In the 20 years that I've lived in Dulwich Hill, there have been many changes to this humble little neighbourhood. It's actually quite scary to realise that much time has passed by since our family moved here and that I am now a child of yesteryear. Funny thing is it's only now that the memories which have shaped my love for food are flooding back to me, ever since I sat down to brunch with a fellow food blogger at this new addition to the growing food scene in my little neighbourhood.
I remember the discovery of devon and tomato sauce sandwiches from the school canteen during my primary school days. I spied some little rolls in the window of a small Portuguese bakery on the main strip of Marrickville Road on the way home one day and knew that they were the exact ones that the canteen ladies used to make these sandwiches. With my pocket money I'd stop and buy half a dozen of these milk buns for something ridiculously cheap like a dollar or something close to that. I'd then go up to the supermarket, back then it was either Jewels or Franklins, and buy a small roll of devon. Tomato sauce and butter were fridge staples at home which didn't cost me anything. At that time I thought they were the one of the best things I'd ever eaten.
My mum's knowledge of non Vietnamese/Asian food back then was not as broad as it is now so I infrequently ate anything that was not Vietnamese, or did not come out of a bakery (my parents owned a bakery up until when my sister was born) or a certain fast food chain. Pizzas, kebabs and fast food seemed to be the extent of non Vietnamese food in our household. Eating from the school canteen was an absolute treat for me because it introduced me to all sorts of weird and wonderful (to me) foods - baked potato with sour cream and chives (explains my addiction for potatoes), non Asian soups, chicken and mayo rolls, chicken and corn rolls, pizza pockets, lasagne and so much more.
High school introduced me to hot chips and gravy, and chicken schnitzels, and charcoal chicken (yes, very deprived childhood). There were 3 charcoal chicken places in Dulwich Hill from what I remember but our favourite was the one next door to the pub. They had the best charcoal chicken there and did super sized serves of chips with some damn good gravy.
As I've gotten older, my knowledge of food has broadened and so my palate has also evolved over time too. I guess this is the same case with my little neighbourhood of Dulwich Hill, and we're just talking about the main shopping strip here. There's a new little providore/specialised fine food store I frequently visit to pick up cheeses and and terrines and pates, and products which I generally can't find in the supermarket. The Larder Epicerie fine is the best thing that opened up for me. Of course I can't forget the little deli across the road which has been there from the beginning but there was one time in my life I would not have stepped foot in there.
There are now so many cafes which have popped up over the last few years and I have not even visited them all (well, not that I need to when I can make my own breakfast/lunch at home from the great ingredients I can buy close by).
While I was online searching for something a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across some information telling me that there was a new patisserie in town. They've been open for a few months now and it has taken me this long to discover it. The shop front does not face the main road so I was really confused when I read the address for the first time trying to picture in my mind where it was exactly and why I had not noticed it. The photos on the website were the draw card for me and I scheduled in a date to go check it out asap - my crazy sweet tooth was just salivating thinking of all the great cakes and pastries awaiting me to try.
Faye Cahill Cake Designs actually occupied this space previously before she moved to Marrickville (also discovered by chance when I randomly changed my walking path), so it was a perfect platform for this patisserie. It has more width than depth, half to two thirds of the space is used for the kitchen and the rest of the space is the store front. The large windows let you have a glimpse into the workings of the kitchen which is great. There are a small number of tables and chairs out the front which filled up quickly when lunch peak hit. A blackboard sign on the footpath assures you that everything is baked on premises, and tells you to 'like' their facebook page for news and specials.
If you havn't noticed from the logo, you'll notice from the photos on the wall and the menu where some items are named after the band members that this place has a bit of a thing for The Beatles. They're even running a promotion this weekend - free coffee for anyone who comes in wearing a Beatles t-shirt.
The cabinet was full of so many good looking things it was hard to pick. If we had the stomach room (or more people to share food with) we would have definitely gone for one of everything. There's small selection of savouries - 3 varieties in 3 different flavours of for each type. Sausage rolls - Traditional (beef), Australian (lamb and rosemary), or English (pork, fennel and sage). Quiches - pumpkin feta and leek, lorraine, or smoked trout and dill. Scrolls - Spinach and feta (Paul), bacon and egg (John), and a third one that was scratched off the menu was salami, olive and cheese (Ringo).
There were a lot of sweet options which made choosing even harder. Fruit tarts, croissants, pastries, mousse cakes, different individual cakes, macarons, brownies. The selection of baked goodies does change from day to day and week to week but it looks like favourites are menu staples.
T2 Earl Grey Tea.
