or Melbourne Cup day Ms Counting her Calories had decided she would like to go walking in the Dandenongs followed by her first visit to Miss Marples. Because of the wet weather the walk never eventuated, but Ms Counting her Calories, Ms L, Bureaucrat, Beaker, Bubba Chuck, Snooze and I arranged to meet outside Miss Marples around 10.45, to increase our chances of getting a seat in the back near the open fire.
Miss Marples is a funny old bird. I can fully understand why some people don't like it. It's tacky, a little pricey, the queue can easily be an hour or more long and the tables are seated way too close together. The food is reasonable but not outstanding, the service seems to depend very much on which waitress is serving you and the scones, well they just aren't scones. Funnily enough I still like it here, as despite the problems every time we come here we end up enjoying ourselves.
Miss Marples is set up to look like a clichéd version of a typical English style country cottage, complete with bare wooden roof beams but without the ceiling heights designed for hobbits or coal miners. Decoration is mainly scenes from the old Miss Marples TV series combined with what is obviously her best china for visitors sitting on the shelves. Getting there early meant that we got our seat at the back although the fire wasn't quite what I was hoping for, just a few small flaming coals which seemed to die down fairly quickly.
Service was...interesting. As usually the room was full a few minutes after opening and staff looked a bit under the pump to take orders and get food out. Despite this the waitress at the next table appeared to be extremely bubbly and friendly, laughing about getting the whole room to sing happy birthday for the woman whose birthday it was. In what appeared to be an authentic touch, at least based on the comments of those who had spent more time in the UK, our waitress had a more classically English style, almost shouting to us whether we were ready to order and appearing frustrated if we took more than 5 seconds to respond. When we were later ordering dessert there was also some bizarre comment about ordering only one dessert (most of us were full) at a table where we had so many spoons. While I got the joke I thought it was more strange than funny.
Anyway, despite the interesting service style the food did come out quickly. While the menu is not extensive is does provide a few sweet and savoury options, with Beaker and Snooze opting to share serves of the ham and cheese and Welsh rarebit fingers.
I've often heard this style of food referred to as soldiers, which is a reference to the way they are cut and stand straight and slim on the plate. Basically fancy grilled cheese sandwiches cut into thin strips they are real comfort food and the sort of thing I often had as a kid. While nothing complicated in design and nothing special in taste I didn't think they were too bad for a country tea room, with the better of the two the ham and cheese because of the savoury flavour of the chutney.
Being a tea room we of course had to order the 'scones'. To me a scone should look round and pebble like, sound hollow when you tap the top and when broken open release a small puff of steam and a scent which promises amazing baked goodness. These are nothing like that. I think they look more like mushrooms, tall and slim with pale flesh and a darker top. However, while I definitely put these in the cake category they are quite fluffy and combine well with the excellent jam and cream.
Bubba Chuck and Ms L headed for the more kid friendly meals of chicken nuggets and chips and the pumpkin soup. While I didn't try either from the way the chips and soup disappeared reaction was obviously positive.
Ms Counting her Calories, Ms L and I were keen on trying one of the desserts and headed for a traditional English version - bread and butter pudding. It's one of my favourite desserts and this was good, nice and moist and not accompanied by overwhelming amounts of whipped cream, something which has happened before with the sundaes.
And I almost forgot, the spyders (spiders) here rock.
I think we all enjoyed our visit to Miss Marples. The food is definitely more comfortable than gourmet but that's ok. Sometimes that's what you want. You'll enjoy your visit here more if you can get into the spirit of the thing, ignore its few warts and other blemishes, and just have a bit of nostalgic fun. One where I like the whole more than just the sum of the parts.
Food - 7
Ambience - 7.5
Service - 6
Price - 6
382 Mt Dandenong Tourist Road
Sassafras VIC 3787
Tel: (03) 9755 1610