I was going to write about insanely chocolatey biscuits, but on making them last night, I discovered that it is, actually, possible to make something too chocolatey. My eyes were kind of bugging out. Also, the recipe needs work – it’s true that I didn’t follow it, exactly, but the changes I made should not have resulted in chocolate rocks. I suspect the author meant to put in some bicarb of soda and forgot.
I’ve been out to lunch *twice* in the last two days, and I’m going out to dinner tonight, so it’s time for a couple of café reviews. The first is a review of an old favourite of mine, Miss Marple’s, a tea shop in Sassafras which has been around forever and hasn’t changed its menu in the fifteen years I’ve been visiting. (The second is a brand new, vegetarian café called Little Deer Tracks which just opened up in Coburg two months ago, and which I visited for the first time today and will review tomorrow). Both are wonderful, but in completely different ways.
Miss Marple’s is an old-fashioned, English-style Tea Room. It’s very cosy, with an open fire in one corner, framed black and white photos of the old Miss Marple TV series on the walls, and lots of little tables covered with cloths in a floral pattern that looks suspiciously like my curtains at home or my Oma’s old sofa. The waitresses wear white frilled aprons over black dresses, and it has a very old-fashioned, cosy sort of feel. I go there about once a year (Sassafras is a long way from Coburg), generally for Christmas in July, when they hang up suitable tinsel and greenery, put decorations on the tables, and have choral or instrumental Christmas carols playing, and a special Christmas menu on offer.
The savoury menu is relatively short, and the food is classic English fare – cottage pies, Welsh rarebit (and several other cheese on toast based meals), ploughman’s lunch, pasties, soup, quiche, and a daily special, which always seems to be fish and chips when I’m there. At Christmas, there are turkey fingers on bread with cranberry sauce and melted cheese. I counted four vegetarian items on a menu of eleven options, and two items which were potentially vegan. The menu also says that gluten-free options are available. Servings are generous, especially for the ploughman’s lunch, and delicious – while the food is simple, the ingredients are good and they are well-cooked. The only thing I’ve ever failed to like (in years of working my way through the menu, I might add) was the quiche, which I thought was a little ordinary and too rich.
The dessert menu is longer, and the portions are gigantic and quite rich – you could eat a dessert as lunch if you were enough of a sweet tooth. A wise Miss Marple’s afficianado goes with a friend, lunches early, and comes back after a nice walk around Sassafras to share dessert. There are a variety of ice-cream sundaes, sticky date pudding, chocolate brownies, bread and butter pudding, and, in July, Christmas Pudding. There are also scones, the one thing I refuse to try, because while I am informed that they taste good, they are also very clearly cakes rather than scones. And there is homemade jam, which you can also buy to take home.
Drinks are tea, of course, coffee, hot chocolate, and a lot of spiders and milkshakes, though I believe orange juice and soft drinks are on the menu. Service is very quick and friendly, which is necessary, because they are extremely popular and don’t take bookings – if you arrive at a busy time, staff will tell you how long you will need to wait for a table, and it can easily be 45 minutes.
It makes a lovely, indulgent destination, especially on a cold, bright day like yesterday, when the Dandenongs are beautiful, and the lure of a warm, cosy place to eat hearty winter food and get your fingers de-frosted is not to be resisted.
And you can get an early start on your Christmas shopping while you’re there…