The Bank Tea House

DT@The Bank Tea House#2The streets of St Marys at the top of the pass of the same name are so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. I’ve been through the town a couple of times, both in summer and in autumn, and both times have been the same – very quiet. Open the door to The Bank Tea House, and it’s a different story. The grill is sizzling and the slow combustion stove is keeping the place toasty. While I wait I poke around the Man Cave (yes it is the name of the room), which houses a range of second hand goods and collectibles for sale. Although cosy inside, the sun is shining and the Tea House is blessed with a sunny courtyard and sunny nooks and crannies where tables and chairs have been strategically set up out on the footpath. The single scone is light and fluffy with just enough crispness on the outside to give it a lovely texture. Unfortunately the accompaniments aren’t up to par; the strawberry jam is average and the cream is a sweet sickly concoction straight from a can. Brownie points for the proper teacup and saucer!

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3

Tea: A vast range of tea bags for all tastes, served in an adequate sized teapot.

Price: $$

Overall: Feels like the hub of the village.

Location: 26 Main St, St Marys TAS 7215 Ph: 03 6372 2578 amanscave.com.au

Reviewed in May, 2017

 

Scottsdale Art Gallery Cafe

DT@Scottsdale Art Gallery Cafe#

Scottsdale has become more than just a service hub for surrounding farms. A pleasant pit stop halfway between Launceston and St Helens, with pretty Bridport on Bass Strait and vineyards to the north, mountain bike hub, Derby, just down the road, and a Rail Trail passing through town. Scottsdale Art Gallery is easy to find on the main drag and shares the space with a cafe. Essentially it is a cafe surrounded by paintings, sculptures, pottery and jewellery perfectly poised in a light bright space. I’m gobsmacked by the scones; fluffy and super creamy – there’s definitely a secret ingredient, as they taste incredible. The scones are accompanied with a tart homemade raspberry jam, which, to be honest can be doubled in quantity. It’s a pain to be only able to have a thin scrape of jam, but at least the scones are exceptionally tasty. What a bummer about the cream, it’s just way too light and flavourless. The gallery and café are open daily.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Cream: teapot3teapothalf

Tea: A good range, with a few interesting choices of loose-leaf teas served in an adequate sized pot.

Price: $$

Overall: Top scones in a chilled out gallery.

Location: 42 King St, Scottsdale TAS 7260 Ph: 03 6352 4388 scottsdaleartgallery.com.au


Reviewed in May, 2017

 

Neil Pitt’s Coffee Shop

DT@Neil Pitt' Coffee Shop-Launceston#2

A hundred years ago, the Majestic Theatre in central Launceston was once a buzzing entertainment hub with a Tea Room for refreshments. The former cinema still has a majestic and intact façade, but in 1970 the interior was transformed and in moved Neil Pitt’s Menswear. Not a newcomer to Launceston, the menswear store has been going since 1949 and moved into these digs in 1970. Neil Pitt’s Coffee Shop is perched on the mezzanine level, allowing a birds-eye view over the trousers. The store reminds me of David Jones in the 70s and 80s and it’s definitely something I haven’t seen for a while. What I love most about Neil Pitt’s is the fact that a cafe in an old-school menswear store is renowned for their Devonshire Teas, and most of all, men are ploughing through them. This is a revelation, and my partner is neither impressed nor amused. The cafe is integrated into the store and is very masculine with wood panelled walls depicting coates of arms of British towns. Scones are served at room temperature and although fresh and very CWA-like, a bit of heat in my scones may have bumped up the teapot score. The strawberry jam is average and the whipped cream is super light, looking as though it’s out of a whipping cream canister. Overall, this place is a classic, and a must for those interested in heritage and like to see proof that blokes do actually like to eat scones! Open 9am – 2pm, Monday to Friday.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapothalf

Tea: A small range of Twinning tea bags served in a classic large aluminium teapot.

Price: $$

Overall: Only in Tassie are Devonshire Teas served in a menswear store.

Location: 76 Brisbane St, Launceston TAS 7250 Ph: 03 6331 3711 neilpitts.com.au

Reviewed in May, 2017

Harlequin’s Cakes

DT@Harlequin' Cakes

I’ve been passing Harlequin’s Cakes in Balgowlah for years now, and finally decided to make the Devonshire Tea call. Easily located on the road to Manly, the place is part bakery/part cafe, and specialises in cakes for all occasions. It’s a compact set up, with only three tables in a tastefully designed cafe area. There’s a coffee machine, a cake cabinet filled with favourites, and pies for those who prefer savoury to sweet. There’s even a sign especially for Devonshire Teas, and scones sit where everyone can see them; right on the counter. I’m early so the scone tray is bare as they are still cooling off out the back – fresh from the oven. I have a choice of plain, sultana and date, and try a plain and a sultana. They taste like a bakery scone rather than a creamy and fluffy nanna-style baked scone. Don’t get me wrong; they are still good, fresh but a bit more bread-like.  The cream is chilled, firm, and slightly sweet, your typical cake filling cream (if that makes sense?). Unfortunately the strawberry jam is a bit below average, which is a shame, as it is the weakest link.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Jam: teapot3teapot3

Cream: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Tea: Four choices of teabag tea served in a small pot.

Price: $$

Overall: Surprisingly good for a bakery and a comfy cafe to boot.

Location: 363 Sydney Rd, Balgowlah NSW 2093 Ph: 02 9948 7741
Reviewed in April, 2017

 

The Shed Cafe

DT@The Shed Cafe-Dundillimal Homestead, Dubbo

National Trust’s Dundullimal Homestead on the outskirts of Dubbo is believed to be the oldest sophisticated slab house in Australia. Built sometime in the 1840s as the homestead for a 6,500-hectare station, the furnished house still retains much of its ambience. The wallpaper in the sitting room has been reproduced from an 1850 patent and there are enough audio interpretations if there isn’t a National Trust volunteer guide at hand to fill in the gaps. Wander the grounds through the renovated stables, blacksmith’s forge, coach room, sunken cool room, and stores. A small 1870s timber church from a nearby township now resides where the original church once stood, and no doubt makes Dundillimal Homestead the perfect property for a wedding. Take tea at The Shed Cafe that’s housed in the refurbished machinery shed, and set up as a cafe/function room. The scones remind me of CWA scones – small (the right size) and creamy. The strawberry jam is average but the thickly whipped cream is exactly what I’d expect to be served with my CWA-style scones. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 3pm. Admission to the property is $9.50.

Scones: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

Jam: teapot3teapot3teapothalf

Cream: teapot3teapot3teapot3teapot3

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

Price: $$

Overall: A superb historic property well worth the linger.

Location: Dundullimal Homestead, L/23 Obley Rd, Dubbo NSW 2830Ph: 02 6884 9984
nationaltrust.org.au

Reviewed in April, 2017

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