The Spirit of Tasmania 1

DT@Spirit of Tasmainia 1#2

Bass Strait is behaving, and there’s barely a ripple as the Spirit of Tasmania 1 sails across Bass Strait from Port Melbourne in Victoria to Devonport in Tasmania. On a day sailing, there’s no need to stow away in a cabin, as there’s so much to do. Stay on deck and wave Melbourne goodbye. In Port Phillip Bay, dozens of dolphins follow the ferry; dipping and diving, and with the occasional ‘Sea World’ high dive just to show off. Had enough sea air? Catch a movie at one of the two cinemas, listen to music in one of the bars, or explore the ferry, spending time wherever you choose. Whoever demanded that the crew announce meal times for TMK (Tasmanian Market Kitchen), Spirit 1’s main eatery, is a genius. How else would I know about the scones served at 4.00pm while cocooned in the lulling silence of The Lounge? Although The Terrace Lounge Bar serves pizzas and paninis, the casual self-serve eatery is the place for well-priced and appetising meals, and, of course, the scones. From a rather large tray of piping hot scones, choose your own, then add as much thickly whipped cream than you think you may need, and grab a handful of Kraft jam portions (remember, there’s not much in them). The scones are well-baked and oven-fresh but taste as though they may be made from a pre-made scone mix. I could be wrong, and I definitely don’t want to undermine the chefs, after all, it’s the middle of Bass Strait and where else can you get scones?

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Jam: teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Tea: A selection of Twinings tea bags served in paper cups.

Price: $$

Overall: An excellent surprise!

Location: Station Pier, Waterfront Place, Port Melbourne VIC 3207 OR The  Ph: 1800 634 906 spiritoftasmania.com.au

Reviewed December, 2017

Pickers Cafe & Collectables

DT@Pickers Cafe & Collectables-Rutherglen VIC#

A former gold mining town, Rutherglen now sits smack bang in the middle of award-wining wine country. Easily accessible, it’s just over the border from New South Wales, therefore handy to the Murray River and Albury/Wodonga, and easy enough for a diversion off the Hume Highway. The town centre is lined with mid 19th century heritage buildings, which is typical of many towns in country Victoria. Picker Cafe & Collectables is down one end of Main St. Look for a few umbrellas and tables set up out front for fine weather dining, and there are several more inside amongst the collectables. Although the scones are large you may not be able to stop at one. They are oven fresh and slightly crispy on the outside. The rich raspberry jam is excellent, and the divine double thick Chantilly style cream has just the right amount of vanilla bean folded through it. While waiting, be sure to check out the second-hand goods and vintage collectables. Closed midweek.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Cream: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Tea: A basic range of Diplomat tea bags served in a decent-sized teapot.

Price: $$

Overall: Quality food at great prices.

Location: 166 Main St, Rutherglen VIC 3685 Ph: 03 6032 7547

Reviewed December, 2017

The Farm Cafe

DT@The Farm CAfe-Abbotsford VIC

Adjacent to the Abbotsford Convent complex, the Collingwood Children’s Farm is an inner city farm for inner city folk who can’t or don’t make it out of the city too often. It’s a chance for kids (big kids included) to wander the paddocks and connect with farm animals, cuddle guinea pigs and watch cows being milked. While the kids are occupied, head to The Farm Cafe, which is conveniently located on the grounds. The menu sounds delish and is loaded with health driven meals. The wholemeal scones are served at room temperature, and are robust rather than light and fluffy. I’m a real fan of wholemeal flour in baked items, but just not my scones, it’s just too heavy. The jam is the typical commercial jam served in most cafes. There’s barely enough for one scone, and thank goodness getting another dish of jam isn’t a problem. The double thick cream is a nice finish and brownie points for the lovely tea cup and saucer.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Tea: Calma Sutra loose-leaf teas served in a Japanese iron teapot.

Price: $$

Overall: Schmick alfreso dining overlooking the farm paddocks.

