Road trip stop 1
Filling: Delicious fluffy, creamy vanilla custard 8/10
Pastry: Well baked, fresh but not memorable 7.5/10
Presentation: Lots of filling, neatly sliced, loss of sugar in bag 7.5/10
Value for money: $4- medium portion size, fresh and satisfying overall 8.5/10
Overall score: 7.4/10
Out and about in leafy Diamond Creek, Mrs B and I sought something tasty for lunch. With limited choices we opted for a banh mi from a local bakery. Mrs B returned to car with a bag full of goodies, including my BBQ pork roll and as pictured and a wild card French vanilla slice. The rolls were tasty, the bread wasn’t as lip-slicing as some bakeries but the filling and taste was very good indeed, just a little soggy by the end due to the large quantities of sauce inside.
The French vanilla slice lost some of its sugar in transit but still remained in tact. It’s proportions were interesting, noticeably higher than a lot of common slices of the same footprint. With such vast quantities of custard I was hoping for a good batch, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s texture like airy whipped cream, it’s flavour like vanilla ice cream - it didn’t hang around long in between the surrounding layers of pastry. I had to eat this thing fast as it was squirting out all sides and compressing fast. The pastry itself was fresh and very serviceable. It could have been baked longer for a darker appearance and some more crunch, but nonetheless it was a decent component.
Overall a recommendable little bakery if you find yourself in the area.
Filling: Great colour but slimy texture and nondescript flavour 4/10
Pastry: Well baked, very flaky but slightly thick 8/10
Presentation: Excellent proportions, neatly cut and smoothly iced 8.5/10
Value for money: $3.80- medium portion size, fresh but very average 6/10
Overall score: 6.6/10
With an impromptu trip into the south east of Melbourne I called into Hawthorn Road Road Bakery on the way. We smashed some pretty decent roasted pork banh mi sandwiches first and then stopped in at Booran Reserve to let the kids run loose. I devoured my vanilla slice whilst watching my now 4 year old scale the highest climbing frame/slide structure known to man.
The slice had so,s good features aesthetically. It had good proportions and colour, with a deep yellow custard and dark brown, well baked pastry layers visible underneath the thickish top layer of glossy white icing.
Upon a few mouthfuls it was evident that the taste was not as good as the looks. The icing was too heavy and sweet, the custard lacked sweetness ironically and vanilla didn’t seem part of the ingredients. The pastry was the best component to the slice overall, with the layers well baked and flaky. At only $3.80 this is a decent slice for people who are happy to smash one without really over analysing it. However, in my line of blogging this is not the perfect slice, but does provide some value for money at least.
Filling: Delightfully airy vanilla custard 9/10
Pastry: Tightly baked and golden brown 9/10
Presentation: Excellent proportions, well crafted, cased in paper 8.5/10
Value for money: $5- medium portion size, fresh and satisfying 10//10
Overall score: 9.1/10
Heading over to the North East for the day I identified a modern little bakery in Ringwood North to drop into for a pie and vanilla slice lunch. They advertised some rather good looking vanilla slices “baked daily” on their Facebook page, so I was keen to get in on the act. Ordering a curry pie and the slice only set me back $10.50. No doubt that this type of bakery in other suburbs would be selling the same goods for a third more. They had plenty of other delicious looking options to choose from as well. I’d be happy to have another visit in future to sample more.
I demolished the pie quickly. It was delicious. Nothing memorable or fancy, but it hit the spot perfectly.
Moving on to the vanilla slice - I carefully tore the paper bag to reveal the narrow, but high rectangular double-decker. My first impressions were how well proportioned the whole thin was; a heavy custard to pastry ratio, even with three layers of dark brown pasty on offer. Handling with care, I picked it up and decided to rotate the slice 90 degrees and consume horizontally to limit the loss of the creamy filling. My plan worked perfectly due to the quality of the tightly compacted flaky pastry. It proved rigid in its construction but with a precision bite broke away beautifully into bite size pieces, with 100% consumption and no loss whatsoever. The pastry was beautifully baked, dark golden brown and as flaky as you could hope for. The custard too was of a high standard; so fluff pay and airy and a gentle hint of vanilla. I only think that some vanilla bean speckles in this mix could really improve the filling.
