7 Anderson St, Yarraville. Phone: 9687 1721
Heather Dell makes one realise how over-used and mis-used the phrase “old school” has become.
Instead of being used to bring credibility to lame pop culture manifestations, it really should be restricted for use when describing joints such as this fabulous Yarraville pie and cake shop.
Heather Dell is the very essence of old-school.
It starts with the signage, frontage and funky old-time wooden screen door.
It continues with the interior – racks of, yes, “old-school” cakes, slices and pies – and the welcome.
It goes on with the vintage mixers and other equipment – none of your new-fangled metrics here!
The vibe continues with a product line that includes neenish tarts, mince pies and much more.
“Old school”, too, are the production methods – Heather Dell’s goodies are made by hand and with a whole lot of love.
Oh, sweetie! Clockwise from top left: Apple turnover, hedgehog, boozy Christmas mince pie, neenish tart, coconut tart, sprinkle biscuit, swiss blueberry tart, swiss lemon tart, regular mince pie. Centre: Jam slice.
Apple turnover: OK, but could’ve done with some more spices.
Hedgehog: Pretty good, but only a little classier than your average hog.
Boozy Christmas mince pie: Fantastically yummy!
Neenish tart: Stuffed with butter cream, this was too rich for Kenny, but Bennie loved it.
Coconut tart: Head of the class! Moist, coconutty and not too sweet. Kenny’s fave.
Sprinkle biscuit: Despite an aversion to hundreds & thousands and the like, Kenny liked this. Two crunchy wafers, plain but good.
Swiss blueberry and lemon tarts: See neenish tart (above).
Regular mince pie: OK, but not a patch on the boozy pie (above).
Jame slice: OK, but a little anonymous in such company.
Then there are the prices – you pay for quality, but the most expensive sweet item at Heather Dell is the vanilla slice ($2.60). Prices for the likes of swiss pineapple and swiss blueberry tarts (both $2.20) and jam slices ($1.90) are significantly below those demanded at more trendy and high-falutin’ bakehouses.
When I bowl up to witness the daily pie-making session, the first thing proprietor Keith says to me is: “We’re old school!”
Heather Dell has been in Keith’s family ever since his maternal grandparents and grand-aunt bought an existing business in 1951.
He says they inherited many of the recipes, which have been somewhat modified over the years. The biggest change is in the use of vegetable shortening. In 1951 and thereabouts it was animal dripping all the way!
Heather Dell produces about 100 of their meaty, hearty pies ($3.80) a day, along with a handful of family pies ($8.90). Mind you, Bennie and I can scarf a family pie in about five minutes flat, so we presume they’re working on a rather narrow definition of “family”.
The meat is brought in from Keith’s butcher and cooked fresh each day. He sniffs dismissively when mentioning those who use “pre-mix meat” in their pies.
Many thanks to Keith, Carol, Millie and Ines for letting me watch them at work. It was a hoot!