The proposition of a dessert crawl seemed like a good one at the time. It was made after a good six dish, three course meal at a house party prepared by an American who works as a pastry chef by trade; a sibling of a friend who had come to Australia for a brief holiday. When asked for suggestions of some establishments to check out, offering to show him around seemed like the right thing to do.
It didn’t occur to me until a little while later of what I was getting myself into. Two men, going on a dessert crawl, sharing each other’s desserts.
Part 2 of the Tourist Food Tour – one afternoon, eight desserts, four establishments, two men, and yes, even one cup.
I was thinking over the idea of reconsidering my offer. There is, at the very least, a stigma attached with two men sharing a dessert; an issue I’ve
grappled with (well, avoided) a little while back during a dinner at the Outback Steakhouse [blog post].
Is it due to the remnants of the unwritten rules of a bygone era where “real” men were macho and anything that could be construed as being feminine and/or homosexual was considered “bad”?
Search the Internet about this issue and you’ll find that these unwritten rules are, well, written. For instance, The Bro Code, a male moral/ethical code of conduct as proposed by Barney Stinson, in Article 12 states quite flatly that “Bros do not share dessert“. The Creme Brulee Theory proposed by The Zen Capitalist on the other hand presents a moderate viewpoint in that desserts can be shared but there is a line that should not be crossed, literally.
Perhaps the issue is the intimate nature of two people sharing food, where it may be less of an issue if more people were involved. I’ve never seen sharing as an issue amongst food bloggers, but then again the majority of them are female. I’m not sure how, say, four guys sharing desserts would play out.
Whatever your view on the matter, a fellow female food blogger, Giana from The Empty Fridge, joined us at the eleventh hour so it became something of a non-issue in any case.
Note: As with the previous food tour, this is by no means a definite list of the best dessert establishments in Sydney. After all, we didn’t visit Adriano Zumbo, Sweet Belem or other iconic suburban patisseries, or any of the high end dining establishments with a reputation for their desserts. Locale, ease of transport, attire, budget & personal interest all had a hand in the places that we ended up at.
Gelato Messina seemed like a logical first choice, considering the quality of their produce and for not being situated too far away from King Cross station. We each opt for our own single scoops ($3.90). My tourist friend was quite pleased with the tiramisu flavour that he’d selected.
A block down from Gelato Messina, and the main reason why we were in this part of town, was to visit Boon. I’d read about Boon many a time, so I was aware of the calibre of their desserts. One thing that I wasn’t aware of until recently was their no photo policy.
So why are there photos of Boon here? I would like to think it was because we’d introduced ourselves and asked for permission first before snapping away. The real reason as I see it was that Giana had hit it off with the owner/operator Fanny, having found out they shared a common nationality. Even then, permission was given reluctantly. When asked about the reason for the policy, it had to do with the perceived intrusiveness of the activity of taking a photo. It’s not the first time that I’ve heard that point of view.
Boon consists of two main areas. There’s the retail store on the ground floor; a vista of glass, mirrors and lights, showing off their fine chocolate wares. This includes some novelty designs such as a chocolate plaque with an embossed heart motif or an exquisite chocolate handbag that look much like a real one.
The terrace level, the dine-in portion of Boon situated up the stairs, on the other hand has a very different feel to it. The room is dimly lit and very moody. Painting line the walls giving the space an arthouse gallery feel to it.
There is also a small balcony area that overlooks the street but this was closed off at the time we were there.
Boon Specialty Cake ($12.50) – “A multi-layer chocolate mousse cake served with vanilla ice cream on the side. A slice of chocolate heaven…..” so the marketing on their menu indicates.
Not all that far from the truth as the chocolate cake was really good. Rich in chocolate flavour, though very light in texture and subtle with its sweetness, the chocolate cake was an all round favourite. The accompanying vanilla ice cream was nice enough but seemed almost superfluous to me.
Belgian Style Chocolate Set with Boon Praline & Chocolate Mousse ($8.50) – an assiette of chocolate in progressive states of solidity, from warmth of a cup of hot chocolate, the smooth richness of the mousse, to the relatively firm praline hemisphere.
