So, I have been meaning to go to this new spot on Ana Street in Woodbrook, Maria's Bakery. I've driven past it many times, and been really pleased by the appearance of the place - welcoming and unpretentious. I was in the wine shop around the corner last week, picked up a flier for Maria's and headed over to the relatively new bakery/ cafe. First impression was really good. Pretty interiors, with lots of fresh baked bread, which was covered in a light, mesh fabric to ensure the warm bread doesn't sweat. There's a take-away bakery on one side of the space, and a small sit-down cafe on the other side. The menu in the cafe comprises various simple salads and sandwiches (made with fresh hops - a definite plus for me) at prices that, although a little on the high side, are by no extortionate. The servers were friendly enough and fairly efficient. But alas, this is where the problems begin. I've been to Maria's twice in the past week and tried two different things. I'm always excited by a new place where I can eat good food that's affordable, hence my giving the bakery two chances.
First order - fresh zeppole-type donuts dusted with sugar. I love a donut. Having lived in England as a teenager, on a high street in south west London with a decent little bakery, and consumed there umpteen jam donuts, I also think of myself as a bit of an afficionado. But you know, I tend to believe that you don't have to be a specialist to know what you like. But I'm digressing. I purchase my donut for six dollars, leap in my car and head off to the office. I bite into the donut and it's delicious. Not too sweet, not too light. Bite number two... yuk! Raw dough in the middle. Completely raw. Okay. Everyone makes mistakes. I turn the car around and return to the bakery. Now - this is where I lose patience. As a customer, if I tell you that the donut is raw on the inside, your job as a server is to a. apologise, b. offer to refund my money or give me another donut, c. apologise again and thank me for coming back. You're not supposed to eye me with deep suspicion, mutter to yourself, head off to talk to the manager (you'd think I was returning a Tag Heuer watch!), and then, the worst part of it, the manager is not supposed to come and correct me, insisting that it's not in fact raw, and that's how the donuts are "supposed" to be cooked. Bear in mind, it's still a $6 donut we're talking about. Harumph. Eventually, I get my replacement donut, which is pretty good.
Experience number two: the sad hops. Oh, the dying art of baking hops bread! As I've already mentioned, there was a beautiful bread display covered in fine mesh fabric. Lots of hops breads. I was excited! Among the sandwich options was one made with coronation chicken: an old favourite of my Granny's. So, for sentimental reasons, and because it's been years since I had it, I ordered a coronation chicken hops to go. It was about $22, again, on the expensive side, but, I've been searching for good hops experiences, so I was prepared to pay a little more to insure it. Arrive at the office with my lunch of coronation chicken hops and bite into it with great eagerness. The chicken is delish - creamy and mild curry taste. The hops, a total disappointment. To me, the perfect hops is as good as, if not better than, a baguette. It's crispy on the outside and soft and airy on the inside. Maria's hops was soft on the outside and heavy and dense on the inside. Ack! Such a disappointment. That's it for me and Maria's for now, I'm afraid.