Monday, October 22, 2012

Stefano's Cafe and Bakery, Mildura by Bureaucrat

In addition to our delicious degustation dinner at Stefano's, I made sure that we also ate at his cafe and bakery.

The cafe and bakery (and also, shop, gallery and bar) is spread across two rooms...

Stock up on your Stefano products and other food delights (I got a unctuous jar of caramelised onion jam)

The gallery, dining and bar area

For lunchies, we ordered some coffee and chai. Despite not being much of a coffee drinker, I do recognise good coffee when I taste it. It was smooth, deep and aromatic. Disappointingly, the chai was a bit lacklustre. It was a bit too sweet and the robust aroma and flavour was missing. I won't accuse them of making the chai from some instant chai powder (bleugh) but this cup of chai did not taste like the real thing (ie real spices and tea leaves).

Mother Hen and the Lawyer opted for the beer battered barramundi with salad and chips. A light, golden, crispy batter. The barra was fresh and succulent but I felt it could have done with some seasoning. Mother Hen especially liked the chips and the fresh salad. Although I didn't taste the tartare sauce, it did not look like it was homemade.  It was somewhat dull in colour and coagulated.  As with the chai, I didn't think this was the real thing.

After our rich degustation dinner the night before, I felt the need to be virtuous. So I went for the poached chicken salad w fennel, rocket, asparagus, snow peas and a yoghurt dressing. All the greenery was perfectly al dente and fresh... it was so green that it has to be good for you.  The chicken was tender and succulent, and was gently seasoned w cumin. I felt the yoghurt dressing was a bit much. Half the dish was covered in the dressing.... a slightly slap dash presentation.

Mr Strong got the most impressive dish - the steak sandwich. Holy moly this was big! In between two generous slabs of sourdough bread was crispy bacon, a decent sized grilled steak, with all the trimmings, including a tomato relish. Extremely good value this was! Mr Strong needed some help from us to finish this one off.

We also tried some of the cakes and pastries - a cannoli and a lemon curd meringue tart. The cannoli was good. Nice, crunchy pastry shell. The ricotta filling was a tad sweet for me, but I liked the use of vanilla seeds in the filling. I liked the meringue tart the best. The lemon curd (which is also on sale) had a nice smooth texture and was deliciously tart. The pastry was moderately firm and not overly buttery (a good thing in my books). And the meringue was soft and gooey. Yum.

For about 95% of the food we tried, I would say the food was definitely better than what you'd find in a typical cafe. The serving size was generous and the food was very fresh. The down side was the tiny touches - namely, the (lack of) quality of the chai and tartare sauce. I expected more from Stefano's.

The cafe/bakery is quite busy with lots of people dining in and getting their lunch and coffee to go.As such, the place could have done with one or two more staff on the floor.  As the cafe/bakery/foody shop is spread across two rooms, it's a bit hard getting their attention.

When we first entered, there was no one around.  When we finally got seated, our waitress disappeared to a more urgent task.  For about 10 minutes, we weren't sure whether there was table service, or whether we had to order up at the till.

The vibe the staff create makes for an uncomfortable dining experience. They talk sharply at each other; barking orders and questions at each other. Because the place is so big and there's not enough waiters, the chefs keep banging on the bell to alert the waiters that the dishes are ready. As we were seated just in front of the kitchen, we had to endure all of this throughout our meal.

Food – 9
Service – 6
Ambience – 6.5
Price – 9

Stefano's Cafe and Bakery
27 Deakin Avenue
Mildura 3500
Telephone: 03 5021 3627

Stefano's Cafe Bakery on Urbanspoon

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