Adriano Zumbo Dessert Train (Sydney, NSW)

Shop 1, Café Court
The Star (formerly Star City Casino)
80 Pyrmont Street
Pyrmont NSW 2009
+61 2 9777 9000
adrianozumbo.com/the-star-pyrmont

After roaming around Sydney’s Fish Market, Marty and I worked up a bit of an appetite so we took the light rail to Star City Casino The Star for a late lunch. Because we had so many oysters at SFM that afternoon, we weren’t absolutely starving but we were peckish enough to want some nibbles to share. Something like David Chang’s famous pork buns at Momofuku Seiobo, The Star’s latest dining attraction. Unfortunately, Momofuku Seiobo had just completed their lunch trade by the time we rocked up which meant that the pork buns will have to be for another day. Thankfully, the new Adrian Zumbo patiesserie was only just across the hallway – and open.

The humble (but notoriously difficult to make) macaron may be slowly on its way out, but macaron king Adriano Zumbo is not quite ready to hang up his apron. Since opening up his eponymous Balmain patisserie in 2007, three more stores have since popped up with the latest one being his dessert train concept store in The Star.

Yep, you’ve heard me. A dessert train. Think sushi trains, but loaded with all sorts of desserts. From his famous macarons to sample-sized cakes, a visit to the Zumbo Dessert Train is a must for anyone with a sweet tooth.

See? Even Alan Garner approves.

Unfortunately, the dessert train only sits around ten or so people and if you happen to come at the wrong time, you have no choice but to line up as no bookings are taken. Given that there were only a handful of girls in front of us, we figured that it wouldn’t take us TOO long until we got to the end of the queue.

The queue did, in fact, progress steadily … until Marty, myself and two girls arrived at the front of the line. The lone waitress – a cute beret-wearing pocket rocket – took payment from four diners who left promptly. This meant that there were four empty spaces for the two girls in queue and Marty and I to sit in. We waited for the waitress to clear away the plates and glasses, which she took her time in doing. Fair enough, not every waiter can produce Cantonese-like speed and efficiency.

But then, the waitress started fiddling around with the glasses and water bottles on the right hand side of the room which prompted the two girls in front of us to look at Marty and I with ‘WTF’ looks before silently glaring at the waitress, who then realised that, ‘Oh noes! There are customers waiting to be seated!’ Miss, fair enough if you think water glasses are important but when you have paying customers who have been patiently waiting for 15-20 minutes (not including the time spent watching some idiot waitress play around with water glasses), water becomes less of a priority, innit?

Without offering so much as a sheepish apology, the waitress seated the two girls without a word and pretty much threw menus in front of them. The waitress was a bit nicer to Marty and I though, but infuriated the other girls even more when Marty and I were given water while the two girls had to ask for it. So much for stuffing around with water glasses, hey.

But anyway, enough whinging and more talk on TEH SUGARSSS.

If you’ve ever been to a sushi train restaurant, you’ll know that each dish is presented on a coloured plate and each colour represents a different dollar value. Here, plate ranges from $5 to $10, depending on what colour you choose. Once you’re done, you (or the waiter) counts the empty plates sitting in front of you and calculates your bill accordingly, along with any a la carte items you order ($12 each).

Because we had our share of sweet stuff earlier that morning and because we were going to embark on an epic degustation dinner at Marque later on, Marty and I decided to go easy on the desserts. Thankfully – and probably surprisingly – not all the desserts travelling along the train got me excited. Apart from plates of mis-matched macarons (which we didn’t touch), we weren’t wowed by pedestrian mini-sized chocolate cakes nor we were impressed with dry mousses. That said, the three desserts we derailed from the train turned out alright.

Simply called ‘cherry coconut’ ($6), I interpreted this dessert as a deconstructed Cherry Ripe. In addition to bits of dehydrated chocolate biscuit and a tangy cherry compote, there were two forms of coconut in this dessert: coconut foam and coconut ‘moisture,’ the latter essentially being a runny cream. Marty said that it ‘looked and tasted like a Cherry Ripe… if Burch & purchese made it’  which I had to agree with. It wasn’t a mind-blowing desert, but it was nevertheless fun to eat.

We decided to continue this ‘deconstructed dessert’ theme by selecting their Pine/Mint Splice ($5), their version of the classic summer treat. I loved how the creamy vanilla cream, the crunchy biscuit crumbs and the fruity pine-lime sorbet worked effortlessly together to create a dessert that was not only too sweet, but fun to eat. The only problem I had with it was that by the time the dessert reached us, the sorbet was one giant mess (as you can see above).

Marty picked this corn, safron[sic] mango and spice cake ($6) to take the piss out of me because according to him, I was ‘always trying stupid and shitty’ dishes with weird combinations. In a way, it WAS a very ‘Libby’ thing to order because the combination of corn and saffron, especially in a dessert, is not something you’d see everyday. This was probably my least favourite dessert of the afternoon because, to me, the whole thing just tasted like a work in progress as something was missing. I also thought that it didn’t feel like a dessert as the corn kernels were still fresh. In my opinion, the whole thing would have more cohesive if the kernels were in dehydrated or candied form.

Finally, our  toasted ice cream sandwich came ($12 from the a la carte menu). Like the menu suggested, there was a 12 minute wait for the sandwiches (and any a la carte item) but it was worth it. A perfect row of good quality chocolate, vanilla and raspberry ice cream neatly filled each toasted and caramelised brioche triangle, making it one of the better ice cream sandwiches I’ve had. Neither Marty nor I could fault the dessert which was sweet and bitter, soft and crunchy, and tangy and creamy – all wrapped up in a thin layer of subtle burnt buttery-ness– at the same time. Given the chance, we’d order this again.