Location: Collingwood Children’s Farm, 18 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford VIC 3067
Ph: 03 9415 6581 farmcafe.com.au

Reviewed December, 2017

The Vintage Hall Cafe

DT@The Vintage Hall Cafe-Glenrowan#2

Entering Glenrowan from the north, The Vintage Hall Cafe is the first commercial venture in a town that eats and breathes all things Ned Kelly. If for some reason you’ve no idea who the infamous bushranger was, you’ll surely leave town with a fairly good idea. The Vintage Hall Cafe is actually part of the old village hall that now acts as a vintage and collectibles shop. The attached cafe has recently had a large deck built out the front that continues to wrap around the front of the hall. This added to the indoor dining, doubles the seating, and makes for a pleasant place to sit in fine weather. There’s a stash of both date and plain scones in the cake cabinet. Even though they err to the small side, I decide on just the plain scone. It’s not great as it’s spent too much time in the microwave and is a bit soggy. The berry jam is the highlight, rich and fruity and an excellent commercial variety. The cream on the other hand, although fresh is very light and airy.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapot3

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

Price: $$

Overall: It’s all about vintage wares and a meal rather than Ned Kelly.

Location: 54 Gladstone St, Glenrowan VIC 3675 Ph: 0412 172 470 

Reviewed December, 2017

Benalla Gallery Cafe

DT@The Gallery cafe-Benalla

Veer off the Hume Highway in northern Victoria and you won’t be far away from a country town ready for exploration. First in this northern Victorian series is Benalla. It has a bakery that boasts they have the best vanilla slice this side of Kansas. I guess it’s subjective as I find them small and they taste no different from other good vanilla slices. The centrepiece of the town is the Botanical Gardens that wrap around part of Lake Benalla, which on this summer’s morning sees a small group of swimmers doing a circuit of the lake. Sitting on the deck of the Benalla Gallery Cafe, I have pole position of said swimmers. Sharing the building with the Benalla Art Gallery, the cafe seems like a favourite as locals pile in not long after opening time. It’s barely past 8am and there’s a batch of scones on the counter. I assume they are at least yesterday’s as they are dry and unappetising, even on an empty stomach. The jam is stock standard strawberry and the cream luxuriously double thick.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Tea: A basic selection of loose-leaf Temple Tea served in a small teapot.

Price: $$

Overall: Great location overlooking Lake Benalla.

Location:
Ph: 03 5760 2619 benallagallerycafe.com

Reviewed December, 2017

Betie’s Cafe

DT@Beties Cafe-Kogarah

It seems you need to be stationary to notice Betie’s Cafe. Apart from the times I’ve been stuck in gridlock traffic on the Princes Highway, I am always whizzing past. Betie’s Cafe sounds like the kind of place that would serve scones, so when I make the call I’m both delighted and not too surprised. On my visit there’s a convivial vibe, and it feels like a family affair including both staff and diners. Perhaps I am crashing a pre-Christmas Sunday lunch? If traffic noise doesn’t bother you, sit outside in the tiny courtyard otherwise bask in the warm hospitality indoors. The scones are delightful: light and fluffy and sprinkled with icing sugar. The homemade mixed berry jam is perfect, fruit rich and not sweet at all. The cream is very light, which is a bummer, because the rest is top-notch.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

 Cream: teapot3teapothalf

Tea: A good range of loose-leaf teas served in a small teapot and complimented with a bone China teacup.

Price: $$

Overall: A surprising find in an unusual place.

Location: 309 Princes Hwy, Carlton NSW 2218 Ph: 02 9553 9125 betiescafe.com

Reviewed December, 2017

Rodney’s Garden Cafe

DT@Rodneys Cafe - Plants Plus, Piliago ACT

Rodney’s Plants Plus is your typical 21st century garden centre. There is plenty to peruse including a vast selection of plants, flowers and herbs, basically anything green and living for the garden is on offer. Let’s not forget everything needed to help the garden thrive and of course, the cafe. Garden shopping is hunger-inducing work, right? All comings and goings is through the home and giftware store, and good luck in leaving empty-handed! Rodney’s Garden Cafe has indoor, outdoor, and shaded eating areas, and a plethora of nooks and crannies for diners. During inclement weather indoors is recommended, as shade cloth doesn’t hold back the rain. The scones are sensational: delicate, and oh-so-fluffy and feather-light. The miniature jam jar of strawberry jam is cute, but the jam is nothing better than the average jam served in cafes. Additionally, we might like our scones super light, but the cream? It’s a definite no-no. The fresh cream from a cream canister looks tidy, but is way too aerated for the DT Guide. The sprig of fresh mint leaves is a fitting garnish, considering we are at a garden centre.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapot3

Tea: A small range of Serenitea silk tea bags served in a small teapot.

