Miss Marple's Tea Room

Despite its relatively low urbanspoon rating, I just had to give the reknowned Miss Marple’s a go for its Devonshire tea. This ‘old-fashioned tearoom’ situated in the Dandenongs, 50km east of Melbourne, does not take bookings, so we made sure to arrive early. We turned up at 11.30, half an hour after they opened, and had our names taken down on the waiting list.

When we were seated some 45 minutes later I was immediately struck by the cheap feel exuded by everything around me. The chunky, standard issue crockery brought me straight back to my university days when I lived in a residential college. It was all rather beaten up too: scratches, cracks, blemishes and discolouration were everywhere.

Discoloured saucer

Cheap napkin and chunky teacup

Cracked milk jug

I’ve always had a pet hate for sugar in packets. Can you name a good cafe that has them? Yeah, that’s what I thought. A place that calls itself a ‘tea room’ should really have sugar bowls.

Nothing says professional like a menu written in Arial, decorated with clip art

Ok, so perhaps I’ve been a little nitpicky. All of the above would probably be excusable if they could back themselves up with good food. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

Cottage pie, beef ($14.50)

We recognised the mash as instant straight away, with that unmistakeable floury fake taste. Its flavour was about as similar to real potato as banana lollies to real bananas. I don’t understand why it was there. Flashing back to my college days again, mash was a staple of basically every dinner. Its frequency was enough to suggest that even when made from real potatoes on a commercial scale, mash is not expensive.

Otherwise, the filling was slightly salty but otherwise tasteless. Not particularly inspiring.

Welsh rarebit fingers ($13)

Cheesy bread. Normally I would consider this to be a good thing, however in this case neither the cheese nor the bread were of spectacular quality. The cheese was that boring, misleadingly named ‘tasty’ variety. None of the mature English cheddar, Guiness, eggs, mustard or spices, as indicated on the menu, were apparent at all. I just got done $13 for cheese on toast. Dang!

‘Devonshire scones’ ($9)

Note the use of the term ‘Devonshire scones’: no tea included (that was an extra $3.95 each). Upon seeing the menu I’d already thought that $9 just for two scones was rather steep, let alone once I’d tasted them and realised how terrible they were.

The ‘scones’ had clearly been made in a giant slab and cut up, which meant that they lacked that wonderful crusty exterior of a good scone. They also had a weird cakey texture: it was like buttercake with not nearly enough sugar. The accompanying cream was plain old whipped. I would comment on the flavour of the jam, however I couldn’t really taste it as it was freezing cold.

I’d read a few reviews of Miss Marple’s which suggested that they do ‘slightly different scones to the norm’, which are cool ‘if you like them like that’, and so on. NO. NO ONE LIKES SCONES LIKE THAT. THAT IS NOT HOW SCONES ARE MADE. I know there are a few bloggers out there who are wary of writing critical reviews, and I can understand their reservations, however when a place is this bad you can’t  just skirt around the issue.

The verdict

One word: shortcuts.

Everywhere.

It was very obvious that the owners had decided to bank on their reputation alone to keep them in business, while cutting back on food quality and professionalism. The thing that makes me sad is that it seems to be working for them. That waiting list just kept getting longer and longer.

So dear readers, I implore you: do not waste your hard-earned on Miss Marple’s. I am willing to bet that every other cafe on this strip of Mount Dandenong tourist road would have better food than this, simply because none of those places have enough of a reputation to get away with serving such shocking food.

Utterly disappointing.

Miss Marple’s Tea Room
382 Mount Dandenong Tourist Road
Sassafras

Miss Marple's Tearoom on Urbanspoon

, , , , Regional, Reviews, Yarra valley and Dandenongs

17 Comments → “Miss Marple’s Tea Room”

  1. Yuen Ling 10 months ago   Reply

    Love your honest review!

    I’m totally agree with about the scones. I only had once, so I wouldn’t judge that, but it’s more like cake texture to me.

    And Totally not worth my time going there again.

    • The Melbourne Food Snob 10 months ago   Reply

      The texture is just all wrong, isn’t it! Thanks for commenting.

  2. Anon 10 months ago   Reply

    I used to work here. And I agree with everything you have said.
    I was also disgusted with the use of instant mash potato flakes. Thank god you picked up on that. What you also didn’t see out the back was the dominant use of canned ingredients in our ‘homemade’ recipes – and cheap ones at that. In fact I can’t actually think of anything we used that didn’t come out of a can or packet… Olives, chutney, asparagus, pickles, pineapples, sauces…
    Additionally staff were not paid well and were never given a lunch break (as is the legal requirement). Every day was so stressful. I knew that if just one more staff member was on it would have made all the difference, but we were worked like a machine, perfectly calculated to be able to do all that needed doing in a certain amount of time so as to not waste any labour costs! The staff turnover was very high and I witnessed a few brow-raising incidents between boss & staff members as well. Many times I was made to feel really guilty if I said I could not work or fill in for someone else’s shift if they could not make it. I also felt horrible about the way customers were treated sometimes – since the business was like a cash cow, the general rule was get people in and out as fast as possible whilst spending the most money possible. No looking after their needs or giving them a good experience or anything. And I think many people sensed that and we did get a few complaints! But what could we do- we were doing what we were told!

