Is there a faster way to happiness than dessert? We weren't particularly organised with an eating schedule on our recent trip to Melbourne, but we did have two patisseries on our hit list: Burch & Purchese and LuxBite.
Like bumbling interstate tourists we hopped on the tram towards Toorak, barely realising our poorly timed journey until a tidal wave of school boys engulfed us in a jostle of elbows, machismo and oversized schoolbags.
The journey stretched interminably long. Sugar would make everything better, we consoled ourselves, eventually escaping the testosterone tin can and finding sweet solace in the elegant surrounds of Burch & Purchese.
Pastry chefs and co-owners Ian Burch and Darren Purchese both hail from the UK. Their Sweet Studio in South Yarra is a space for them to combine sugar and science, creating desserts that are visually arresting, artfully constructed and most importantly, delicious. Melbournites have always known about this boutique dessert house, but a recent appearance on MasterChef Australia has no doubt propelled them to national recognition and adoration.
Our attention is immediately drawn to the display cabinet, filled with elegant treats. Giant meringues look more like fluffy clouds, dusted with freeze dried passionfruit and strawberry powders. I had one of these later, and the meringue is crisp on the outside and slightly gooey and sticky in the middle.
Vanilla, pistachio and lemon green tea $9
Rhubarb, apple, crumble, cheesecake $9
Deciding what to buy is half the battle, and staff are exceedingly patient as we pace up and down the cabinet, assessing our options. Minh eventually chooses the rhubarb and apple crumble cheesecake, a multi-layered construction that is a balance of tart and sweet.
Banana, caramel and rum $9
Raspberry, white choc, honey and lychee $9
Roast pumpkin, milk chocolate, maple syrup and bacon $9
It's the promise of bacon that wins over Suze to pick the roast pumpkin, milk chocolate, maple syrup and bacon. Actually there's less bacon in it than we expect, with a persistent taste of aniseed over-riding the flavours of the dessert.
Velvet, white chocolate, lemon, toasted pinenut $9
Coconut, passionfruit, ginger and mint $9
I eventually point at the coconut, passionfruit, ginger and mint, a refreshing dessert that combines coconut mousse with tropical passionfruit and heartwarming ginger.
The Burch & Purchese ingredient wall, often used as a reference for cake consultations
Burch & Purchese kitchen
Burch & Purchese products
Fruit salad white chocolate $9.50
Salted caramel spread $12
There's a broad selection of Burch & Purchese take-home products, but the salted caramel spread is my pick of the bunch. Flecked visibly with fresh vanilla beans, it's sweet, salty and buttery and impossible to resist. It's a jar filled with the caramel centres from your favourite chocolate box.
What are you going to have yours on? I asked Suze. On a spoon! she replied without hesitation. She's right. A spoon is all you need.
Raspberry and white chocolate clay $6.50
White chocolate, kaolin clay and real raspberries
Burch & Purchese gold bars $9
Flowing salted caramel encased in Spanish dark chocolate finished with gold lustre
The 647 $8
In the freezer are tubs of Burch & Purchese ice cream and sorbets, packed in 155ml ($4) and 500ml tubs ($12). Ice cream flavours including: pear & ginger; spicy roast pumpkin; violet and honeycomb; and mint chocolate Aero. Sorbets range from mandarin to mango & passionfruit and cucumber & lime.
The sight of three lonely mini tubs of butterscotch popcorn ice cream in the freezer is a sign we can't ignore, and we buy all three, retiring to a park bench outside to savour our spoils. There's not a strong sense of popcorn in the ice cream, but we do find generous squares of soft caramel that are buttery and salty, and stick gloriously in-between our teeth.
Down the road and a few blocks around the corner is LuxBite. We're heard much about their macarons, especially their kaya toast macaron.
Peanut butter and jelly macarons
The shop doubles as a cafe, serving cooked breakfasts and light lunches along with Toby's Estate coffee. Down the back is the patisserie section, the macarons illuminated in an impressive display cabinet.
Macaron rainbow: [from left] kaffir lime, passionfruit, choc cherry, Toby's Estate mocha, Heilala vanilla creme brulee and mandarin & saffron 4 for $11
There's a constant queue of people ordering macarons, selecting from an impressive spectrum of flavours. The kaya toast macaron is a clever tribute to the Malaysian breakfast favourite, and although the pandan custard isn't very discernible, the square of butter in the middle is a welcome surprise.
Kaffir lime is zingy, peanut butter and jelly is the perfect after school snack and watermelon yoghurt macaron is intriguingly cool, with memories of watermelons in summer flooding forth.
Pining for passion $7.50 (nut free)
Pineapple curd tart with caramelised pineapple
The glass cabinet at the back of the store holds all the larger desserts.
The ET $8.50 (gluten free, egg free and nut free)
Oriental love $8.50 (gluten free)
After pressing our noses up against the window, I give into the Oriental Love, a giant coconut macaron with passionfruit curd, pandan cream, caramelised banana and peanut brittle. The stumps of banana are a long lost delight.
Supersized Love $8.50 (gluten free)
Suze's heart is won over the Supersized Love and eventually mine is too. It's like a giant Ferrero Rocher, the rich filling of dark chocolate studded generously with whole hazelnuts and sandwiched between two hazelnut macaron shells.
Hotel dessert party
Special mention goes to the cute yellow box and black-ribboned packaging of macarons at LuxBite. And I was also impressed that Burch & Purchese staple a photocopy of your dessert description to each of your goodies so you know exactly what you're eating.
We didn't finish all our desserts in one night, but we definitely got happy on a sugar high!
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Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio
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8/10/2011 12:31:00 a.m.