Like Tim Tams and lamingtons, the vanilla slice is an Aussie icon. Makes sense that one of Australia’s food and wine hotspots would be serving up some pretty good ones right? So over the past few weeks, I’ve been trawling through Melbourne’s bakeries in search of the best vanilla slice; sort of like a pub-crawl, only better because the crawler retains the function of his/her tastebuds.
(Note: For the purpose of this exercise, mille-feuille, mille-foglie and any similar pastries are also considered to be vanilla slices.)
First stop was The French Lettuce on Nicholson St, for one of their award-winning creations. This thing was huge- good value for money coming in at only $5. Pastry was lovely and crispy. Custard had a nice vanilla flavor and a creamy rather than gelatinous texture. The raspberry jam did provide some flavour contrast that was needed for getting through it all though. Verdict- Yum.
Next stop was International Diethnes Cakes, right opposite QV in the CBD. Custard was kind of squidgy, for want of a better description, and tasted like they’d gone a bit crazy with the gelatin. Pastry was undercooked and chewy. Verdict- Not so good.
Vanilla slice #3 was from Browns Bakery and Patisserie on Lygon St. Custard had just the right sweetness and a balanced texture, although the vanilla flavour didn’t come through very much. All the layers of pastry were nicely browned and crispy. My only complaint was that there was a little too much fondant on the top of the slice, which made it quite sweet. Verdict- Delicious but, at $6.85 a piece, a bit pricey.
Which brings us to the winner for Part 1 of the Melbourne Vanilla Slice Hunt – Fergusons’ French vanilla slice (in my opinion anyway). I just happened to come across this bakery whilst doing my weekend shopping at Queen Victoria Markets and was intrigued because their vanilla slice looked different from most of the others on offer; a layer of pastry cream, sandwiched between layers of vanilla custard and flaky pastry, topped with coffee-flavoured fondant. Fergusons is definitely onto something because it was delicious. Verdict- Best value for money, at $3.20 a piece.
However, this adventure is far from over as there are plenty more bakeries to visit, including Sorrento’s much-applauded Just Fine Foods. I will continue to persevere despite the threat to my waistline, so keep a look-out for updates!