What's the best value afternoon just outside of Melbourne at the moment? I'll tell you (reluctantly). Piggery Cafe's afternoon tea.
The Piggery Cafe is part of Shannon Bennett's (of Vue de Monde fame) Burnham Beeches project, just one small part of a bigger development, which for now only includes a bakery, cafe and an emu farm. It's located on a stunningly lush property in Sherbrooke, with a lot more to come. In the near future expect to see a dairy, a steakhouse, even a hotel so that you can really try everything that the place will have to offer.
Sarah had previously popped by the Piggery Cafe for lunch, then discovered all the sweet treats on offer for afternoon tea, which is available from 2:30pm.
When Daisy and I heard of this, we arranged a girls afternoon out, stat!
As mentioned, Burnham Beeches is just stunning, surrounded by greenery in a way that makes you stop to breathe it all in before taking another step to the bustling cafe.
Outside was warm, sunny and just lovely. Inside Piggery Cafe, it was just as charming, a mix of material textures providing a surprisingly rustic warmth to the space. I'm also tickled by the close attention to detail that's evident throughout the cafe, toasters on the end of each of the communal tables inside the restaurants, and even in the toilets a very lovely piece of wood, painted in green, with text engraved into it asking people to only throw toilet paper down the loo. I mean really, who goes into that much detail?
While the counter bench sports a delectable selection of salads, cakes to have in and bring home and breads baked in the bakery, our eyes snap out of our heads when we spot the afternoon tea table.
Scones, mini versions of all the cakes they have, meringues and other sweet treats…we couldn't wait.
Afternoon tea at the Piggery Cafe consists of 5 canape sized savouries, 6 sweet treats picked out by the chef from the dessert table, scones and unlimited coffee, tea or Valrhona hot chocolate. All for just $25 a head. Woah.
To begin with, you simply must get one of the hot chocolates. Thick and rich, it hits the lips heavy and comforting at the same time. This is not an overly sweet hot chocolate, with intensely rich dark cocoa flavours swirling through the mouth. Totally worth it (especially when it's listed as $5.50 regularly otherwise…). Would have had two if I could fit them both in!
And let's not overlook the marshmallow made in house that it's served with either now…
The plate of savouries is served up on a beautiful piece of wood, complete with hand torn seeded bread (efficient, but also quite pretty and rustic looking) and garlic dip, which oh my goodness is just so good.
One thing about Piggery Cafe though, for all the customers and beautiful food they had, service could use a little bit of polishing. Although generally all smiles and for the most part friendly, these big platters were hitting our table and the server would then vanish, with us scratching our heads trying to figure out what we were eating. It would have also been nice if we had been informed that the dessert selection was made by the chef, as I would have otherwise specifically requested the lemon tarts which I had been eyeing…We also found they could be relatively difficult to flag down as well, but we weren't ever left waiting too long for anything.
But back to the savouries, mushroom pastries, smoked fish on dark bread, sandwiches and terrine, everything served up was relatively simple, but so well executed.
The scones were a real treat, humble looking, but delectably fluffy, the fruit scones were particularly delicious with a nice hit of cinnamon. Especially so with the whipped cream that was light like air, and the orange or mandarin jam (I've forgotten which). Although I'm usually more of a fan of strawberry or raspberry jams, I did very much enjoy this alternative (which I'm sure was made in house).
Last, but certainly not least, was our plate of sweets, carefully laid out on a plate to look like an edible piece of modern art. Although I didn't get my desired lemon tarts, I had nothing to complain about with the presence of simply perfect coconut macaroons, rich chocolate ganache tarts, frangipane tarts, carrot cakes, interestingly green but tasty pistachio caneles and wee little pink meringues (which we spied Shannon Bennett's kids liberally picking off the main table as we left).
There's absolutely nothing to dislike in the sweets, I enjoyed the diversity of our treats, from the dense chocolate to the airier macaroons. It really is quite a lot to get through though, but it's the perfect thing to graze over all afternoon.
And graze all afternoon we did, with multiple pots of English breakfast tea to wash down the sugar and tirades of gossip, laughter and iPhone photos. We started at 2:30 and probably didn't leave until about 5. With a bit of sun on the back and a warm cup of tea in the hands, it's really just such a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. And again, I couldn't believe how cheap it was, especially as so many high teas in Melbourne are at least $55. Throw me out into the greenery and sunshine for half that price any day of the week!
I'd be interested to see if they keep the price as it is for some time to come, and if they do, I'll certainly be a regular visitor. Even if the service still isn't quite there, it's very easy to be distracted by the ambience, especially when you have great company. As the weather warms up, how could you ask for a better Saturday or Sunday afternoon really?
1 Sherbrooke Road