The Vale Cafe

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The sign on the wall reads, “There’s no Wi Fi, talk like it’s 1994”. I love it, but I guess not everyone would see the humour in it. Decorated in French provincial style furnishings, The Vale Cafe has a warm fresh feel and is an ideal spot to catch up for a chat, but a nightmare for those looking to use free Wi Fi. The scones are baked fresh this morning and are crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The quince and apple jam is one of an interesting selection of housemade jams on offer, and is perfect in consistency and flavour. It’s splendidly served side by side, in the same dish, with super thick cream. The only downfall of this pairing is that it’s designed for one, not for sharing, so we have to ask for a refill. The teapots are small and don’t hold much water, and we barely siphon out two cups of tea. You know the service is good when you don’t have to ask for a refill.

Scones: 

Jam: 

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Tea: A varied selection of T2 loose-leaf teas served in iron Japanese teapots.

Price: $$

Overall: A bright corner cafe serving quality fare.

Location: 8/256 Argyle St, Moss Vale NSW 2577 Ph: 02 4869 4438 facebook.com
Reviewed in September, 2016

My Chocolate Shoppe & Coffee Lounge

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On the eve of the Kiama Folk Festival I poke my head into My Chocolate Shoppe & Coffee Lounge on Kiama’s main drag just before closing. The owner says she’s making a cheesecake so there’s no rush. The first thing I notice is that there’s a lot more than just handmade Belgian chocolates here. Actually the two-page menu is chock-a-block full of sweet delights as well as some light savoury treats. On Friday and Saturday nights, the cafe transforms into a wine, coffee and dessert lounge, serving wines from the Illawarra/South Coast paired with Belgian chocolates. On the day menu, choose from date, plain and gluten-free scones. My plain scone arrives steaming, basically nuked to death, but despite this it tastes rather good, and you can tell it has been made with good quality ingredients. Imagine how it would taste fresh, and straight out of the oven! The sensational homemade raspberry jam is delightful, oozing with fruit, and jars of the stuff are available for purchase. Unfortunately the cream is super light, dissolving before my very eyes, and it’s a challenge just to get it from dish to scone. If you dare, take home some decadent chocolates and that jam!

Scones: 

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Tea: A range of Tea Tonic loose-leaf teas served in a pot, with a heavy slant on herbal teas.

Price: $$

Overall: A comfy cafe filled with delectable sweet sensations.

Location: 13/106 Terralong St, Kiama NSW 2533 Ph: 02 4232 4225 mychocolateshoppe.com.au

Reviewed in September, 2016

Rockabellas Roadside Diner

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Whether you are entering or leaving the Southern Highlands via Robertson, it’s worth to stop and poke around this unassuming village. The revamped Three Creeks Cafe now trades as Rockabellas Roadside Diner and I’m happy to report that they are still pumping out killer scones. The large corner cafe has a slight 50s rockabilly theme, with some fun vintage furnishings – think Formica tables, an old ice fridge etc., and some vintage fittings. The diner is part cafe and part shop, and has a corner of shelves dedicated to vintage kitchen collectibles, and in another section, new rockerbilly-style clothing and accessories. Rockabellas rock cool 70s and 80s tunes, but don’t expect booths – it’s a booth deficient diner! The scones are still insanely fluffy and feather light, and the rich mixed berry jam and double thick cream are perfect accompaniments.

Scones: 

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Tea: A few varieties of loose-leaf teas served in a pot and with a china teacup and saucer.

Price: $$

Overall: Funky vintage hangout with a rockin’ theme.

