Sometimes when you’re out and about those hunger pangs hit you hard and you crave for something out of the ordinary. You know its lunch time and you’ve skipped breakfast and you should really have something decent and healthy… but sometimes irrationality overtakes the mental processes and next thing you know you’re seated in a café waiting on your order and trying to work out what elements of upcoming meals you can sacrifice in order to save face at Weight Watchers on the weekend.
That pretty much sums up how I came to be at Mrs Fields Bakery at the Gateway Shopping Centre in Palmerston recently. I’ve not met Mrs Fields before – not while travelling and certainly not here at home as this is the first one we’ve seen statewide. So I guess what we have here is the opportunity for Mrs Fields to win us over with her first impressions.
The store isn’t much more than what I would call a kiosk with a small seating area adjacent dedicated to her patrons. The only real menu items are toasted sandwiches, cakes and the usual beverages. I did consider having a toasted sandwich as the first thing consumed for the day, but they seemed awfully pricey. To be fair, my off-the-cuff judgement could have been completely wrong and the meal could have been quite a sumptuous fare.
But irrationality kicked in and I ordered a lemon tart and a skinny flat white coffee. Ordering was a bit of an ordeal as it sort of got lost in translation. After several attempts at giving my order I left it to chance to see what I was going to end up with. I looked around for a team leader or someone who may have been able to help at the counter but I fear I may have been in for more of the same had I called someone over. After paying I took a number and a seat and was immediately struck by how cluttered and unkempt the premises was. Crumbs across the floor, plates stacked wildly over the kitchen walls and a general appearance of mayhem.
Fortunately it seems my order was understood. Rather promptly my skinny flat white arrived. Sadly, it was average. Lukewarm and milky, it seemed to be a very sweet tasting roast which didn’t agree with me. It was lovingly made and presented beautifully, but not one of the better coffees I’ve had.
Very soon after the coffee arriving, so did the lemon tart. It was again presented simply and beautifully. You can’t go far wrong with putting a tart on a plate and placing it on the table, but I did notice quite a number of lemon tarts in the display case with chips, breaks and cracks in the majority of the pastry shells. Yet someone had selected for me a lemon tart free from those blemishes. I was chuffed. A candied slice of lemon was placed on top and the upper surface had a certain glaze which gave it another dimension unseen on similar tarts at other cafes. I certainly doubt that this was made by a third party and just ordered in.
I was quite puzzled when I sliced open the lemon tart. For all intents and purposes the tart presented as a traditional lemon curd tart. But it wasn’t. I don’t think. The filling surely had the bite and zing that I appreciate in a good lemon curd, but it was soo creamy and silky smooth. Honestly, this threw me for some time, but it grew on me. The pastry shell was not your usual shortcrust either; not quite a puff and not quite as simple as a filo pastry, it was tasty by itself and not heavy and claggy in the mouth. Good one, Mrs Fields!
The more I ate the tart the more I came to appreciate how unique and wonderful this recipe was. I have never had a lemon tart like this one and it’s tempting to go back for another visit, sans coffee.
While first impressions count, I think the moral to this story is not to judge a book by its cover. Pricing was excellent for the coffee and tart; service was awkward at first, but the presentation and table service made up for any shortfalls while ordering. While the appearance of the kiosk left a lot to be desired, the simple flavours bursting through my mouth made it a worthwhile experience. Had the coffee roast been richer and darker – for me, this would have been a very satisfying experience.
As Meat Loaf once told us, two out of three ain’t bad. That pretty much sums up Mrs Fields at the Gateway for me – some hits and some misses, but fortunately more hits than misses.
I see on her website that Mrs Fields is wanting to open up an additional kiosk at another shopping complex 20 minutes away – based on what I’ve seen so far, I wish her all the best – I’m sure she’ll give the other guys a run for their money.