Clearly a lot of thought has gone into this little business. It’s modern, simple aesthetic, good pricing and quality products being made fresh daily. Spread the word, pop into The Pastry Board. Say Byron sent you!
Filling: Nothing special, creamy custard 7/10
Pastry: Super fresh and crumbly, slightly pastry heavy 8/10
Presentation: Neatly stacked and dusted, cased in paper 8/10
Value for money: $6.80 - medium portion size, fresh but not mind blowing 6.5/10
Overall score: 7.4/10
Out for a lunch time walk in the newly re-opened High Street in Kew, I poked my nose into Via Verona Pasticceria. With lockdown restrictions easing further it was nice to see more people out and about and even a few customers indoors having a coffee and cake once again. I bought myself a vanilla slice and small latte for $10.30 and sat in the park nearby and smashed both with relative ease.
I was happy to pick up the rectangular, triple stacked slice to discover the freshly baked, flaky pastry. When bitten the layers slid around with the creamy custard acting as a lubricant between all three moisture resistant layers. In truth the pastry was the all round best component to the slice, as the custard proved Ok, just not knockout in any way. I feel the price tag fits with the suburb rather than the product on offer, and although it was excellently fresh and neatly presented, it missed the mark for top shelf and good value for money.
Filling: Quite palatable vanilla custard 7/10
Pastry: Thicker than average, biscuity, fresh 7/10
Presentation: Rough around the edges, squat stature 6.5/10
Value for money: $4.90 - medium portion size, fresh and better than expected 7.5/10
Overall score: 7/10
Having exhausted all vanilla slice options within my local neighbourhood, I took the opportunity to go for a walk during my lunch break from work - having only just returned from lockdown. I stumbled upon an unassuming Vietnamese sandwich shop I’d never noticed before on Kew High Street and I took the gamble to enter. With three uneven, very different looking vanilla slices left in the cabinet I tentatively ordered one with an iced coffee. Thankfully I was given the biggest and most appetising portion and was overall quite pleased with my spend of $8.90 for both items. As a method of comparison, Just a nearby cafe was selling a rather average looking slice for $6.80, which I couldn’t justify.
So after my walk in the sun I sat down and enjoyed my slice in peace. With my first bite I was pleasantly surprised with the crunch of pastry, and though it was a little thicker than I’d have liked it was fresh and quite biscuity. It made for easy pick up and a mess free experience. The custard was creamier and more scented with vanilla than predicted and was a good viscosity to remain sandwiched in the pastry whilst remaining fluffy and light. I had to remove some of the icing sugar due to some close to some unnecessary inhalation.
Just goes to show, never judge a book by its cover. Not the best, but very serviceable.
Filling: Delectable rich vanilla custard 9.5/10
Pastry: Beautifully golden, fresh and flaky 9.5/10
Presentation: Neatly assembled, unassuming 8.5/10
Value for money: $3.50 (estimate) - large portion size, very satisfying 10/10
Overall score: 9.4/10
With Mrs B celebrating her birthday in lockdown I wanted her to have a nice cake at least. I got in contact with Angela and gave her the brief of a dairy free cake that my dairy allergic kiddies could also help devour. Angela took up the challenge and came up with the masterpiece dairy free chocolate, strawberry jam, freeze dried strawberries, Nuttlex frosting, vegan chocolate, strawberries and fresh flowers creation pictured below. She also threw in for good measure the two handsome vanilla slices pictured. Baking from 4am on the morning of delivery, Angela put her heart and soul into her work, and my whole family were eternally grateful, if not slightly gorged by the evening.
So the vanilla slices...
Large in stature, fragrant even through my compulsory face mask and doubly as good the next day - with no hint of sogginess setting in to the pastry. The vanilla bean was visible through the thick luscious custard and the pastry looked like it had been sunbathing with a golden tan.
When picked up the pastry layers were firm but as flaky as the best slices I’ve eaten. The slice was heavy and oozed of quality ingredients. With my first mouthful the pastry broke away in large shards and my teeth glided through the luscious whipped vanilla custard. Though pretty large, I worked my way through one slice with relative ease and was content to stop there. I ate the second slice the next day, as mentioned, and I was able to enjoy more of the same.
Thanks Angela, a mighty fine baker, and an all round lovely person.
