I have been searching for the perfect macaron for a long time and have been documenting the search from the beginning of this blog.
On the eve of the blog’s first birthday and prior to the (somewhat controversial) Melbourne macaron competition I thought it was time to bring together my macaron posts in a single place and identify my favourite macarons in Melbourne.
I also recently had cause to try sixty macarons from six different providers (along with Joyce), in order to assist a friend to determine which macarons to stock in her cafe. Trying so many macarons side by side was really enlightening and certainly was an excellent way to sort the wheat from the chaff. When trying so many macarons en masse, the issues around consistency (size, shape, thickness of the shell, the dreaded air pockets) really come to the fore. It was also quite interesting to note the flavour differences, strong versus subtle flavourings and varying degrees of sweetness. Although we only tested a bite or two of each macaron, a serious sugar high ensued.
So here is my definitive guide to macarons in Melbourne – the good, the inconsistent, the bad and the ugly. I would love to hear your stories about fabulous Melbourne macarons!
Regular readers may have noticed that my macaron review posts have waned in frequency. The reason? I have (finally) found great macarons right around the corner from my office!
Below are my top macarons, in order of deliciousness. The top three in particular are the macarons that are consistently good and that I constantly go back to for a fix.
Duncan is a writer, editor and blogger who has written a definitive guide to macaron making (which I have used in my somewhat haphazard attempts to bake them myself) and began commercial production of macarons this year.
I first raved about Duncan’s macarons when they were sold at EARL Canteen. However, the macarons are now sold at Liaison cafe, two days a week (Tuesdays and Fridays), from about 10am. In the early days of stocking the macarons, Liaison was overrun with (sometimes rude) macaron aficionados, desperately seeking to snare one of the coveted treats. The fact that people were elbowing one another for a macaron speaks volumes about the quality of these macarons, particularly in a town where every second cafe stocks them. Buying macarons from Liaison is somewhat less crazy now, but if you do want one I urge you to get there early and please be polite to Danny and Siâny!
So what is special about Duncan’s macarons? Firstly, I love the texture. Unlike many other macarons, they are neither dry and crunchy with a thick shell nor soft and smooshy. The macarons are consistent in size, shape and texture. The flavours are also a big draw. Duncan offers two to three flavours each day and they are a far cry from the standard chocolate/rose/raspberry combinations ordinarily offered. Think violet and aniseed (Viola), orange and cocoa nibs (Darcy), ginger and dark chocolate (Judy), mandarin with rose (Julie) or nutmeg and dark chocolate (Cindy). My top flavours would be the intense salted caramel (Yannic), lemon with white chocolate (Luca) and Viola. Yum!
2. La Tropezienne
These macarons from Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn were the unanimous winner of the macaron taste test discussed above (and incidentally are Gabriel Gate’s favourite macarons), and are now stocked at city cafe Famish’d. La Tropezienne’s macarons nudged out five other brands in the taste test due to flavour (not too sweet), texture (neither too hard or too soft) and presentation (they are very pretty). The macarons were also very consistent – very few air pockets, uniform in size, and above all, really tasty!
Le Petit Gateau’s macarons were also a contender in the macaron taste test. I liked the consistency and the novel flavour combinations. Le Petit Gateau regularly changes its flavours, so there is always something new to try, winning combinations for me were jaffa, the festive tricoleur macarons for Bastille Day, the salted caramel with a crunchy sprinkling of raw sugar and the strawberries and cream with a surprise centre (pictured above). The famed yuzu and sesame macarons didn’t quite work for me.
I raved about Josephine’s macarons in March 2010 when I stumbled upon some at Breadwell. In the intervening period I have eaten a lot of macarons (to which my flickr page will attest), many of which were from Josephine. After testing a lot of Josephine’s macarons my only qualm is occasional consistency issues – I’ve had a few rock hard ones and some air pockets in my time.
Nonetheless, these are right up there on the macaron front. Flavours tend to be fairly standard, and my picks are rose or the salted caramel (if you can find it!). These are now also stocked by EARL Canteen. EARL also occasionally stocks a special flavour of Earl Grey tea which, from all reports, is said to be fabulous. (EDIT: I have since tried the Earl Grey macarons from EARL and rest assured, they are fabulous. The Early Grey flavour is quite delicate and subtle. Delicious!)
In December 2009 I blogged about my inauspicious encounter with a mammoth sized macaron at Shocolate. This rather enormous macaron didn’t particularly impress me. However, I had cause to try Shocolate’s macarons again when Claire secreted some from Alana Kennedy’s Orpheus Diningroom Project MMX, art installation at fortyfivedownstairs. The three flavours were macadamia & vanilla violet, truffle & chocolate truffle and cherry red B52. As you can see from the photo above, these were absolutely perfectly formed and incredibly beautiful macarons. Flavourwise, my favourite was the macadamia and vanilla violet, then the B52 and last (and somewhat least) the truffle, which was quite strong, earthy and almost meaty.
I’ve since revisited Shocolate and the only macarons available were of the enormous variety. If you spy some of the little beauties there, grab them with both hands!
UPDATE: Since this post was written there are some new macarons on the scene – from La Belle Miette. I think they would give the top 2 macarons a run for their money. Read about them here.
These are macarons that may have initially given my heart a flutter, but that subsequent visits have not. If you get these macarons on a good day, they can be some of the best. On a bad day, well…
After being urged to try these by several people, I finally taste tested Cacao’s macarons and they were pretty good. Unfortunately, the next few times I visited, they weren’t as good (and on one occasion they were truly awful).
Cacao has some interesting flavours including liquorice, hazelnut praline, jam and cream lamington, salty caramel, short mac and coconut. My favourite would be the ‘salty’ caramel. If I was in need of a macaron fix I’d try my luck and see how they are, but don’t expect joy every time.
Those two posts sum up my later encounters with Chimmy’s macarons – wildly inconsistent. I most recently tasted some of these macarons at the macaron taste test, and was presented with a motley assortment of various sized macarons, some which were ok and some were pretty dire. Proceed with caution.
I really don’t relish being critical, but if I had to name and shame, bad macarons I have had (and blogged) are as follows:
- Café Vue – you would think these would be good, but I found them crunchy, dry, with very little filling and riddled with air pockets.
- Laurent – as per Vue, you would expect these to be good, but these were woeful.
- Cristina Re – very cute but completely flavourless. Some of the comments on that post are particularly interesting.
I think I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves:
So what do you think? Am I way off the mark? Have you got any hot macaron places that I have to try out?
If you want to try baking some yourself, check out some macaron tips and tricks I learnt from Adriano Zumbo. You can check out all my macaron reviews (including the review of those squashed Zumbo macarons shown above) on the macaron taste test page.