The Austen Tea Room

DT@The Austen Tea Room-Essendon#

The Austen Tea Room, named after the famous British writer Jane Austen, occupies a corner in suburban Essendon. The seating out on the footpath is both inviting and popular in good weather – otherwise venture indoors. After my visit, I re-read The Austen Tea Room website, just to see whether I missed anything – and it seems that I have. Apparently there are specific rooms that are used for High Teas and are prettily decorated. I definitely don’t see any ‘rooms’, but perhaps it’s because upon entering, my friend and I make a beeline for the only comfortable chairs in the cafe, and by doing this, miss the passage to the stylish tea rooms. We are both surprised that it feels more cafe than tea room, with the only connection to Jane Austen that’s evident are the few pictures of Collin Firth and Jennifer Ehle from the 1995 Pride and Prejudice British television mini-series. There’s no dainty tea and dinnerware for a plate of scones, so I assume things like that are reserved for the ‘High Tea rooms’. I try one of each of the plain and fruit scones on offer this day. Both are fresh, even at 3.15pm. The jam is good enough, but is nothing more than average. The double thick cream is divine, making this a lovely spread, even though there is nothing ‘tea roomy’ about the experience.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Tea: A few varieties of loose-leaf teas served in a small teapot. A hot water refill is definitely required.

Price: $$

Overall: Not a fancy tea room like the website portrays.

Location: 40 Nicholson St, Essendon VIC 3040 Ph: 03 9326 2966 theaustentearoom.com.au

Reviewed in September, 2017

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Cafenatics

DT@Cafe Natics - QV Melbourne

Cafenatics cafes are all over the place, and I feel like I’ve had my head in the sand as I have never noticed the cafe chain. This outlet is tucked away in the QV Melbourne shopping mall in the CBD. It’s quite stark but I find the booths kind of cool and private for a catch up session with friends. In the cake cabinet, the scones look great, but once delivered, my scone has been lightly toasted and severed in two – and not quite the scone it once was. There’s not enough of the jam as the scone is on the large size, and probably just as well because the jam is sickly sweet. The synthetic cream from an aerosol can is so soft and melts before my eyes into a milky pool of something. With low quality spreads like this on the market, its little wonder the scone eating has waned.

Scones: teapot3teapothalf

Jam: teapot3teapot3

Cream: teapot3teapothalf

Tea: A small selection of Tea Drop silk pyramid tea bags, served in a cup with a lid. A total rip off at the price.

Price: $$

Overall: A very ordinary experience, although the booths are cool.

Location: QV Melbourne, Red Cape Lane, Ph: 03 9654 9096 qv.com.au

Reviewed in September, 2017

Dovetail Cafe

DT@Dovetail-World Square, Sydney

Located in the heart of the bustling shopping precinct that is World Square in Sydney’s CBD, Dovetail Cafe is strategically positioned to receive a heavy flow of passing pedestrian traffic. Not sure whether it’s named after the pseudo dovetail joints on display on the outer walls of the cafe, or the silhouettes of doves (as in birds) positioned around the place. The interior of the cafe maintains the random dove theme, and sticks with a bright, modern cafe look. The scones aren’t on the menu but are a reliable staple. They’re mediocre – neither good nor bad – and will suffice if you’re really hankering for one and don’t want to traipse up town. The one lousy strawberry sachet of jam is a disappointment and doesn’t meet my jam requirements, so I ask for another. The cream tastes like a synthetic whipped cream from a can, which is super light. Probably not the best choice of DT in the City.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Jam: teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapothalf

Tea: A basic range of T2 loose-leaf teas served in a teapot, plus some ‘hand picked fine Chinese teas’.

Price: $$

Overall: A buzzy cafe easily located in bustling World Square.

Location: World Square, 9/644 George St, Sydney NSW 2000 Ph: 02 8387 6257 dovetailcafe.com.au

Reviewed in September, 2017

Simple Simons Coffee House

DT@Simple Simons-Balmoral#2

It may not be perched on the water like other Balmoral properties, but Simple Simons Coffee House is just that – simple digs delivering quality goods. Located next door to the fish ‘n’ chip shop on the corner (just look for the crowd and queues in summer), Simple Simons has alfresco dining on the footpath that is enclosed in the cooler months. I stick my head in not expecting to find a scone filled cake container on the counter. The scones are super light and fluffy – and taste exceptional! The rich raspberry jam and double thick cream finish off the ensemble beautifully. For a few extra bucks, there’s an option (verbal) to add fresh strawberries to the spread. Here’s hoping that these babies stick around on the menu.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf

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

Price: $$$

Overall: Expect big things from a simple place.

Location: 11A The Esplanade, Balmoral NSW 2088 Ph: 02 9960 7222

Reviewed in September, 2017

Garden House Cafe

DT@Garden House Cafe-Flower Power Enfield#2

Tucked away in suburbia, The Flower Power Garden Centre in Enfield is part of a larger complex, including a fruit and veg shop, and pet care supplies, that are all accessed via the one car park. Once in the garden centre shop, the garden world is your oyster. As well as pesticides, gardening tools and potting mix, buy scented candles, terrariums and cushions – an endless supply of gift ideas. Then there are the plants and the garden furniture; it’s difficult to leave empty-handed. The cafe is buzzing, and although the sun is shining, everyone seems crammed indoors rather than the sunny courtyard. Date or plain scones are available, but I stick with the plain. The scone is light, and you may want to order two if hungry. The raspberry compote, which is neither tart nor sweet, provides a change from standard jams, however a bigger portion wouldn’t go astray. The double thick dollop cream is a nice touch, and there’s more than enough to go around.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Cream: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Tea: A small range of unusual Calmer Sutra loose leaf tea blends served in a tea pot. Choose from blends with names such as Peppermyrtle, Black Velvet, Emerald Bloom, Floral Field, Lady Melba, and Evermore.

Price: $$

Overall: A buzzy vibe with plenty of garden centre-style shopping.

Location: Flower Power Garden Centre, 27 Mitchell St, Enfield NSW 2136
Ph: 02 9747 5555 gardenhousecafe.com.au

Reviewed in August, 2017

The Boatshed At Woronora

DT@The Boatshed Woronora#2

Weave through Sydney’s southern suburbs, head over the Woronora River, and down to the very tidal Forbes Creek where the distinct blue and white The Boatshed at Woronora sits nestled between waterfront houses. Canoes spill out of the shed and lie in wait of high tide, while kayaks and other craft are stacked inside the shed. With only three tables outside in the sun, its first in, best dressed. The rest of the seating is within the actual boatshed, where diners share the space with life jackets and kayaks. This is a true blue working boatshed, and it’s wonderfully decked out in nautical nick-nacks. The homemade style scones are served at room temperature, and taste creamy and fresh. This in turn, alongside the plentiful thickly whipped cream, makes the mediocre strawberry jam negligible in affecting the overall taste experience.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Tea: A good range of Twinings tea bags served in a small teapot.

Price: $$

Overall: Combining location and quality scones – this place is a winner.

Location: 131 Prince Edward Park Rd, Woronora NSW 2232 Ph: 02 9545 2584
theboatshedatworonora.com.au

Reviewed in August, 2017