Filling: Mottled, slightly gritty custard 7/10
Pastry: Beautifully golden and puffed appearance, not fresh 6/10
Presentation: Neatly packed, chocolate drizzled top 8.5/10
Value for money: $5.60 - Average portion size, very sweet but tasty overall 7.5/10
Overall score: 7.25/10
Sunday morning in the midst of lockdown 2.0 and my need for essentials at the supermarket took me out of my house. Visiting my nearby Niddrie Central took me past Dolce Gusto, a relatively newly opened Italian cafe specialising in pastas and pastry items. I took the plunge, went inside after my food shop was complete and took out one of their last vanilla slices.
Back home (after numerous soapy hand washes), I stood the slice on a plate and was impressed by it’s overall appearance. A great colour and flaked layers of pastry, effort made to decorate the top in drizzled chocolate and dusted icing sugar and neatly encased in a trans acetate sheet.
The custard had a mottled effect to it, which in the past has led me to some wonderful fillings. This one was slightly dubious, as I was unable to make an informed conclusion of an ingredient within the mixture that caused a slightly gritty texture. I’m familiar with the Greek vanilla slice which uses semolina, but I wasn’t 100% sure if this was the case with this Italian interpretation. The custard itself was tasty; very sweet, slightly set but creamy and full of vanilla flavour.
The pastry had seen better days unfortunately; lacking that freshly baked crunch and flakiness, instead pliable and soggy underneath the custard. The ingredients and technique to bake such rich, buttery pastry with those highly defined layers showed a lot of promise and I’d be keen to taste another one if I knew for certain that it was freshly baked. The drizzled dark chocolate, though very minimal, actually provided a bitter aftertaste necessary to cut through the sweetness, so proved worthwhile.
Filling: Heart attack inducing custard / cream combo 8.5/10
Pastry: Solid mass sheets, inedible 2/10
Presentation: Super-sized proportions, visible layer distinction 8.5/10
Value for money: $5.50 - Jumbo portion size, heavy going 5/10
Overall score: 6/10
I was excited to get to The Portarlington Bakehouse, finally, after a weekend at the Bellarine with the family and some friends. A short drive later, I pulled into the picturesque little seaside town and immediately located the bakery. With social distancing in operation I joined the queue and saw the jumbo vanilla slices propped up in the cake cabinet from afar, with this version and also a pink icing variant. I opted for the half/half cream/custard French vanilla slice.
Selling at only $5.50 for such an oversized slice, I felt I was off to a good start. Back at the car, I decided not to risk picking this thing up with my hands and instead opted for a disposal spoon. I encountered my first problem when the spoon met resistance with the pastry layers. The pastry was uncompromising and as hard as a sheet of damp cardboard. The layers were heavily compacted and offered no flake or bite whatsoever. I only managed to have a nibble of a corner and discovered that the pastry was not going to wear down my jaw bones and occupy unnecessary stomach space with such a huge portion of cream based filling still to work through.
I instead focused my attention to both layers of fresh whipped cream and devilishly creamy custard. I had spoons of both components independent from one another and mixed together, with all combinations proving a delight. After a dozen or so spoonfuls I reached the end of my mission and felt rather sick! The custard was a good, somewhat vicious constancy, with creaminess and a hint of vanilla. Just a shame about the pastry really.
Filling: Silky, fully loaded custard 9.5/10
Pastry: Wafer-like, golden and buttery 9.5/10
Presentation: Nicely proportioned, unassumingly simple 8.5/10
Value for money: $7.50 - Medium portion size, indulgent 8/10
Overall score: 8.9/10
With business to attend to in Malvern, I took the opportunity to hit up a local bakery. I stumbled across the Stocked Food Store on Glenferrie Road. I saw some handsome looking vanilla slices on the countertop through the window, so decided to head in with both kids in tow. The kids shared a dairy free orange and almond cupcake, Mrs B opted for a peanut butter slice and I settled for the aforementioned sweet treat.
It wasn’t until I looked at the receipt in the car that I saw the vanilla slice was priced at $7.50 which is a sizeable price, though it proved somewhat worthy of its price tag in the end. When peeling away the acetate sheet it became evident that I would need a utensil to aid my devouring of this beast, with he custard being looser than expected. Thankfully Mrs B located a spoon and I began to sample the custard. Wow, an actual custard for once; creamy, eggy, vanilla flavoured and extremely rich. When the excess was consumed I managed to pick up the slice to eat freestyle. The pastry was performing magnificently in keeping the custard in, whilst easily flaking apart with each bite. The dark golden, buttery layers were surprisingly airy, similar in consistency to a wafer. The pastry chef working in this place clearly knows his stuff.