A few girly squeals came from both of us when my tea came out. Such a cute tea cup and saucer and the milk is served in an adorable little glass bottle.
Helen ordered a small
cappuccino double shot flat white, though she wished she ordered a large after reading the menu again. The large sized hot beverages are served in a French style bowl!
English Sausage Roll - Pork, Fennel and Sage.
The pastry was buttery and flaky just how it should be. The filling was well seasoned though a little heavy on the sage for me.
Quiche - Smoked Trout and Dill.
I really enjoyed this quiche. The filling was nice and creamy and not too overly eggy. Smoked trout and dill was a great flavour match and the pastry was just right.
Scroll - Bacon and Egg (The John).
Who can resist the sight of that egg yolk waiting to be pierced. Helen declared this her favourite, I couldn't decide between this and the quiche which I liked better so I deem them both my favourites. The caramelised onion added a nice sweet contrast to the savoury bacon.
Gooey egg yolk!
The runny egg yolk added another flavour and texture to the scroll, ingenious! They have managed to bake the scroll and then added the egg and baked that to a point where it stayed soft in the middle.
French Apple Tart.
After our savouries we were pining for more as our stomachs were not satisfied yet and were hanging for some sweet treats. We went with a few classics starting with the apple tart. The pastry base was perfect, filled with an almond paste like that of a frangipane tart. We were both a little disappointed with the apple topping. The slices of apple were very thin and when eaten together with the pastry and filling you couldn't really taste them.
Strawberry Fields Forever - Strawberry Tart.
Their signature. And it just looked so enticing sitting on that top shelf. Plump red glazed strawberries calling out to you. We were lucky to nab the last one as these seemed to have walked out the door while we were enjoying our first round. I enjoyed this one more than the apple tart though wish there was more tart to strawberry ratio. A little thin for me. The pastry and crème patissiere were nice but I wanted more to eat with my strawberries.
Both of us were expecting to see an actual croissant filled with some almond cream which brought up the discussion of what a real almond croissant is. The almond croissants I grew up with were what mum made in our bakery - actual croissants filled with an almond flavoured creme patissiere, topped with almonds and icing sugar. The one I recently had from Brasserie Bread was also similar though it was filled with an almond paste. I told Helen that when I had one in Paris it was similar to this one that we were having so we agreed that this must be the real deal.
Almond Croissant Innards.
So what is the real deal? An almond croissant is not in fact anything like a regular croissant at all. It is actually a pastry made of almond meal instead of regular flour which gives it an almost cake like consistency. The dough is then rolled into layers then covered in almonds and baked. This one came with a chocolate filling which was a nice pairing with the almond. The thin edges caramelise and crisp up giving you some nice crunchy bits to bite into, Helen thoroughly enjoyed this part the most.
Macarons - Hazelnut, and Peanut Butter.
I couldn't resist walking away without trying some of the macarons. For $2.90 they were a little steep I thought but they were larger in size compared to the ones I've had. The hazelnut macaron actually had a surprise whole hazelnut in the middle. The peanut butter macaron was filled with a chocolate ganache and a peanut butter middle.
I am a massive macaron snob, I'll admit that. I expect perfection when I bite into a macaron which means I am always disappointed when the macarons I bake at home don't hit perfection. I bit in with not too much expectation as there are not many good places that can dish out a perfect macaron in Sydney. My first bite was returned with a pleasant surprise. The shell was not too thick and not too thin giving way to a soft but yet firm and chewy biscuit. The filling to biscuit ratio was a perfect balance so it wasn't overly sweet.
I am now happy that I don't have to go all the way into the city for macarons. The Baroque/La Renaissance macarons will always be my favourite but location is not exactly convenient for me. Now I only have to walk up the road :)
***Edit: I actually thought they were MakMak macarons when I first spotted them but the sign that said 'everything baked fresh on site' made me give them benefit of the doubt. I have since then discovered that my gut instinct was right and that they do buy in their macarons from MakMak. Nothing wrong with that though as the MakMak macarons are quite good and now I have a local suppler :).***
Knowing the boy's weakness, I bought a plain croissant for Ryan. I had to have a small taster too of course. Moist, buttery, and flaky. It was good enough to be on our top rank of croissants in Sydney, and there aren't that many on that list ;).
Strawberry Fields is the second best thing that has opened up for me in Dulwich Hill, though just like my number one place I have to be mindful of how frequent I visit. All the indulgent treats will catch up with me if I don't be careful and totally give in to gluttony. It's been hard enough trying to keep the winter weight off before this discovery. Maybe a once a month treat. And I've just realised I now have a little slice of Paris on my doorstep ;)
Do you have any fond memories of early food experiences in your life?