Whilst we were happy to share the mousse straight out of its cup, we drew the line at drinking the hot chocolate in the same fashion, having requested individual cups.
As with the chocolate cake, the sweetness was kept to a minimum to allow for the chocolate flavour of each item to sing through clearly. The hot chocolate comes in dark or milk chocolate varieties, as well as mocha & soy versions (+$0.50 for either).
The praline chocolate ‘Mira’, as its referred to in the display counter, consists of a white chocolate ganache with mountain pepperberries & strawberries. I didn’t notice much in the way of the pepperberry. It just tasted like strawberries to me.
Next stop was Baroque, a relatively new French bistro that opened within the last year or so owned by the same people that operate the French patisserie/cafe La Renaissance. Whilst I’d love to try out their bistro fare at some stage, we found ourselves a table outside and kept our order to a couple of desserts.
There are two dessert menus at Baroque. The standard dessert menu which is only available during dinner service, consisting of desserts such as creme brulee, Valrhona chocolate tart & peach & almond souffle ($16 each).
The other “dessert” menu, Masterpieces from the Baroque Pastry Kitchen, is available all day consisting of various cakes served with the chef’s choice of either ice-cream or sorbet. As it was too early for dinner, we opt for a duo in Masterpiece theatre – a delightful comedy and a dark tragedy.
Pompadour ($13) – Raspberry and passion fruit mousse, pine nut nougatine, almond sponge cake, paired with a rich but otherwise flat tasting mango sorbet. Whilst the sorbet was disappointing, the mousse cake was phenomenal. The flavour of the raspberry with the acidic punch of the passionfruit was light, bold and refreshing. The mini macarons were cute decals adding a chewy textural component.
Zulu ($13) – Valrhona “Araguani” 72% chocolate mousse, “Araguani” ganache with salted caramel, chocolate biscuit base, finished with a mini chocolate macaron. I never thought this would be possible for a dessert made from Valrhona chocolate but this was very disappointing, residing on the opposite side of the scale to the Pompadour. The texture of the chocolate mousse was weirdly grainy & lumpy. The mini macaron was dried out and hollow.
Whilst the accompanying raspberry sorbet with its nice acidic bite was polished off, aside from the first couple of tastes the remainder of the Zulu chocolate cake was left untouched by the three of us.
We make our way to our final dessert destination, the patisserie, bakery and cafe La Renaissance; the older, more down to earth sister to Baroque.
La Renaissance not only stocks the range of Masterpiece pastries but also a whole ensemble of other sweet pastries, cakes, as well as savoury baked goods such as croissants, pies, quiches, baguettes, sandwiches and so on.
Gaugin ($7) – Exotic tear-drop shaped cake; light creamy mixed berry mousse, encased in a decorative almond sponge, and topped with glazed mixed berries. This tasted somewhat flat, lacking a little in both flavour & acidity. It was alright overall, but as the flavours and textures were somewhat similar to the Pompadour, I couldn’t avoid making a comparison between the two.
Gateau Normand ($5) – Moist pudding style cake with apples and almonds. This was the clear favourite of the three desserts. The apple flavour rang through clearly, with a degree of texture to them. The almond crust on top added a nice textural contrast to the soft sponge of the cake.
Chocolate Eclair (5.50) – Traditional choux pastry filled with chocolate pastry cream and topped with chocolate fondant. I’m more of a vanilla custard eclair sort of person but this was pretty nice. The chocolate pastry cream has a pleasant smooth custard-like texture to it.
We find that we collectively hit the wall around this time, having trouble finishing off the dessert, more from the overload of sugar than an issue of stomach capacity. Whilst Giana parts way at this stage, the men make their way downtown to Mamak for some much needed savoury dishes. We also end up starting, but not finishing, a Roti Tisu dessert that we both end up sharing. Sharing that not only didn’t seem weird, but it seemed like the natural thing to do.
Shop 1/241 Victoria St, Darlinghurst
(02) 8354 1223
251 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst
(02) 9356 8876
88 George Street, The Rocks (cnr Hickson Road)
(02) 9241 4811
47 Argyle Street, The Rocks
(02) 9241 4878