Price: $$

Overall: Everything to make your garden grow under one big roof.`

Location: Rodney’s Plants Plus, 24a Beltana Rd, Pialligo ACT 2609 Ph: 02 6257 5822 

Reviewed November, 2017

Riverbank of Queanbeyan

DT@The Riverside Cafe-Queenbeyan#

The heart of Riverbank of Queanbeyan is merely a shipping container with a kitchen attached, as well as a permanent open sided area connected to a sunny deck reaching towards the river’s edge. Along one side of the container a wisteria covered eating area spills out into Ray Morton Park, where seating is arranged beneath shady trees. It’s an excellent design, utilising very little space for the unimportant (like paying), but offering myriad seating choices for discerning diners. Apparently the cafe sells hundreds of scones daily. Whether that’s true or not is another story – but if true, I can understand why. Both the date and plain scones are exceptional; light and fluffy, with the date having just the right amount of fruit. I enquire about the jam and am told proudly that it’s Costco’s strawberry jam, which for a supermarket brand, is rather good. The cream is the weakest link: way too light and starts to melt in the summer heat. While you are there, wander through the Sensory Gardens, which is designed to engage all five senses: sight, touch, sound, scent and taste.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapot3

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

Price: $$

Overall: A beautiful location by the Queanbeyan River.

Location: 4 Trinculo Pl, Queanbeyan NSW 2620Ph: 0417 465 457

Reviewed November, 2017

The Scented Rose Garden and Teahouse

DT@The Scented Rose Garden Cafe - Bywong

From my shady table on the verandah I can neither see nor smell the roses. Although in arms reach, the rose garden is well-hidden behind a high paling fence and hedges, and unless I pay the $3 to enter, the rose garden will remain a mystery. From the size of the car park it looks as though The Scented Rose Garden and Teahouse pulls in the visitors, and is the only attraction in Bywong, just off the Federal Highway. The teahouse has ample seating indoors and feels like a teahouse with cabinets of fine bone China, and jam and vintage items for sale. Outdoors, there’s the verandah and the shady courtyard, which looks as though would be a sun catcher in the cooler months. Served at room temperature and with a creamy texture, the two small scones look promising. I have an inkling though that they were baked either very early this morning or the previous day. I could be wrong, but they just don’t have that knock-me-out fresh taste. The jam tastes like generic strawberry cafe jam, but bonus points for the thickly whipped cream. Considering it’s a teahouse and the main room is decked out in fine bone China teaware, it’s a crying shame that I am lumbered with a paltry teapot that’s fit for a cafeteria and a generic cafe coffee cup. NB: The Scented Rose Garden and Teahouse has since been in contact to confirm that entrance to the rose garden is for free, especially if purchasing food/drinks, and that fine bone China teaware can be served if requested.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf 

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Tea: Along with the basic, a few interesting loose-leaf teas from The Tea Centre, all served in a small teapot.

Price: $$

Overall: A cute teahouse with the option to pay to tour the rose garden.

Location: Ph: 02 6236 9596  

Reviewed November, 2017

Tulips Cafe

DT@Tulips Cafe, Pialigo ACT

Pialligo is a green thumb’s paradise, where garden centres sell all manner of stuff to do with gardens, including garden accessories and giftware. Although, visit Bliss Garden and Giftware and you might be disappointed if after living greenery. Instead, there’s an abundance of accessories to beautify gardens such as garden pots and furniture, water features, and home and giftware. Sharing the same plot of land is Tulips Cafe, which has a seating arrangement to suit all plus a large kids playground to keep the young and restless occupied. A tad unusual but there’s a peacock wandering around the garden furniture, although I’m not sure where he belongs. I choose one of the large plain scones, leaving the date scone for another day. It’s on the dry side, but it is closing time after all. For the size of the scone there’s not enough jam, but that’s no great loss as it’s mediocre. The cream on the other hand is double thick rich and goes the distance. Impressive is the contemporary fine bone China cup and saucer by Pearl, which makes sipping quality tea a pleasure. Don’t leave your visit too late as the cafe staff have one foot out the door before 3pm.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf 

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Tea: A small range of Adore loose-leaf teas served in a good-sized pot.

Price: $$

Overall: Half garden accessory and gift shop, and half cafe.

Location: Bliss Garden and Giftware, 8 Beltana Rd, Pialligo ACT 2609 Ph: 02 6249 6118 tulipscafe.com.au

Reviewed November, 2017