647 Chapel Street
South Yarra VIC 3141
+61 3 9827 7060
I’m not normally one to go out of my way to buy sweets. While my fellow lady friends seek comfort in packets of Tim Tams, Maggie Beer ice cream and glasses of sweet moscato, I’m someone who likes to sook over packets of potato chips, beers and hot, bowls of lasagne. Mmmm. Frequent eat-outs with dessert fiends such as Shirley and Linda, however, has meant that I, too, have become susceptible to the ‘Must-Eat-Dessert-No-Matter-How-Stuffed-I-Am’ mentality and Twix cravings at 3pm on a Thursday afternoon. And the fact that I’ve been to Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, currently THE hottest place to go to for all things saccharine, twice and spent a motherload of cash on both occasions is more ‘proof’ that I’ve surrendered to the ‘dark’ side, the side that promised instant gratification in the form of all things candy and chocolate … and a higher risk of contracting obesity and diabetes.
Situated just next to the Olsen Hotel on Chapel Street, sweet chefs Ian Burch and Darren Purchese established this ‘sweet studio’ to showcase their extraordinary skills in making not only delectable desserts but also spreads, nibbles and anything else that’s bad for your waistline.
They have a semi-open kitchen out the back where you can peep into to see the chefs, whipping up the next Masterchef-worthy dessert that’s bound to woo even those who claim they are not a dessert person (such as myself).
Right in front of the kitchen is a table, consisting of custom-made cakes that customers can order for whatever occasion. I have no idea what sort of cake that is, but those balls remind me of those salted caramel balls that pop up in some of Luxbite’s mini desserts. Whatever, it looks mad hot!
There is also an ‘ingredient wall’, showcasing 300 different ingredients that are used in the production of B&P’s magnificent creations. From starches to obscure spices, B&P have all your cake-making needs covered and then some.
Because I’m still a novice in the kitchen (a somewhat funny statement from a food-blogger, no?), I shunned the ingredient wall and turned my attention to what I originally came here for: the desserts! The jewel in B&P’s store is the long glass cabinet, proudly displaying the store’s batch of saccharine goodies for the day. About a third of the cabinet consists of ready-to-be-bought full-sized cakes while the rest of the space is filled with little cakes, which are pictured above. All are priced at $9 which might be considered expensive to some given how small they are, but when you realise the amount of effort and resources that go into making those little bars and domes of wonderment, $9 is merely a small price to pay.
Meringue clouds ($4). Flavours rotate, from passionfruit (passionfruit puree is mixed into the meringue mixture, giving it a wonderful tang and beautifully chewy texture) to mint.
They also sell a wonderful range of sorbets. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to buy a tub for myself but next time, I’m looking to buy either a tub of butterscotch popcorn or raspberry ripple. Om nom nom!
The first time I went to B&P was last weekend. After leaving Martin to get his hair butchered by a so-called multi-award-winning hair guru at a certain ‘wanky Melbourne’ hair salon (not naming names but to quote my man, the salon’s name ‘sounds like a name a black male porn star would have’), I decided to take a walk down Chapel Street to suss out B&P. I left with the following: one cylinder of roast pumpkin, milk chocolate, maple syrup and bacon (yes, BACON!); two cylinders of coconut, passionfruit, ginger and mint; and a dessert that was only available for one day, a gin and tonic marshmallow. Martin might not have been happy with his $100 haircut (and to be honest, I DID expect a lot better from a guy who is the constant recipient of Best Hairdresser Of The Year awards), but I was smiling with glee as we trained it back into the city where we were to enjoy our desserts. That was, until some Indian guy on the train did not watch where he was going and bumped into me while I was balancing the cake box on one hand. I watched with horror as the box flew from my hand, and onto the train floor with a thud. The dude apologised profusely but unfortunately, my desserts were ruined.
McNulty: Awe fuck….Awe fuck.
McNulty: Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck…Fucker.
McNulty: Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.
Bunk: Awe fuck.
Bunk: Mother fucker.
Bunk: Fuck Me.
Sorry, I’ve just started watching The Wire.
There was nothing I could do but try my best to enjoy what was left of my beautiful desserts. Sigh. Martin and I loved the coconut, passionfruit, ginger, mint cylinders. Layered like a Vietnamese three colour drink, the base was a salted oat and ginger crumble which was then covered by layers of alternating passionfruit and coconut. It went a bit like this: coconut mousse, then passionfruit curd, then coconut caviar (essentially, tapioca balls), and then passionfruit jelly. A white chocolate spray and a ginger macaron (which wasn’t really ginger-y, but anyway) and a small square of white chocolate mint wafer finished things off as effortlessly as Martin finished off his cylinder as well as mine (I only had like, one spoonful – what a bitch!). While each segment tasted ‘only okay’ on its own, if you mix it all up with your spoon and eat everything in one spoonful, it’s a taste sensation that will leave you begging for more.
