A little boy peeked over the fence and eagerly patted ‘Apache Cat,’ a people’s champion and a “big show off ,” according to Andrew. The boy and his family were celebrating a themed birthday party at the Somerton Picnic area, complete with little tables, an electric barbeque and the sound of laughing kookaburras. The homestead also packs a picnic hamper for those who would fancy a Victorian-style picnic in the gardens, surrounded by heritage roses grown by Alister Clark, the famed 19th century Australian rose breeder. Walking around the homestead, I caught a whiff of something being freshly baked, and was led by the nose into a cozy, wood-panelled kitchen. Annie, the homestead’s master baker, was elbow-deep in fl our, as she deftly kneaded the dough for a new batch of scones.
The Homestead stands out for its traditional Devonshire Tea that includes fresh-baked scones, whipped cream and jams, served with coffee or tea. Annie proudly told me that a couple of visitors had rated her scones as the second best in the world—after the ones at Buckingham Palace. “But they were English visitors, so we suspect some potential bias,” she said laughing. The secret to her legendary scones, she revealed, lies in the preparation of the dough. “A Devonshire Tea party is never rushed—much like the preparation of its scones. The dough is gently kneaded and lightly massaged. Don’t forget to give it ample rest too,” she advised.