I’m a firm believer in quality and have never minded paying top dollar for vanilla slices that are built with quality ingredients. I’ve spent big on lesser products as regular readers know, but I feel that $7.50 might just be a dollar too much here. Undoubtedly an excellently constructed product that comes recommended.
Filling: Fluffy fresh vanilla cream custard 7.5/10
Pastry: Thin layers, lacking flakiness 5.5/10
Presentation: Nicely proportioned, glossy white icing 8/10
Value for money: $4.30 - Large portion size, filling 8/10
Overall score: 7.2/10
With a family walk in nearby Lerderderg Forest planned, we pulled into Bacchus Marsh for some pre-walk calories first. Mrs B ducked into the bakery and left with two fresh vanilla slices. Normally she wouldn’t indulge in my preferred slice, but she thought they looked decent enough and was easily coerced.
We were both satisfied with the overall quality of the creamy vanilla custard, served in a fairly sizeable portion. It had a nice vanilla taste and was a good consistency as to not squirt out the sides with each bite. Frustratingly the pastry let the slice down, being a great thickness but lacking a flakiness that would have allowed for shards to break off when bitten. The icing was soft and sweet, causing a slight stickiness to my fingers, though with a summers day it could have been significantly worse.
We both agreed that the price was reasonable for the size and overall quality on offer, though we would have liked the pastry to be more rich and flaky.
Filling: Rigid, gelatinous custard 3/10
Pastry: Hard to classify as pastry 1/10
Presentation: Quirky piped icing, otherwise unappetising 2.5/10
Value for money: $5- Medium portion size, pastry and icing inedible 3/10
Overall score: 2.3/10
Heading back from a nice day out late on a Saturday afternoon I was keen to call in on Pie Thief. I clocked them online selling some quirky pies, all of which were sold out by my arrival. The obligatory vanilla slice was bought for takeaway, but I was duped in some ways due to the fact that none were presented in the store. The lady instead went out back to grab me a slice and I didn’t clock it until I sat back I n the car and opened the cardboard takeaway container. Mrs B immediately hypothesised of the inept quality of this specimen, and I agreed.
With nothing to lose I picked up the prickly and very rigid block, surprised to find the piped icing was also hard as a rock. Had this been frozen? The pastry resembled that of a frozen desert and was also hard And cold, and it felt like eating a cardboard sheet. The icing had a subtle meaty flavour to it that made me feel slightly uneasy, so I wasn’t sure if it had been stored in a fridge with savoury products and it had taken on a an additional, unwanted flavour. Nevertheless. I used a knife to cut the gelatinous custard out from its obsolete sandwich and ate about half. The custard was not the worst tasting custard ever, but the texture was just too much to handle.
Mrs B rightly asked “How can a pastry shop get a vanilla slice so wrong?”, to which I also agreed. One of the most memorable vanilla slices I’ve eaten (and not for positive reasons). Next...
Filling: Disappointing cream based custard, again 5/10
Pastry: Three layers of tightly baked but dry pastry 5.5/10
Presentation: Notably white and heavily dusted 5/10
Value for money: $6.90 - Medium portion size, Stupidly priced 5/10
Overall score: 5/10
With another rare visit out to a bakery and the kids in need of a drive, I went east to Heidelberg Heights. I parked right outside and thought the exterior of the shop was neatly presented and welcoming. Upon entering, my kids and I had the place to ourselves which was perfect based on their inability to sit still!
I ordered two dairy free babyccinos, a latte and a vanilla slice for me and a caramel slice for Mrs B when she got home for $21 - steep. It didn’t occur to me to check the receipt until I got home, but I was charged $8 for two babyccinos which is daylight robbery. To compound things further, the milk was heated far too hot and my daughter burnt herself.
