’m sure if I arrived for morning tea they would have been fresh from the oven. The mixed berry jam is sensational; rich, fruity and tarte, and the cream is rich and double thick. Whether you’ve just crawled up the Macquarie Pass from sea level, or about to say goodbye to the Southern Highlands, The Old Robertson Cheese Factory is worth pulling over for.

Scones: 

Jam: 

Cream: 

Tea: A selection of The Berry Tea Shop loose-leaf teas served in a pot.

Price: $$

Overall: Cavernous yet cosy.

Location: 107 Illawarra Hwy, Robertson NSW 2577 Ph: 02 4885 1168
 
Reviewed in July, 2016