    Yep, scones cut up from a slab en masse (cha-ching!). Canned soup making up the bulk of the ‘homemade’ soup (cha-ching!). Don’t think you are getting skim milk when you order a skim coffee! Cage eggs (cha-ching!). Oh yeah the cheese on the toasted fingers is all that cheap yucky Kraft sliced squares stuff (cha-ching!). You should have seen the raw gloopy chicken mush (what you thought was “fresh chicken”!) that was spread on the toasted fingers too- eeeeww. We ordered in the pasties frozen from god knows where, same with christmas cakes and all the chips, dressings etc (though that should come as no surprise). I don’t know how anyone could finish the desserts after sitting through a lunch but the huge serving sizes went out all the same, and let me tell you I reckon over 50% of the sundae/pudding/scones got chucked in the bin most of the time. So food waste was also a massive issue. But clearly this was the most profitable way to do it.

    I happen to know that the boss was making an absolute killing out of the business yet this didn’t translate to caring about how they treated staff or quality of food.
    Yet as you said, the waiting list kept on growing and growing. It is sad how much more deserving businesses do not have the same reputation that Miss Marples has. I always recommend other places to my friends if they are looking to dine somewhere in the Dandenongs, like Ripe (next door!) or the Cook’s Corner. Please people, never go there, you are buying into a monster!

    I hope your review gets heaps of attention & is spread far and wide ;) thankyou!!

    • The Melbourne Food Snob 10 months ago   Reply

      Thanks for your very insightful comment! Interesting to hear the extent of how bad it is – not just the food but they way that they treat their staff. Pretty shocking. Hopefully word will eventually get out about their terrible business practices. Straight after eating there we stopped in at another random cafe and got their Devonshire tea, which was amazing… It’s a shame that there are much better places out there that people don’t know about.

      • Anon 10 months ago   Reply

        It has to be said that the hospitality industry in general is notorious for bad standards re staff rights. Still not excusable, but I think a lot of bad stuff goes on behind the scenes at many restaurants or cafes that you would think treat their staff well. I do hope word gets out but it’s just the tip of the iceberg!! Where was the other place you got Devonshire teas?

        • The Melbourne Food Snob 10 months ago   Reply

          It was a random place in gembrook called cafe 91, I’ll do a write up soon. Definitely worth sharing :)

  3. Anon 10 months ago   Reply

    Oh! Also, I remember one of the staff members getting “asked” to write good reviews for MM on urban spoon or something, to heighten its rating. And make up different user names so they could write a few. I am not claiming this definitely happened but I know for sure that they were asked to do it.

    • The Melbourne Food Snob 10 months ago   Reply

      I had a feeling this might have been the case, as there seemed to be far too many positive reviews considering its overall low score. Hmm…

  4. adele 10 months ago   Reply

    Very interesting to hear that nothing has changed – I went there probably 20 years ago and they did have ‘real’ scones back then but as I got the worst case of food poisoning ever from there!! needless to say I have never been back and have never recommended it as a ‘go to’ place. Why bother when there are so many other great places around – for me a trip to the Dandenongs is not high priority. Pity as the concept is rather good and with the right elements in place it could be so much better.

    • The Melbourne Food Snob 10 months ago   Reply

      I can’t believe you got food poisoning, that’s no good :( I’ve heard from a few people that they used to be better (ie had real scones, and so on) but as soon as they established a reputation the quality took a bit of a dive. Definitely better options in the area. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Catherine 10 months ago   Reply

    Sigh. I used to really love Miss Marples, and it was one of my special treats when I’d go up to Sassafras (I admit, I never touched the scones – one has to draw the line somewhere!).

    I agree about the quality of the savoury food. Though I’m appalled to read about all the bits and pieces that come out of a packet! With the exception of the ploughman’s lunch, it has never been particularly good. Though… I’m pretty sure they were better than this when I first went there in the mid 1990s.

    I do think their non-scone desserts are pretty good. But it’s always been such a nostalgia trip for me that I find it difficult to be objective.

    Last time I was in Sassafras, I asked one of the local shop owners which Tea Shop they recommended for scones, etc. It wasn’t Miss Marples, and it was indeed, very good. I don’t think I’ll be going back to Miss Marples.

    • The Melbourne Food Snob 10 months ago   Reply

      I’ve heard from a few people that they used to be better, it’s a real shame that the owners are so money hungry that the standards have dropped so much. I’m fairly certain that no other cafe in Sassafras could possibly have worse scones… might have to try one of the other places next time!

  6. Skye 10 months ago   Reply

    Those “scones” look like the tasteless and stodgy flour cake I used to get fed during recess at boarding school, when they had to feed people for <10c a person.

    • The Melbourne Food Snob 10 months ago   Reply

      Basically what they were, unfortunately. They must be making so much money :(

  7. Duncan Bayne 3 months ago   Reply

    … and to round it off, their website is Flash :-/. I’m a local (…ish, from Upwey) and have driven past a few times. I’ll keep driving past, I think.

    • The Melbourne Food Snob 3 months ago   Reply

      A good idea, I think.

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