To review the vanilla slice is quite straight forward. Cream and cardboard pastry. The filling turned out to be nothing more than sweetened sticky cream slopped between three tight layers of pastry which though was fresh, lacked flavour, richness and flake. Consuming with a cake fork was the only sensible method, but even the fork struggled to break down the concrete sheets. I feel that for the price and the promise of homemade components all baked on site the end product was rather unrefined and lacking in quality. As a footnote, Mrs B evaluated the caramel slice as one of the best she’s had.
Filling: Disappointing cream based custard 5/10
Pastry: Golden and tight but lacking flavour and texture 5.5/10
Presentation: Square cut tri-layer, somewhat rustic 5/10
Value for money: $4 (estimate) - Medium portion size, dusty lap consumption 5/10
Overall score: 5/10
I was excited to hunt down a vanilla slice after a two month dry spell. With lockdown in full swing I rarely ventured to bakeries, let alone suburbs outside of my neighbourhood. So finding myself in Balaclava, I seized the opportunity to call into Glick’s. Known for their bagels, I picked up the only thing worth reviewing on this site and took the brown paper bag and my coffee back to my car for consumption.
I carefully picked up the square cuboid trying to avoid a dust shower, taking large bites of pastry and custard. The pastry was rigid enough to allow for lifting and biting, but was not super crisp or buttery rich. The custard interior lacked a defining flavour and was close to a confectionary cream, only more yellow in colour. So overall it left more sugar on my lap than a positive impression.
Filling: Thicker than expected creamy custard 6.5/10
Pastry: Golden but texture of a soft biscuit 6.5/10
Presentation: Proportionally sound, excellent glossy icing 8/10
Value for money: $3.80 - Medium portion size, some satisfaction gained 7/10
Overall score: 7/10
I pulled up outside Amie in Richmond at 7.30am, heading towards work. I wasn’t sure if they’d have much baked by that time of the morning, but I was pleasantly surprised to see some vanilla slices in the cabinet. I sceptically wondered if they were left overs from yesterday, but I took one just to find out regardless. Unravelling from its paper bag at work a little while later I was met with quick a dense little block. The custard was heavy and much thicker than I was expecting. The pastry allowed for easy pickup and remained rigid enough to consume with my fingers. If this was yesterday’s than it had faired well, but if fresh then the pastry is not baked quite a firmly, with a more biscuity texture than that of a buttery flaky pastry. The custard was firm but not set, creamy but not vanilla flavoured. Not amazing, but not awful either. The icing was the best component; glossy and a great thickness for the proportions of the slice.it provided that added sweetness to a not-so sweet custard. At $3.80 you really can’t complain here, and next time I will endeavour to try one of their banh mi sandwiches too.
Filling: Morish, light and airy vanilla custard 9.5/10
Pastry: Thin, crispy and golden brown 8.5/10
Presentation: Excellent proportions, expertly iced 9/10
Value for money: $4.20 - Medium portion size, surprisingly fresh at 5pm 10/10
Overall score: 9.25/10
This review starts with a story of generosity and a massive thank you. For many years now Simon Sharp, son of Kevin Sharp - the master baker at Sharp’s Bakery in Birchip, has been encouraging me to visit the country Victoria town to sample the best vanilla slice in Australia. With a few tried and failed attempts at reaching Birchip, as well as missing out on sampling a Sharp’s slice at the Mildura 2018 Vanilla Slice Triumph, I was randomly contacted by Simon. He was heading my direction with two freshly baked slices (that morning) and wanted me to have them. I caught up with him at a secret rendezvous point to gladly accept his offering, cementing the deal with a cheeky selfie with my son and a nice chat.
After the short drive home, the vanilla slices had covered approximately 350km from Birchip to Melbourne and were now ready for unpacking and hasty consumption at 5pm!
Neatly packed in a takeaway tub with the Sharp’s logo and reminder of their successes at the GAVS Triumph’s over the years, I took one slice out, cut it in half with a sharp knife and was relieved to still hear a crunch and feel the resistance of the blade passing through. Mrs B took a bite, as did I, and we looked at each other waiting for the first one to speak their opinion. The outcome? Very nice indeed. Considering the grand effort of the slices having even reached me in the same day as being baked, in one piece, with no sogginess in the pastry is not only a miracle, but massively impressive - again, thank you Simon.
