Magnolia Cafe

DT@Magnolia Cafe-Dubbo

As far as plant nurseries go, Magnolia Nursery is on the small side. I don’t see any burly men with wheelbarrows carting pot plants and saplings, actually there’s no one working the plants while I’m there. All action is in the cafe with groups of women happily chatting away. Scones are on the menu; so don’t despair if you can’t see them in the cake cabinet. The small scones are baked on the premises and taste a bit chewy today, rather than light and fluffy. That’s not to say they won’t be different tomorrow. The jam is average in quality but what I like about it is it’s jelly like rather thin and syrupy. The cream is the best of all; thickly whipped. There’s indoor seating for when it heats up during the summer, but the courtyard is a lovely sun catcher and would be ideal for the cooler months.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

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

Price: $$

Overall: It doesn’t look feminine but it feels like a popular meeting place for ladies.

Location: 73 Wheelers Ln., Dubbo NSW 2830 Ph: 02 6884 5997 facebook.com/MagnoliaCafeDubbo/

Reviewed in April, 2017

Bakhita’s Cafe

DT@Bakhita's Cafe-Taronga Zoo Dubbo

The Savannah Visitor Plaza is where visitors without a zoo entrance ticket can linger for as long as they like. The view over Savannah Lake is lovely, as it’s brimming with turtles, and Black Swans glide serenely amongst them. It’s prime real estate, with private islands commandeered by Black Hand Spider Monkeys, and a couple of Lemurs share another. Taronga Western Plains Zoo is the flip side of its sibling in Sydney. Set on the dry Central NSW Plains, there are no harbour views here. I don’t visit the zoo this time round, but I think it’s probably changed a bit since I pedalled the 6km circuit on a rusty old bike in 2001. In 2017, the bikes at the rental shop are all shiny and new, and look a lot more pleasant to ride. If cycling to each animal exhibit is too much like hard work, hire an electric cart, or drive your own car, or walk. Unlike their city slicker cousins, these animals have space – and that’s the beauty of this zoo – space to roam. At the entrance, alongside the ticket office and the Zoo Shop, is Bakhita’s Cafe that has seating that takes in the views towards Savannah Lake. While I queue at the cafeteria-style eatery, I read the blackboard sign that says “fresh scones”. The scones definitely taste like they have been baked on the premises, but probably early this morning. They’re not bad and have luckily been removed from the microwave just in time. The Diary Whip cream (97 per cent fresh cream from a can) is super light, and I’m not even going to mention the sachets of jam!

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3

Jam: teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapothalf

Tea: A basic variety of Sir Thomas J Lipton teabags served in a paper takeaway cup.

Price: $$

Overall: A zoo cafe with a zoo view.

Location: Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Ph: 02 6881 1437 taronga.org.au

Reviewed in April, 2017

Lena’s Lakeside Cafe

DT@Lena's Lakeside Cafe-Warners Bay

Warners Bay shopping precinct is just across the road from the Lake Macquarie shared walking/bike path that hugs the lake from Croudace Bay to Speers Point and beyond.  It’s a fine way to experience the lake, which is the largest coastal saltwater lake in Australia. Whether you are starting or ending here, or just passing by, Warners Bay is worth a linger. Lena’s Lakeside Cafe is conveniently located on the Esplanade and is a popular old school style cafe. There’s plenty of seating; inside, in the alleyway, or out on the footpath – although seats, like elsewhere on a Saturday morning, are tight. We try one of each of the plain and date scones. Both scones are tough and taste as though they were fresh a few days ago. The plain scone is more like a bread roll, and the date scone tastes of onions. The strawberry jam is sweet and syrupy, and the cream is super light. To be honest, the whole shebang tastes cheap and I don’t enjoy it, but if it’s a Devonshire Tea you are after then go for it.

Scones: teapot3teapot3

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapothalf

Tea: A basic range of tea bags served in a small pot. It says Dilmah tea on the menu, however I receive an Aurora tea bag.

Price: $$

Overall: Friendly staff and a prime position on the Esplanade.