Location: 1/74 Hoddle St, Robertson NSW 2577 Ph: 02 4885 1889


Reviewed in September, 2016

The Treehouse Cafe

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In sleepy south coast Ulladulla; The Treehouse Cafe is so much more than a cute shack under a couple of ancient shady trees. Brightening up a bland concrete corner in a shopping centre car park, The Treehouse is more Byron Bay than south coast NSW, and is a true stand out. The menu has a healthy spin with lots of fresh juices and wholesome food, and healthy raw desserts and treats. ‘Byron style’ cafes (as I like to call them) typically don’t go down the scone alley, so I am thrilled that The Treehouse caters to everyone from vegans to DT loving folk. And just like the rest of the cafe’s menu, the DT errs on the unique side. It’s a scone meets a muffin in a flowerpot, filling and always a novelty. It’s paired with superb tart mixed berry jam that tastes homegrown, and chilled thick Chantilly cream with just the right hint of vanilla. A big tick for the proper teacup and saucer, contrary to popular belief, tea drinkers do appreciate it and tea tastes so much better. Pick up herbal teas and eco-friendly products, and maybe a vegan treat for the road.

Scones: 

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Tea: An unusual range of health orientated teas.

Price: $$

Overall: Wholesome food with a south coast spin, and the novelty of eating scones from a pot, and the garden…and…and…need I go on?

Location: Ph: 02 4455 3991


Reviewed in September, 2016

Centennial Vineyard Restaurant

dtcentennial-vineyardsFollow Centennial Drive from the outer edge of Bowral’s shopping hub, and in less than a minute you are in golfing and grape country. Pass by the perfectly manicured golf course at Peppers Craigieburn, and Centennial Vineyards is hard to miss with its acres of vines dotted across the rolling countryside. The last time I visited was to bop to the B52s, The Proclaimers and Mental as Anything at ‘A Day on the Green’. Today it is more subdued with only a handful of visitors braving the cold spring day. It’s also midweek so the vibe is very relaxed and chilled, with the rain not even spoiling the gorgeous views of the estate. Service is quick and we order straight away. The plain and sultana scone are super fresh and taste like they have come straight out of the oven. A dead giveaway is the slightly crisp outside and steaming fluffiness on the inside. The mixed berry compote style jam is made onsite and although slightly runny, is tart and tastes terrific! The double thick cream is just that, double thick, and is served with a fresh sprig of mint – a lovely touch. The serving dishes are kinda random, but I love the pretty Robert Gordon cup and saucer. Call before visiting, as sometimes the restaurant closes early due to weddings or other functions. Also, drop in to the cellar door for a spot of cool climate wine tasting.

Scones: 

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Tea: Six types of loose-leaf teas served in a small pot.

Price: $$

Overall: A pretty outlook and a bonus if you enjoy wine tasting.

Location: Centennial Rd, Bowral NSW 2576 Ph: 02 4861 8701 centennialrestaurant.com.au

Reviewed in September, 2016

Mollymook Beach Hut

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As they say – location, location, location! And Mollymook Beach Hut has it in spades. Attached to the surf lifesaving club at the southern end of Mollymook Beach, the Beach Hut pulls in the crowds as it is the quintessential Aussie fish ‘n’ chip shop where you can get a classic hamburger, an ice cream, and a coffee, as well as pick up a hat or sun screen. It’s well patronised by locals and visitors alike and with the close proximity to the beach, it’s easy to understand why. We’ve beat the mid morning rush, just, and can only imagine how popular this place is in the summer holidays. Not long out of the oven, the scones are light and fluffy, but joined together like some sort of scone cake. There’s not quite enough of the average jam or the fly away cream, but at least it’s fresh, probably Dairy Whip, which is at least 97 per cent ‘real’ cream.

Scones: 

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Tea: A basic selection of Tea Pigs (love the name) silk pyramid tea bags served in a mug, unless you ask for a pot.

Price: $$

Overall: Beach shack casual in a killer location.

Location: Ocean St, Mollymook NSW 2539 Ph: 02 4455 1758

Reviewed in September, 2016

Highlands Merchant

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The best seats in the house at Highlands Merchant are definitely the two comfy lounge chairs in front of the picture window. The timing is right and we slide into still warm seats, thankful to the friendly folks who notice our look of despair when faced with a full cafe. This prime perch is an envied position as it gives and all round view while retaining exclusivity of the window. There are a few outdoor tables if the weather is fine, otherwise hope for the best at this popular cafe. The feel is modern and fresh, with clean lines and white and blue decor. There are some lovely features, like the round wall mirrors hanging from leather straps and the water fountain at the back. If peckish, order a couple of scones, as they are divine; crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside – perfection. The tart berry jam is coupled with rich double thick (and then some) cream and comes together in the same bowl, like the yin and yang of condiments. Shop for Ovvio teas and Southern Highland condiments while you wait.

