23 Ocean Beach Road
Sorrento VIC 3943
+61 3 5984 4666
I was down in Melbourne over the Easter weekend to visit the family, catch up with friends and soak up as much good coffee (not to mention, food and wine) as I can. There was also a day trip with the folks thrown in the mix too. After spending the morning at a market down in Red Hill, we found our way up to Rye before stopping at Sorrento for lunch. As you can imagine, the main strip was flooded with Melburnians wanting to escape the big smoke for a whiff of fresh air, coastal vibes and overpriced cafés.
Just Fine Food was one of the latter.
Now, Just Fine Food is famously known for its vanilla slices. If you’re a dessert lovin’ Melburnian, no doubt you would have made the drive down Eastlink for that slice of clould-like vanilla heaven. My dad isn’t an avid by any means but he does have his favourite dishes – and he would go out of his way for them, even if it means a long drive to get that dish in his belly. A good vanilla slice is one of them.
My parents had been going to Just Fine Food for a number of years before they changed hands. And although new owners meant a new menu, Just Fine Foods wouldn’t remove their vanilla slice – and why would they, it’s their best selling item by far. I’m not one to go out of my way for cakes but even I had to admit that I was curious about this so-called amazing vanilla slice.
Despite it being Easter weekend (and thus, packed), we were able to squeeze into a spare table in the middle of the tiny café. There, we placed our order – just a coffee each, a pie to share and a vanilla slice. We didn’t want to go big because we had already consumed quite a lot of food at the market beforehand. Plus, we also had a Persian feast in Melbourne to look forward to that night.
For a non-single origin/house-roasted coffee made with the blood, sweat and tears of a bearded hipster, our lattes were on the pricier end of the spectrum. It wasn’t a terrible coffee but for that price, I did expect a little more depth and flavour.
All of Just Fine Food’s family-sized pies were sitting on display behind the glass counter so I knew they were going to cut out a slice. I wasn’t sure how big each slice was but for $18.50, I was expecting a quarter. Imagine our disappointment when we received a slice that was probably smaller than three party pies joined together – and as flat as a pancake, too.
To be fair, the filling was actually very tasty; each bite was generously packed with chunks of chicken followed by a healthy dose of homely spices and chopped leek. The pastry, though, was extremely disappointing; it was soft and soggy so it was obvious they just nuked it in the microwave rather than say, an oven or pie warmer. The chips were also underseasoned.
Thankfully, the vanilla slice was reasonably priced – and mighty delicious. A layer of gorgeously crispy puff pastry hid a slab of smooth, silky French vanilla that wasn’t too sweet – a plus in my books. And on the bottom, there was a smidgen of strawberry jam for a lovely bit of tartness. I could definitely see why people were going crazy over this cake.
For not a lot of food, our lunch was expensive – well over $40 for a measly slice of pie, a cake and three coffees. Even without the 15% public holiday surcharge, it would have still been pricey. I recommend sticking to Melbourne for coffee and getting lunch at the fish and chip shop next door, but definitely do pop in afterwards for a slice of vanilla heaven. (Great, I now have Dave Dobbyn in my head.)