The custard, though not fridge cold, was deliciously light, airy, smooth, not overpoweringly sweet and had a subtle undertone of vanilla. We managed to escape with minimal escaped custard, thankful to the perfect consistency and quantity of the filling. The pastry too, considering the odds, still had excellent crunch and rigidity to be picked up. Two wafer thin layers and a mid brown bake ensured notable savoury flavour to the slice. Finally, a delicate layer of perfectly formed icing ensured maximum sugar delivery to our flailing 5pm needs. We were also impressed that we didn’t have any sticky icing finger prints when the goods were scoffed.
So overall, I’m thrilled to have finally ticked Sharp’s off my list. I’d love to actually visit Birchip and have one fresh off the shelf next time. To be honest, there isn’t much difference in the products on sale in Sharp’s and Bridgwater Bakehouse (current winners of the Triumph for the second year running). I’m sure it will only be a matter of time until Sharp’s take out the title again.
Simon, you’re a legend! Thanks to Kevin for the slices too, and good luck at the 2020 GAVST in August.
Filling: Sweet, creamy and deliciously light custard 8/10
Pastry: Delicately thin and beautifully flaky 8.5/10
Presentation: Neatly cut and packaged, average appearance 7.5/10
Value for money: $3.50 - Small/medium portion size, fresh and satisfying 8.5/10
Overall score: 8.1/10
In Dandenong for a trip to a butcher selling all things British for expats like myself and the Mrs, we took out lunch from Dandenong Market. Having never visited before, I have to say that the market is excellent; great range of fresh foods and drinks, great climbing frame for the kids to burn of some steam and a nice atmosphere (certainly less full on than the Queen Vic Market etc).
I took out my vanilla slice from Melina’s, though I could have got one from other nearby bakeries. It came in a see through tub that was almost made to measure and held the item in place beautifully as we navigated through the market to a seat outside.
In picking up the slice I was instantly met with a nice firm resistance from the freshly baked pastry. I was able to pick up and consume it with relative ease as the thin and flaky layers gave way to each bite, and even though the filling was fluffy and light I managed to avoid any loss of custard. The custard itself was a light and airy whipped cream, though not really containing any notable vanilla content. It was still tasty enough and was clearly freshly baked, and for the grand total of $3.50 you cannot really complain at the standard.
Filling: Heavily thickened vanilla custard and strawberry jam 7.5/10
Pastry: Puffy but softer than expected 6/10
Presentation: Roughly cut slab, heavy dusting of sugar 6/10
Value for money: $7 - Extra large portion size but not ‘just baked’ fresh 5/10
Overall score: 6.1/10
Out for the day strawberry picking with the kids on the peninsula, we popped into Flinders for some morning tea before our time in the strawberry fields of Sunny Ridge. Tempted to hit up the “Biggest and best” vanilla slice from Flinders Fish and Chips, I instead turned my attention to Flinders Sourdough, whose bakery I had been in once before, but sadly no vanilla slices that day.
This time around I gladly left with a ginormous slab of their vanilla slice, selling for a higher than average $7. Though not as large as their neighbour’s I was intrigued to work my way through a genuine wood fired pastry.
My first impression of the slice as the discrete layer of jam concealed by the custard on top. The second was the relative ease it was the bend the puffed pastry on top of the slice. It didn’t break away in rigid chunks as I would have expected, but instead was the consistency of ‘baked last night’. The pastry layers were somewhat softer than I’d ha e liked but still tasted delicious. A rich, buttery, salty taste and a good mid to dark brown in colour. The jam turned out to be strawberry flavour (rather fittingly) and was a sweet addition to the heavy, creamy vanilla custard.
I had to eat the slice with a fork as there would have been no way of picking it up without losing my dignity. A worthy addition to the Blog, but next time I might seek a ‘just baked’ alternative.
I had some leftover double cream from the festive season, and armed with plenty of eggs in my fridge I took it upon myself to make some delightful fresh custard. Combining four egg yolks, butter, vanilla bean and full fat milk I made a small batch and let it cool in the fridge until dessert time when the kids were in bed. Having also baked one sheet of store bought puff pastry earlier and cut them into fingers, I served us up the concoction pictured below with a few fresh raspberries. I’d highly recommend the dessert if an elegantly presented, neatly constructed vanilla slice is too much effort.
