Melbourne’s always had its fair share of tea rooms and dessert-loving chefs but it seems in recent times there’s been a rise in crafted chocolates and fancy desserts. Lou Pardi set out to investigate sweet treats old and new.
Whilst the shiny new Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, the expanding Ganache and the hidden away Chokolait may differ in their approaches to providing us with pavlov-ian treats, they have some unexpected things in common. For one, all three endeavours involve husband and wife teams.
Shiny and New
Cath Claringbold, greets us at Burch & Purchese. While I chat with her my compatriot sneaks out past a glass partition to where Claringbold’s husband, Darren Purchese is toiling away in the open kitchen, or as he puts it in a lovely English lilt, “just making a mess really”. Ian Burch is having his first day off since the restaurant opened in April.
Burch & Purchese has some seriously sophisticated desserts, reflecting the pastry chefs’ training in some of the best restaurants in the UK and work in places like Vue de monde and Press Club in Melbourne. “I think a lot of people have travelled throughout Europe and seen the exciting stuff that’s happening, particularly in France and Spain and I think that there’s a real demand for something new. Everyone wants something new, whether it’s desserts or something else,” says Claringbold. “The boys are very much the new generation of pastry chefs so it’s very new school. We’re using things like liquid nitrogen. All of the cakes are done in components, so it might take a couple of days just getting all the components together and then they’re assembled into one cake and finished.”
Burch & Purchese started out as a blog, sharing the intricacies of the chefs’ (Ian Burch and Darren Purchese) creations. The store doesn’t offer coffee or seating, but does offer a delectable array of jams, spreads, chocolates and ice cream alongside their cakes made for eight or in individual serves. “Basically what we say here is that we try and help you ‘pimp up your pud’. So if you wanted to put on a dessert for friends and make it look like it was in a three hat restaurant, we could sell you the garnishes – we’d sell you the bits that you could swipe on the plate, sprinkle and all the ice creams correspond with the desserts.” Don’t miss the Toasted Macadamia Caramelised White Chocolate.
Sian MacKenzie greets us at Ganache whilst her German husband, Master Chef Arno Backes serves customers in a tall white chefs hat. Backes was trained by a chocolatier on the border of Luxembourg and France and has travelled the world from Europe to Pakistan, researching, eating and making chocolate. He met Tasmanian MacKenzie overseas and they travelled South America for 18 months researching coffee and chocolate before publishing a book in Germany and settled in Melbourne. They opened Ganache in South Yarra in 2008 and in Melbourne city six months ago.
“It’s somewhere relaxing where people can go and choose something different to what’s available in a restaurant,” says MacKenzie. “I think Australians’ tastes have improved over the past few years – they’re more discerning about what they eat.”
All of the products are made by Backes and his team in the huge upstairs kitchen at the South Yarra store. “We’re introducing new products all the time. We have over 400 menu items that are made here,” says MacKenzie. Check out Ganache’s Figaro chocolate for a perfect blend of fruit and chocolate.
Ross and Marianna Harvey opened the Chokolait in 2007. It’s hidden away in a city arcade. “When we first took over this site we were a little bit concerned and it took us longer to build, but now people love that it’s hidden away,” says Ross Harvey.
Harvey has worked in many countries in Asia and whilst his creations are certainly presentable, they’re different to the European-influenced delicacies we’ve seen elsewhere. “We don’t make pretty cakes, we make what I call real cakes,” says Harvey. “You can go to a lot of shops and find prettier cakes. We hand make cakes with personality.”
“Our chocolate pavlova is our signature dessert, it’s our most popular,” he says. We make two or three of those a day. The prep cook and cool time is about four hours. That took us about a month to trial – we made one every night until we got it right,” says Harvey. As for the rest of the menu, Harvey is keen to make sure that your favourite dessert is available when you arrive, so the menu is reasonably consistent with additions for different seasons. Chokolait’s masterpiece is their chocolate christmas puddings, but as it’s not that time of year, try the famous pavlova or the best hot chocolate for miles around.
Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio ~
647 Chapel Street, South Yarra, VIC
~ 250 Toorak Rd,
South Yarra, VIC
and 245 Collins St, Melbourne, VIC
~ Shop 8, Hub Arcade, 318 Little Collins Street, Melbourne VIC
This article was first published in Beat magazine