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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.

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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.

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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!

The good

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.

1. Macarons by Duncan

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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

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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!

3. Le Petit Gateau

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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.

4. Macarons by Josephine

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!)

5. Shocolate

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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.

 

The inconsistent

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…

Cacao

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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.

Chimmy’s

My first encounter with Chimmy’s macarons in December 2009 was pretty uninspiring. However, my mood was lifted when I tried a couple of wonderful macarons and I blogged that joy.

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.

The bad

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:

The ugly

I think I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves:

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Hardware Societe: photo from Feb 2010. I'm told their macarons are spectacular now

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Le Traiteur - I'm not sure it qualifies as a macaron?

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Adriano Zumbo's macarons - crumbled on the flight home

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My first effort at macaron making - horrific!

Wrap up

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.

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24 Responses to “Macaron round-up: the good, the inconsistent, the bad and the ugly”

  1. So much sugary goodness ! I must go and hunt down the ones in your top 5 list. The only ones I’ve tried at the ones by Josephine.

  2. Erin says:

    Hi there Em and Sas,
    Great timing on finding this blog- Super Kawaii Mama retweeted it and I have to say THANK YOU!
    Interestingly reviews I have found online seem to say cafe vue are the best, but I am really happy now I have your list to refer to.
    I attempted Macarons this last weekend, not very brilliant- but I was impressed with my efforts versus what i had tasted thus far.
    Cheers again, and I will be looking forward to your next post

    xo
    Erin

  3. Catherine says:

    Nice post! Now i’m having sugar cravings looking at that box of half eaten macarons.. I also need to get myself out there to try Duncan’s macarons one of these days, that post about the pushy crowd deterred me for a bit. Btw, what did you think of Adriano Zumbo’s Macarons? My favourite was Rice pudding, while the rest were just too sweet for me.

  4. They look marvelous, shame about adrian zumbas though. Hopefuly you tried some before they got ruined.

    • Emily says:

      Ha! Unfortunately not. My husband bought them for me while in Sydney on business and he squashed them into his briefcase. I was so disappointed!

      Thankfully I did get to try some of Adriano’s macarons when I went to the macaron course at the Essential Ingredient.

  5. Suseinoz says:

    A nice round up! Thanks for the list. We’ve tried a few, but not enough to be as discerning as you. Now we’ll know where to head next. 🙂

  6. Thanks for the mention and enthusiasm Emily! It’s been much nicer now that people have calmed down at the café (otherwise I would have stopped making them, or Danny and Siâny would have told me to;) ). It’s been an interesting ride so far (and my product isn’t quite as visually consistent as your experience, so there are constant kitchen crises behind the scenes!).

    Great post you’ve done, and informative for me too, given I gave up buying macs in Melbourne so long ago. Happy digestion, and good luck with your baking too:)

    • Emily says:

      I was happy when things settled at Liaison too, I had some real concerns that you wouldn’t be able to keep supplying them due to the scenes.

      Glad you enjoyed the post. As I mentioned at the outset, my trying out of new macarons has dwindled somewhat recently due to the fact I can buy yours very easily on Tues/Fri or La Tropezienne’s any other day of the week! But I am still trying to sample as much as possible, and will try to keep updating.

      Thanks for the encouragement on my macs. I have not yet blogged my further macaron experiences (I am not the most patient of bakers!). But I will do so when/if I finally make some myself that are up to my own standards!

  7. Gem says:

    This post kicks arse over that farcical top 20 Melbourne macaron comp that was running a while back – wonder whatever happened to that? Don’t hear much about it.

    I recently got to try Zumbo macarons and had a few interesting flavours (though not quite as exotic-sounding as Duncan’s) and yeah, no matter how careful one is, they seem to return from Sydney to Melbourne considerably smooshed. The rice pudding one was really cool though.

    Am dying to try Josephine’s Earl Grey ones, sounds like such a refined flavour! I do have a friend who is a macaron-making fiend, and she says Josephine’s are good but a little pricey given their size. She also highly recommends Duncan’s.

    • Emily says:

      That macaron competition is still going ahead – I think the big day is this weekend (26 October) http://www.melbournemacaron.com/. I will be very interested to find out who wins that competition, though of course, not all the great macaron places are participating.

      Everyone keeps mentioning the rice pudding – must get my hands on one next time I am in Sydney! Jospehine’s macs are quite small compared to other ones, but I would eat a small macaron that is good any day over one of the awful ones!

      • I found Adrian Zumbo’s rice pudding ones tasty, but the additional chewy element killed the textural qualities of a macaron for me.

        • Emily says:

          Yes Zumbo plays a lot with texture in his macarons (eg. the Bergamon candy in the kalamata macarons and the shortbread in the raspberry macarons we made in class). Although I guess a difference with those macs and the rice is that the rice would be throughout the filling, as opposed to just a central part. Interesting.

  8. Great effort, Thank you for your blog and mostly THANK you TEAM xxx

    Le Petit Gateau Team

    Pierrick Boyer

    • Emily says:

      Glad you enjoyed the blog and I love your macarons! The distance from my office means they are a less frequent treat, but I love getting them when I am down that end of the city!

  9. Pina says:

    Great write up Emily!

    I cannot wait to try Duncan’s macarons, will not be able to unless I take an annual leave day off work, hopefully he will have an order day soon.

    Le Petit Gateau cakes are absolutely amazing especially the Passionfruit Chocolate Gâteau. I look forward to trying your other suggestions.

    I attended the same macaroon class with you at the Essential Ingredient and am nervous but excited to try and recreate those beauties in the first picture. The Passionfruit and raspberry combo that we made up on the day were my favourite.
    Thanks for all your wonderful write ups, we readers really appreciatte the time, effort and passion that goes into your blog!
    Pina

  10. Emily says:

    Celeste: yes check some more of the top 5 out – would love to hear what you think!

    Erin: good work with the macaron making. They are tricky things to perfect (that’s probably why there are so many bad macs out there!). When I did the class with Zumbo it was interesting to see how it’s so much about feel and technique, rather than difficulty per se. I’m still trying to perfect mine! And I’m glad you now know to steer clear of some of the bad macs… hope you find some good ones!

    Suseinoz: yes I’ve tried lots of macarons, largely because they are a lovely gluten-free treat and I don’t eat wheat. Though I definitely had a sugar high after trying the 60 odd macs!

  11. Oooh a very useful post! Thanks for the mention too 🙂

  12. Jude says:

    Great post! I’ve tried most of the macs you’ve listed but my favourites aren’t there! The ones from the NGV tea rooms are def. the best I’ve tasted, and the best value too. Try them!

  13. Barbara says:

    Excellent round up!
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post =)
    I wish I stumbled upon this sooner!

    • Emily says:

      Thanks for that! Still eating lots of macarons, so the list could probably do with an update. My recent macarons from Laduree & Pierre Herme were really something else!

      • Barbara says:

        That’s good to hear!

        Oh yes! I haven’t tried Laduree macarons but a girlfriend did bring some Pierre Hermes back from Paris….DIVINE!

        I’ve been on a baking rampage these couple of weeks…macaroned out for a bit …(for now)

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