Filling: Velvety whipped cream custard 7.5/10
Pastry: Slightly softened but nice taste 6/10
Presentation: Miniature, nothing elaborate 6/10
Value for money: $2.20 - Two bites, but two good bites 8/10
Overall score: 6.9/10
This is technically a re-visit, having eaten a La Manna vanilla slice many years ago. Also in Essendon Fields is The Hungry Fox, a sleek cafe that backs on to the runway and has a neat little playground for the kids to entertain themselves in. We stopped by for brunch (which was lovely) and I took away with me a half size vanilla slice at a reasonable $2.20.
Given a large round card container for the tiny slice was a bit comical, but at least the packaging was recyclable. When picked up you can see it’s scale against my hand from the picture below. I also noticed the bottom layer of pastry was a bit on the soft side compared with the one I ate last time. This didn’t prove to be much of an issue and I was still able to consume the two bite slice with relative ease. The custard was pleasant, rich and creamy and a subtle vanilla flavour. The pastry, though not razor sharp and flaky was still a tasty element with the custard and the icing sugar was barely visible when I finally opened the box.
Filling: Average sweetened whipped cream custard 6/10
Pastry: Not fit for purpose, soggy and bendy 3/10
Presentation: Lopsided, rough cut, messy 3/10
Value for money: $6.50 - Tiny slice, stale, overpriced 2/10
Overall score: 3.5/10
Out for the day in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges, I stopped at Mount Dandenong to admire the views. Sadly with the smoke haze there were no views, so instead I ventured into Sky High Cafe for an iced coffee and a cheeky vanilla slice. I’d forgotten to print the voucher that allowed me to buy one, get one free, so I paid $6.50 for just the one hoping that it would be top. I was presented with the tiniest portion in a non-descript paper bag and took it outside to consume.
When I first gripped the bottom layer of pastry it bent to the counters of my fingers and was clearly soggy and stale. The top layer had shed the majority of the icing sugar and looked less affected by the moisture in the filling. The custard immediately squashed and dropped from the pastry sheets when handled and had to be eaten with fingers inside of the paper bag - it really was a messy and unenjoyable episode. The custard turned out to to be nothing more than a sweetened, whipped cream.
It certainly wouldn’t place in a beauty contest, and is certainly not what I’d classify as good value for money (even if purchased as buy one get one free). Shame on Sky High Cafe for selling sub standard vanilla slices at a Sky High price.
Filling: Vast amounts of wonderful eggy custard 9/10
Pastry: Caramelised, dark, buttery sheets, sadly softer than expected 8/10
Presentation: Rustic, and paper wrapped, heavy layer of icing 7.5/10
Value for money: $6 - Extra large sized portion, too big to finish 8/10
Overall score: 8.1/10
With my final day up in far North Queensland we decided to drive north to Port Douglas. I’d read a little while ago about a newly opened bakery cafe opening in town, selling excellent vanilla slices and with links back to Melbourne. I seized the opportunity to branch off with my sleeping daughter in the pram and had a micro-moment to myself. I ordered up and sat alone to devour the items as pictured.
The vanilla slice was gigantic in proportions and weight, a solid mass of dairy and sugar. Selling at $6 this one would be suitable for sharing so proves good value for money, or even eaten in various sittings. I was unsure of the icing at first glance and guessed initially at a passionfruit flavour. My guess proved wrong, and I wasn’t overly keen to discover that piled high on top of the already mammoth slice was a rich butter icing that I just couldn’t stomach with the other components. A light passionfruit icing would have been delightful in my opinion, and sadly the icing was removed and sat obsolete. The custard was tasty, slightly more set than I would have predicted but beautiful in its colour and richness. It contained lots of egg and a creamy vanilla taste that would be welcome in any vanilla slice. The pastry looked and smelt amazing. Just like their other pastries on offer, the colour was a rich and caramelised dark brown. It’s taste divine, but unfortunately lacking the crunch I’d have expected - more than likely made the night before and left to set overnight.
I was impressed with the setup at Grant Street. The staff were super friendly, the coffee very nice and the overall quality of the vanilla slice was very good.