Location: 444 The Esplanade, Warners Bay NSW 2282 Ph: 02 4965 7171 lenaslakesidecafe.com.au
Reviewed in April, 2017

Gardenia Cafe

DT@Gardenia Cafe- Warners Bay

I’m back visiting Lee Rowan’s Gardenworld, but this time the Warners Bay store. It feels more established and compact compared to the Ourimbah outlet, but the stock looks the same (or thereabouts). If you’re not here for the plants, then wander the gift shop for garden ornaments, homeware, wallets, costume jewellery, and gardening implements. The Gardenia Cafe shares the same building as the gift store, with tables spilling out into a small courtyard overlooking the nursery. If you prefer to stay indoors, the high ceilings and floor to ceiling windows gives the cafe an airy feel. The single serve scone is definitely made to order, and arrives crisp and out-of-the-oven fresh. The strawberry jam is better than average, and the cream is impressive; slightly sweet and thickly whipped. My tea arrives promptly and before my scone, unlike the sister cafe in Ourimbah.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapot3

Cream:  teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Tea: A small range of loose-leaf tea served in a plunger pot.

Price: $$

Overall: A basic and small range of loose-leaf tea served in a plunger pot.

Location: Lee Rowan’s Gardenworld, 381 Hillsborough Rd, Warners Bay NSW 2282
Ph: 02 4954 6999 leerowans.com.au
Reviewed in April, 2017

Cafe Crema

ST@Cafe Creme - Cammeray

Stockland Cammeray Shopping Centre is more apartments and eateries than a ‘shopping centre’. Sporting a ‘European style’ (well, not quite) piazza, it’s a little community of locals dining and picking up a few groceries. Cafe Crema has a prime piece of real estate: on the corner where most pedestrians enter the square. Most of the seating is indoors with enough outside to satisfy alfresco loving diners. As far as scones, jam and cream goes, this one is a complete flop. The fruit scones are completely tasteless and dry, and I’m guessing a few days old. The strawberry jam is the average cafe variety and the diary whip cream is so light I am surprised it doesn’t dissolve sooner. It’s $8 not well spent! A shame, as this is the only café doing scones in Cammeray.

Scones: teapot3teapothalf

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapothalf

Tea: A small range of T2 silk tea bags served in a small pot. My tea is very weak.

Price: $$

Overall: Pleasant sunny spot in a prime location on Cammeray Square.

Location: Stockland Cammeray Shopping Centre, Cnr Miller St & Amherst St, Cammeray NSW 2062 Ph: 02 8920 2881

Reviewed in April, 2017    

Poppy’s Verandah Cafe

DT@Verandah Cafe- Poppy's Nursery Gateshead

Poppy’s Garden & Homewares is exactly that; a garden centre that probably sells as much homeware as it does foliage. So by the time you reach Poppy’s Verandah Cafe after perusing furniture, cushions and candles, and the rest – you’ll be ready for a cuppa. Bright and airy, the cafe feels large, and although there’s lots of seating, the table configuration of twos and fours allows the space to still retain some intimacy. The scones are hard to beat; crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and so ridiculously fresh that they must be straight from the oven. It’s a shame about the sickly sweet raspberry jam, it’s okay, but these scones deserve better. The cream is way too light, that I can barely taste it. It’s a real shame when cafes can’t get the three components right. Why have perfect scones watered done with below average jam and cream? I’m yet to find out! A couple of petty gripes – the lip of my coffee cup is cracked/chipped, and the teeny tiny plate that doesn’t give me much room to dress my scones. Gluten free scones are available.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapothalf

Tea: A handful of choices, all loose-leaf, and served in a small pot.

Price: $$$

Overall: Top rated scones and shopping – not a bad combination.

Location: Poppy’s Home & Garden, 83 Oakdale Rd, Gateshead NSW 2290
Ph: 02 4947 8255 poppysgc.com.au
Reviewed in March, 2017

Doubletake Cafe

DT@Doubletake Cafe - Toronto#2

Only a few minutes walk separates Toronto’s cafes and the shores of Lake Macquarie. From the outdoor seating area of Doubletake Cafe, the lake and it’s well-manicured shoreline beckon, promising a chance to walk off sweet indulgences. By the time I arrive at the cafe (lunchtime), the scones have already sold out, even though they are on the menu. Luckily, the kind kitchen staff whips up a couple just to keep us customers happy, and we settle in to the lake view. The scones, fresh out of the oven, have a delicate creamy taste that pairs exceptionally well with the rich berry preserve and double thick cream. Overall, this combination is a winner – now for that walk!

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Tea: A basic range of loose-leaf teas and a few specialty teas served in a small pot.

Price: $$

Overall: Alfresco dining with friendly service.

Location: 4 The Boulevarde, Toronto NSW 2283 Ph: 02 4959 9888

Reviewed in April, 2017