HOT: Petty’s Orchard, 1 Homestead Road, Templestowe

It’s amazing that you can drive 30 minutes on the Eastern Freeway and you go from dense high rise buildings to bucolic semi-rural vistas.

In amongst some enormous acreage residences is Petty’s Orchard. It’s a working organic apple orchard and it’s been around since the turn of last century when the Petty family worked the Homestead Road land. Apparently Doncaster and Templestowe used to be covered in orchards and Petty’s Orchard is now maintained by the Heritage Fruit Society in an effort to conserve heritage apple varieties.

Petty’s Orchard grows 217 varieties of organic heritage apples and the site includes an antique apple orchard, commercial orchard, wetlands and bird hide. For visitors there is a spacious Yarra Organics shop with organic and locally grown produce and a variety of organic grocery products, drinks, treats and dairy products.

Pettys Orchard

After you do your shopping you can also enjoy breakfast and lunch at the shaded cafe verandah, which is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Pettys Orchard

They serve Jasper organic coffee (with organic milk and sugar), Bocastle gourmet pies and rolls plus tarts, cakes and baked goods made by the local cake lady.

Pettys Orchard

This cake lady is very talented as my silverbeet, leek and roasted cherry tomato tart was fresh and wholesome with a decadent buttery shortcrust pastry – for a bargain price of $6.50.

Pettys Orchard

Make sure you make room for dessert. This massive apple pie stuffed with chunky apples (from the orchard presumably) set me back a mere $4.80. I didn’t think you could still get a slice of cafe cake for under $5 in Melbourne any more, let alone enough pie to serve two!

Pettys Orchard

Petty’s Orchard is particularly family friendly if you’re visiting with kids as outside there’s a playground and plenty of grass for running around and inside the shop is a small indoor play area as well with books and toys galore. You can also visit parts of the orchard on foot and spot birdlife and wildlife (we counted several hopping bunnies).

Pettys Orchard

Petty’s Orchard is a hidden gem for foodies, gardeners and families and it’s only 30 minutes drive from the CBD. If you’re planning a visit the Heritage Fruit Society run a series of events at Petty’s Orchard throughout the year, including antique apple tastings every second Sunday, with the first being this Sunday 9 February. For more information click here. In Spring (October) there’s even a Blossom Festival at the orchard.

Petty’s Orchard, 1 Homestead Road, Templestowe +61 3 9846 5504

Thursday: 9am – 5:30pm (Vegetables not available Thursdays)
Friday: 9am – 5:30pm
Saturday: 9am – 5:30pm
Sunday: 10am – 4:30pm

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HOT: Golden Dragon Palace, 363 Manningham Rd, Lower Templestowe

I don’t shy away from being decisive on this blog so I’m going to make bold claim.

Golden Dragon Palace has the best yum cha in Melbourne.

So. I’ve put it out there now.

Of course, I haven’t eaten at every single yum cha restaurant in Melbourne. It’s possible that there are places that do even better dim sum than Golden Dragon Palace that I’ve not gotten to yet. Or you’ve been there and disliked it so much that you cannot believe that I would dream of saying such a thing.

But based on my knowledge of Cantonese food, including decades of eating yum cha (my mum has a diary entry saying that I was eating dim sum at 6 months old) and my journeys around Melbourne’s Chinese restaurants, Golden Dragon Palace is dim sum heaven.

It’s called Golden Dragon Palace but I wouldn’t really describe it as a palace – more a brick behemoth containing elaborate wood carvings, porcelain vases and glass etchings. It serves dim sum from trolleys starting from 11:30am on weekdays and 11am on weekends, when it’s so popular that there are three sittings and bookings are advised.

On a Friday it was reasonably full with a mostly Asian clientele. From my experience Chinese people are very discerning about their food and hold no loyalties to a particular restaurant as soon as the standards drop. In fact, I’ve known people to gossip about where a particular chef has defected to and the whole Chinese community will then troop along to the new restaurant to follow the master. So the fact that Golden Dragon Palace still attracts a large crowd on a weekday is testament to its solid reputation.

Food blogger Kat and I devoured steamer after plate after bowl of authentic Cantonese dim sum and were very shocked when our bill came to a hefty $78!  We ate a lot but be warned that it’s not the cheapest yum cha in town. However, the quality and freshness of the food is undeniable (even though not every single dish was successful) and I’m willing to pay more for that.

The dishes you should not miss include the har gao and cheong fun. They both used juicy fat prawns, with the har gao wrapping the prawns in a delicate, translucent wrapper and the made-to-order cheong fun consisting of a steaming mass of prawns within rows of silky and slippery rice noodles.

The tofu stuffed with prawn was also excellent. It’s not normally a dish that I get very excited about but this silken, almost eggy, tofu was amazing (and those big fat prawns making another appearance), far removed from the usual white cubes of brick-like tofu.

I loved the crumbly sweet pastry of these chicken pies, though I would have like more evidence of chicken and less cornflour in the filling.

The desserts were a highlight. The egg tart pastry is very flaky and light while the filling was barely set and not too sweet. The sponge cake (not pictured), warm straight from the steamer, was incredibly moreish and one of the best I’ve eaten.

The mango pudding had a subtle flavour of mango, unlike other varieties which are often a fluorescent orange mass of fake mango flavours.

Next time I’ll definitely give the xiao long bau a miss. Kat pointed out that she normally wouldn’t order a Shanghaiese speciality at a Cantonese restaurant and she’s made a good point, because the xiao long bao was more like a crude meatball wrapped in a thick skin. No delicacy in the flavours or textures, almost no soup in the parcel and slivers of ginger inside the dumpling instead of served on the side.

Kat and I disagreed on the pork buns. I thought that it wasn’t fluffy enough but quite liked the non-food-coloured pork filling. Kat liked the texture of the bun but didn’t think much of the filling. So it’s a dish that I’d return for again, in the hope that the solidity of the bun was a one-off.

And yes, there will definitely be a return visit. Just looking at the photos is making me drool!

What are your other recommendations for yum cha in Melbourne?

Golden Dragon Palace, 363 Manningham Rd, Lower Templestowe +61 3 9852 4086
Yum cha daily 11:30am-3pm, Sunday 11am – 3pm
Dinner 6pm till late
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