Filling: Fluffy, sticky, overly sweet custard 6/10
Pastry: Top layer crisp, bottom layer soggy 6.5/10
Presentation: Individually paper wrapped, bursting out the sides 7.5/10
Value for money: $6.50 - Sickly sweet, overpriced 5/10
Overall score: 6.25/10
Even from Melbourne my vanilla slice radar had detected the press that the Hungry Hummingbird Cafe were getting for their “Best ever vanilla slice.” Named after a grandma’s secret recipe and sold for a hefty $6.50 a piece, I seized the opportunity to snaffle one up for morning tea at the Smithfield shopping centre. Sitting with my son, he was pleased to generously receive two marshmallows with his soy babyccino whilst I messily devoured the slice.
From the first bite to the last I was quite overwhelmed by the sweetness of the whole thing. The custard was so sweet that it was actually sticky, clinging to the paper wrapping, the plate and pretty much anything that touched it. It had a nice creamy, vanilla taste but it tasted more like custard powder than a freshly whipped up eggy custard - I could be wrong!
The pastry was uniquely different from top to bottom. The top sheet held its flakiness and the bottom was quite the opposite. It was a neatly baked tight layered structure, that again actually tasted a bit sweet, almost caramelised.
I made a complete mess in the short time I was sat at the cafe, my time also short because of the fidget in my company. Not my version of the “Best ever” but well worth ticking off the list.
Filling: Delicious creamy, eggy custard 8.5/10
Pastry: Crisp, buttery and fresh 8.5/10
Presentation: Fondant iced triple-layer, well presented 7.5/10
Value for money: $6-7(estimate) - Large portion, filling and thoroughly delicious 9/10
Overall score: 8.3/10
Out for breakfast with the family after an early start, I’d already eaten breakfast and this was technically a morning tea at only 9am! We chose to revisit a cafe we ate at back in 2013 whilst in Cairns and sat and enjoyed the stunning views of the mountains in trendy Edge Hill. To my surprise the cake cabinet had vanilla slices for sale, so I opted for that rather than a traditional breakfast item. Thankfully I only had a coffee to accompany the slice as it was huge and very filling.
It was presented on a round black slate (first slate I’ve experienced). I topped it on its side and proceeded to use the finger and thumb grip, sliding knife technique to break it into smaller pieces. I was overjoyed to to meet resistance followed by a crunch and shards of pastry breaking apart - Fresh as a daisy! Not only was the pastry fresh, but it was really quite nice; buttery and a good mid brown colour and tightly packed. The custard too was pleasantly good. I wasn’t sure if it would be a generic custard, cream powdered mixture or something else. In actual fact it was a light and fluffy whipped custard with notable vanilla content. The icing on top also showed some good attention to detail, even though the cutting of the slice was not as neat as it could have been. The icing itself was delicately thin and wasn’t overpowering. The chocolate lingered on my taste buds and was a good quality chocolate drizzle for sure.
Returning to Ozmosis was a fantastic idea and proved worthwhile for the whole family, even my daughter (pictured below) enjoyed her almond babyccino, watching the passers by and the views. Mrs B sampled the slice after her breakfast and commended the effort put in to it. Highly recommend all round.
Filling: Fresh whipped cream, set custard and sickly sweet raspberry jam 6.5/10
Pastry: Freshly baked sheets and flakier than anticipated 7.5/10
Presentation: Slightly messy but distinguishable layers 7.5/10
Value for money: $4-5 (estimate) - Medium sized portion, custard and jam lacking 6/10
Overall score: 6.9/10
I’ve always resisted Routley’s in favour of independent bakeries in the past, and my previous employer had their canteen catered for by Routley’s. Having since moved on, and whilst out and about in Newport I felt the urge to taste their custard, cream and jam version of a vanilla slice. Mrs B bought the items, to also include a Christmas slice for herself and a dairy free snack bar for the children to share - totalling $10.
My first observations of my slice was the heavily set appearance of the custard and very biscuity looking layers of pastry that could have been either flaky or dry in their makeup. Upon the first bite, I was rewarded with a neat crunch that also caused some major sliding of layers and the custard and jam soon wanted away from the custard that didn’t want to budge. The custard was indeed heavily set, but not all too bad in its overall taste and creaminess. The fresh whipped cream was the best element and offset the overpowering and synthetic raspberry jam that in my opinion was unnecessary. With such a delicate operation underway, in truth I couldn’t really sample each layer solely on its own, instead opting for large, precise bites to stop the deluge of ingredients falling on the ground. Therefore results are somewhat vague, but I am glad I stopped by and gave Routley’s a go.
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