One of the interesting things about having visited the South West repeatedly over the last 20+ years is seeing how many things have changed, while others stay the same. I walked Busselton Jetty before the fire of 1999 when it was a bit more obviously wooden, and I visited Ngilgi Cave when it was still called Yallingup Cave. I remember when Karri Valley Resort had aqua bikes and paddle boats, and when the on site trout farm was busy with keen fishing enthusiasts. And I remember the '90s iteration of Middleton Beach's Esplanade Hotel before it became the sad, empty lot it is today. Some of these changes have been for the better while others have not, but its remarkable that some things in the South West have remained the same to this day.
The picturesque grounds of the farm remain much the same, although they seem to be cracking down on the surreptitious picking of berries - something that I have to admit always doing when I was a kid!
Two newer additions to the farm were these adorable miniature horses. As Parks and Recreation fans, Alissa and I were delighted to see these sweet, gentle Li'l Sebastian lookalikes.
The outdoor al fresco area of the cafe looks much as it always has - undercover from the hot summer sun but open to the nice cooling breeze, its a nice place to sit and watch as blue wrens dart in and out as they steal tiny morsels left over from departed diners.
As a kid, I was a big fan of their Raspberry Spiders and would thoroughly recommend them. I was in need of something cold and caffeinated on this occastion so had to forego my old favourite, however the Ice Coffee was right on the mark. With its combo of cream, ice cream and strong coffee flavour, it was as refreshing as its old school presentation was charming.
Alissa deeply loves pancakes, and as such went with a small savoury 'main' so she could have the large serve of pancakes for dessert. Her choice of Cheese and Herb Scone was surprisingly large - a very generous size for the $4.50 asking price. Alissa and I aren't easily swayed by large serving sizes if the quality isn't there to back it up, but thankfully this was a really well made scone.
Cutting it open, you could see the scone was just the slightest bit under from fully cooked - which to our minds is exactly the right level of doneness for a scone. The dough used was also neither too floury or too shortbready; this was just about a perfect scone. With the herb and cheese flavour combined with melted butter, this was an excellent savoury scone and a filling enough main.
Considering this was the place where I had an amazing Venison Pot Pie years ago, I just had to go with their Chicken and Corn Pot Pie. There were a number of strong points, however it fell short of the standard set by the Venison pie. One of the positives was the pastry on top, which was nice and crisp - thought perhaps less impressively crispy than the Pot Pie I had eaten at St. Aidan Winery earlier in the week. The thick discs of Potato Chips were also a plus - too often a Pot Pie lid does not feel like enough pastry per square inch of pot pie filling, but having the chips meant I could dip it into the Chicken and Corn filling, which proved to be a welcome addition.
The filling itself was not bad - it tasted like a decent enough Chicken and Corn Pie. My problem with it was that the flour used to thicken the sauce needed to be cooked out a bit more, as it had a thickened, floury flavour that made the dish a bit heavier than it should have been and distracted from the flavours. Thankfully, the simple but effective Garden Salad on the side worked as a good foil in this regard, as the excellent house made sweet and acidic Raspberry Vinaigrette helped break up the heaviness.
After a short wait, our Berry Pancakes arrived, much to the envy of children sitting at the table near us. The large Berry Pancake is a wonder to behold. It truly is a very, very large pancake - not just massive in circumference but really thick too! Upon seeing its sheer size Alissa felt like she'd made a huge mistake, and felt a significant moral, spiritual and physical struggle as she left a sizable chunk uneaten. Easily something to share between two or to eat as a single dish, the large Berry Pancake continually impresses not just because of its size, but because it is also well made. The outer layer was nice and crisp while being soft in the middle, with blueberries hidden within providing a surprising pop of flavour. The generic Vanilla Ice Cream serves its purpose well by bringing coldness and creaminess, however the secret of this dish's success is the incredible sweet and tart Mixed Berry Sauce that is poured hot over the pancake. The balance of sweet and sour is spot on, and is so good that I am willing to ignore my usual dislike of hot sauces and their ability to kill a good scoop of ice cream through premature melting. Alissa loved this dish, and vowed to return and eat one all by herself, repeatedly telling me; 'you can't stop me!'
My small serve was considerably smaller than the large, however even this was still a sizable pancake. In every other way this was identical to the large, and I'd advise that this size is more than enough if you're planning on eating a savoury dish as well.
The Verdict: Very Good
With so many fond memories of childhood visits to the Lavender and Berry Farm, I'm glad that the Berry Pancakes were as good as I remember them, and that the Savoury Scone was well made. Its a shame that the Chicken and Corn Pot Pie was not better - especially considering how good the Venison Pie used to be. The flouriness of the thickened sauce was a bit of a let down, but I suppose I can't expect things to have been exactly as they were 20 years ago. With its family-friendly vibe, adorable little horses and excellent pancakes, this is definitely a place Alissa and I will bring our future children to so they can make their own happy childhood memories.