Scones: 

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Tea: An unusual and refreshing range of Ovvio organic teas served in a good-sized pot.

Price: $$

Overall: Elegant and ‘oh-so-Southern Highlands’!

Location: 405 Argyle St, Moss Vale NSW 2577 Ph: 02 4869 5746 highlandsmerchant.com.au
Reviewed in September, 2016

Exeter General Store

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Thoughts of the Pied Piper come to mind when I’m at the Exeter General Store. Locals stroll in for their morning caffeine hit, and although the place feels isolated, people seem to stream in from everywhere. Located in the quieter corner of the Southern Highlands, far removed from populated Bowral, Mittagong and Moss Vale, Exeter looks little more than an intersection to the passing motorist. On the contrary, the General Store acts as a hub for coffee and book lovers, acts as the post office, and is a store selling basic provisions and souvenirs for visitors. I’m told the scones are usually sold out before 11am, so I’ve parked myself in front of the ceiling to floor glass shop front by 8.30am, admiring the red tulips in the garden. The scones are fresh out of the oven and are creamy and feather light, and are complimented with tart berry jam and double thick cream. It’s an excellent combination and it’s easy to understand why this place is so popular. The classy tea cosies are a real hit!

Scones: 

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Tea: A good enough range of T2 loose-leaf teas served in a pot topped with a handmade tea cosy.

Price: $$

Overall: Not to be missed!

Location: 1 Exeter Rd, Exeter NSW 2579 Ph: 02 4883 4289
Reviewed in September, 2016

Cafe Parkview

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The name Parkview implies sweeping and uninterrupted park views. In actual fact the view of the park from Cafe Parkview is between parked cars and through passing traffic. But that’s okay, because the pretty south coast town of Kiama with its famed blowhole, lovely beaches and picture postcard coastline is calm and collected, so a few cars between scones and the view of the park is irrelevant. The cafe interior hints of beachside holidays and diners can sit on the footpath and vie for that park view. Both plain and date scones are available, and I try the date, which isn’t sickly sweet like many date scones I have tasted. Crispy on the outside, the scone is fluffy on the inside with small pieces rather than large chunks of dates. The chilled cream is thickly whipped and the jam is good enough, but it won’t win any awards. The blowhole is an easy meander from the cafe.

Scones: 

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Tea: A basic range of loose-leaf Temple Tea served in a pot.

Price: $$

Overall: A relaxed cafe, while not on the park, has views of the park opposite.

Location: 82 Terralong St, Kiama NSW 2533 Ph: 02 4232 1152 facebook.com
Reviewed in September, 2016

CWA Tea Room

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In Australia, the Country Women’s Association (CWA) is renowned for their scones. Anyone who has been to Sydney’s Royal Easter Show may have eaten one of the 10’s of thousands of scones baked by the ladies during the event. It’s not much different at Tulip Time in Bowral, where the local ladies have their heads down and aprons on as they bake up a storm for customers at the tea rooms. The CWA Tea Rooms are only open for Devonshire Teas and other treats during the two-week event when tulips of every hue explode in picture perfect formation in Corbett Gardens. The festival pulls in the crowds, and it’s standing room only in the Tea Rooms when the coaches pull up. If you like flowers, or tulips in particular, the gardens and themed garden arrangements are spectacular, and pretty Corbett Gardens is the ideal location. No doubt the ladies bake to strict guidelines as laid out in the CWA recipe book. The scones are fresh with a creamy texture, and the fresh cream whipped thick. But what happened to the housemade jam? Maybe the jars for sale in the their shop should be swapped for the average stuff they serve customers. Swing by the shop for that elusive housemade jam and a range of hand knitted items.

Scones: 

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Cream: 

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

Price: $$

Overall: The CWA at it’s finest.

Location: Corbett Gardens, Wingecarribee St, Bowral NSW 2576
Reviewed in September, 2016