Alas, it was time to disembark the dessert train and saunter over to the retail section where macarons and other small cakes were on sale. Unfortunately, the famous V8 cake was not available that day but there were some interesting cakes on display such as this one:

Since when was chocolate mint a New Zuh-land thing, bro?

Bypassing the cakes, I decided to grab a small box of five macarons, sorry, zumbarons for myself (each macaron is $2.50). I also ordered a box for my good friend, Dave, who I was going to meet up with when I got back (unfortunately, I stupidly left his box of macarons in my work fridge the evening I was meant to catch up with him so I ended up sharing the maracons with my workmate, Sean, the next morning before they went off – sorry, Dave!). Marty also decided to grab a couple, even though he doesn’t consider himself a huge fan of them.

We ate Marty’s macarons immediately. In addition to grabbing a salted butter caramel one (see below for thoughts), he snagged a malted milkshake one. Marty and I enjoyed the macaron that was big on the vanilla flavour, with a hint of malt all over though Marty did admit being more impressed by the vivid blue colouring than the actual taste.

From top to bottom: salted butter caramel, peach ice tea, buttered popcorn, chocolate doughnut and coconut.

I ate my macarons when I arrived home in Melbourne. I was surprised to find that the salted caramel one was sweeter than the other flavours and was thus, my least favourite of the lot. I did like the very thick and very butter-y ganache filling, but it was certainly not the best salted caramel macaron I’ve had. I also expected huge things from the coconut macaron, but found it to be a bit one dimensional. It had a rich vanilla taste which I normally wouldn’t have an issue with and don’t get me wrong, it was nice. However, when you’re being sold a ‘coconut’ macaron, you would hardly expect it to be heavy on the vanilla and light on the coconut.

I found the chocolate donut one interesting. It was very chocolate-y, but not rich. The ganache filling was exposed and covered in raw sugar to ensure that the whole thing tasted – and felt – like a real donut. Not only could Sean and I taste strong hint of cinnamon, it also felt like we were eating an actual donut. ‘A very weird feeling,’ according to Sean… ‘but good weird,’ he quickly added.

My two favourite flavours, however, were the peach iced tea and the buttered popcorn. The peach ice tea macaron was essentially a peach-flavoured biscuit with a white tea-flavoured ganache and a dried peach jelly in between. Eating it was akin to drinking a Nestlé peach ice tea – but better. Meanwhile, the buttered popcorn had a biscuit that was fully rather than chewy. The biscuit, which was coated in shredded popcorn kernels was very fluffy, while the ganache was very buttery and wonderfully salty. I wish they served these at the movies!

We loved our macarons so much – no wonder people come from all over Australia to get their hands on his macarons. Even Marty, who never really liked macarons, admitted that he might be warming up to them. Next time, I’ll be giving his coffee, lime & coconut and his pancake & maple syrup ones a go.

As a non-lover of desserts, I would need much convincing to sit at the dessert train again. $29 for four tiny desserts ain’t cheap and as much as we loved our toasted ice cream sandwich, the overall range of desserts to choose from wasn’t that great. I also doubt that the two girls sitting next to us would return given the cold reception they received. I do believe that any foodie, sweet tooth or otherwise, should go here once purely for the dessert train experience. That said, I loved the macarons immensely and would not hesitate to purchase another box when I’m in Sydney again.

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27 Comments

  1. *One finger salutes AZ* I MADE THE DECONSTRUCTED CHERRY WIPE FIRST! lol jk… wouldn’t mind working at Zumbo’s or B&P or Luxbite hahahaha

  2. I’ve been hearing mixed reviews about this dessert train actually. My friend went there a little while ago and said she didn’t like it much, but someone else said it was great. Guess I must try it out for myself! Hopefully soon since flights up are so cheap right now ahh! That peach iced tea macaron sounds sooooo good….

    It was great to have finally met you in person!! 🙂 Shame we didn’t get to talk as much, would have been good if you sat next to me. Next time! Hope making your way back to work wasn’t too tough, the wind was SO terrible.

    1. Likewise, it was great to meet you too the other day!

      It sucked that we were given allocated seating; it would have been great to talk to you at the table (booo) but I’m sure we’ll bump into each other very soon 🙂

    1. I’ve been told that there’s going to be a Zumbo in Melbourne. Whether that rumour is true, I’m not sure but it would be pretty sweet (no pun intended).

  3. Do you know what’s weird? I’ve never really felt that drawn to Zumbo. I think I fear that it’s more about showmanship than actually tastiness – plus I prefer my desserts to be not too sweet.

    Or maybe there just isn’t enough peanut butter involved. Could be that too.

  4. Most of these desserts sound a little too unusual for my taste, especially that one with corn….eeks :S
    But, i do want to try that toasted ice cream sandwich 😀

  5. I love Zumbo 🙂 i went to Sydney and spent 6 hours there a couple of months ago and had to SQUEEZE in time just to go to the Dessert Train ~ I have been so bad and haven’t had time to blog about it but damn i didn’t get the ice-cream sandwich i just got the donuts which were yummy too 😀 which they had a Zumbo here!

  6. LOL I loved this post.

    First, “I was ‘always trying stupid and shitty’ dishes with weird combinations,” cracked me up.

    Second, “Choc Munt” had me spewing. I saw the sign before reading what you wrote and thought, “maybe there’s kiwi fruit in there?” I lol’d.

    A full wallet and a dessert train and I’d be in heaven 🙂

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