The roast pumpkin, milk chocolate, maple syrup and bacon cylinder was also fantastic. The rich milk chocolate mousse, the spiced chocolate cream and velvet chocolate spray along with the maple syrup jelly spheres would have been to rich for me on their own, but thank goodness the roast pumpkin mayonnaise was there to neutralise the chocolate blow and inject a bit of creaminess into the dessert. As for the crunchy pecan meringue which consisted of bits of dehydrated bacon bits? It wasn’t just there for shock value, but to also infuse some much needed crunch and a smidgen of saltiness to a very, very sweet dessert. The result was exquisite.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t say the same for the gin and tonic marshmallow (or what was left of it). The soft-centre G&T marshmallow dome tasted nothing like a G&T. I mean, I could just taste a slight bitterness amongst the sweetness, but it was engulfed by a very tangy (and delicious) lemon and mandarin jelly and a citrus and grapefruit caviar. The vial next to the dessert is filled with a watermelon sherbet which you’re supposed to pour over the marshmallow but unfortunately, it didn’t taste anything like watermelon – it was just nasty, sugary and artificial over all so we ended up chucking the rest of the vial out.
Oh wait, but LOOK! Thankfully, I had another box that managed to survive the knock-out. Inside was a lone banana, caramel, rum dome. One thing that pisses me off about B&P’s desserts is that they have names that aren’t overly enticing or creative. Descriptive and accurate, yes, but given that the guys are producing creative and wow-worthy desserts, you’d think that they’d be equally creative when naming them. For example, I would have called this one ‘Bananarama, and A Bottle of Rum’ or something. And I would have called the coconut/passionfruit one ‘Ayyayaya Coco Jambo.’ See? MUCH cooler!
Anyway. The ’Bananarama, and A Bottle of Rum’, when cut open, housed a caramelised white chocolate and vanilla mousse which was soft and airy to the touch. In the inner sanctums of the mousse, there was a pit filled with a deliciously sweet caramelised banana cream which, balanced by the tanginess of a passionfruit jelly and a slightly sharp but warming ascorbic rum jelly. To round things off, a chocolate velvet spray made things pretty on top as did a dab of passionfruit curd. Finally, hints of macadamia spiced speculaas not only appeased my negligible Dutch sensibilities but also gave the dessert a lovely nutty and spicy touch.
Not content with having to eat mashed up desserts, I was back at B&P the following weekend. This time, I came home with two boxes of desserts (yes, two!).
Violet, white chocolate, vanilla, toasted pinenut (see, I would have called this ‘Violet Beauregarde’). A pristine white chocolate and vanilla mousse topped with a dab of lemon curd and a chocolate and violet wafer looked innocent and virginal on the outside but like the shy and unassuming bookish nerd that everyone thought was a goody-goody, there is more than meets the eye…
The dessert was pure white on the outside, but a raging slut on the inside. A ‘mother’s lemon’ shortbread base, a lovely violet pastry cream and lashings of toasted pinenut butter and crystallised lemon indicated that this bitch was, indeed, a wildchild. Sweet on the first bite, then sour and nutty on the second bite, it was mindblowing dessert that would be hard to match.
Okay, I might have said the last sentence too quickly because I dare say that the dark chocolate, pear and hazelnut dessert was AHHHHH-MAAAAZ-ZIIIIIING! The night before, Shirley texted me to say that I HAD to get the chocolate and pear dessert (not just one, but FIVE) because it was ‘SOOOOOOOO FRUCKING GOOOOD OMMMGGGGGGG.’ And indeed it was. The mousse (soft and airy, it goes without saying) was made out of Tarakan 75% cocoa chocolate and vanilla and concealed a lovely caramelised pear cream and an equally amazing hazelnut cream. On top, crumbled bits of chocolate hazelnut brownie provided a lovely crunch while a chocolate twig made things pretty. And in case you didn’t get enough chocolate in your first mouthful, there were also swirls of B&P ‘nutella’ in the mix. To be honest, this was a dessert that I would not have ordered if it wasn’t for Shirley’s recommendation. It sounded too chocolate-y and too rich and yeah, okay, more pear and less chocolate would have made it PERFECT but still, it was delicious. I should have bought five.
The chocolate, mandarin, and salted caramel dessert sounded more like something I’d order (the salted caramel did it for me) and although I thought it was nice, it wasn’t as good as the chocolate/pear one. The mousse wasn’t as sweet or as rich as the chocolate/pear dessert (Kendari chocolate, only 60% cocoa) though the aerated chocolate shortbread and the thick, rich chocolate mirror glaze that covered the mousse certainly made up for it in the sweet stakes. Meanwhile, I was expecting the Murray River salted salted in the centre to blow me away but it didn’t really; it was nice, but I was expecting something a little saltier to counteract all the chocolate-ness and sweetness that was starting to do my head in. Thank goodness, though, for the burnt mandarin cream and the St Clements marmalade, both of which provided a subtle but graciously welcome tang and piquancy to the dessert.