A Melbourne, London & Hong Kong dessert blog
Focused on showcasing the cult-like Zumbo, dessert trolleys feature in this TV-show worthy high tea event.
As one of the inaugural themed “Sugar” events and as part of a series of renowned chefs visiting Melbourne during the 2012 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in March, Fenix hosted an afternoon tea showcasing sweet irresistibles from Sydney-based patissier, Adriano Zumbo — a one of a kind specialty sweet boutique that MoMo & Coco have had the pleasure of visiting (and eating our way through) recently (see here) ! Fenix is also a one of a kind restaurant. Located at a picturesque eastern bend of the Yarra River, it’s simultaneously at the edge of wilderness and inner-city bustle. It’s a large airy space, sleek and white, dual layered, with the downstairs restaurant spilling onto a lovely terrace, and an upstairs function area complete with its own kitchen and wrap-around balcony.
The Zumbo afternoon tea for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2012 was hosted in the upstairs function room. It wasn’t an intimate afternoon tea – patrons sat at large round tables filled with ten persons. Tables and chairs were draped in a funereal black cloth that provided a stark backdrop to the white plateware, bright yellow lemon slices and and floral centrepieces of lurid magenta flowers.
The agenda of Zumbo’s High Tea was to re-characterise an event that is generally considered the stuffy province of mouldy old ladies to something more fun. A operating oven and kitchen work bench was installed upfront and centre of the function room, where the patissier himself demonstrated the arduous process of making a macaron (a deep-fried custard tart macaron during our visit!). He was flanked by a cameraman and Fenix’s chef-restauranteur, Gary Mehigan, as the very personable MC. Listening to the latter and watching the former was a very clever distraction from the time it took for the numerous dessert trolleys to make their way to our greedy beady eyes.
The plate setting of Zumbo’s High Tea that afternoon was simply set. De rigeur plaint white, nothing to speak off. Water was free of charge, tea was available at a surchage…served in tea bags, a faux pas in the institution of high tea. Oh dear.
The menu was designed as a yum cha Zumbo-style — one was able to order according to one’s dessert desires — as much or as little as one pleased. It skimmed through the current range of Zumbo’s famed macarons, a selection of cakes (not all of which were noted on the menu), and savouries (all of which had apparently *sold out* by the time of our seating). All items were priced at a fairly reasonable $4 each.
And this is the dessert trolley at the Zumbo High Tea. The piece de resistance of the afternoon, it doesn’t demonstrate properly the excitement of seeing it in person. MoMo & Coco do love dessert trolleys, we have seen a few from afternoon teas in London before, but none in Melbourne to date. Are you as tempted as we were to appropriate control of it and just run away with it all?
It was somewhat disappointing that the patissier had not couriered over and/or made his current seasonal patisserie range available at the high tea event for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Of his patisserie range, there were just three tarts available from his standard, non-seasonal range. We had sampled them in our recent Sydney trip (see here), and we sampled them again at this event. As we have said before, reliable deliciousness. The Lemon Tart was perky and punchy, the Passionfruit Tart was zesty and stringent with slight sweetness, the Chocolate Tart silky and dark. Each pastry encasement was just the right thickness, lightly buttery but never oily, properly solid rather than crumbly.
There were ten macaron flavours listed on the high tea menu — watermelon & orange, cola, chocolate, lychee, fingerbun, passionfruit & tonka, salted butter caramel, salted caramel, milo and cherry&banana — of which two were not available. MoMo & Coco selected three. The Fingerbun Macaron evoked the taste of coconut-flecked sponge fingers slicked with jam. The Lychee Macaron will be a definitive MoMo & Coco favourite, interweaving that unmistakeable gentle sweet note of the fruit, but without faltering into over-sugaryness as with many other lychee sweet things. Apparently named after Zumbo’s mother (or so the wait staff told us after an enquiry as to the name), the Annunziata Macaron was one of the most indulgent dark chocolate macarons we have ever had. Not as darkly bitter as La Belle Miette‘s dark chocolate interpretation, its ganache was silky chocolate rather than mere ganache. Somehow, these three macarons were more consistent into texture, and less dry, than the ones we bought during our recent Sydney trip (see here). Three little delights, yum!
To finish off our sugary afternoon tea, MoMo & Coco couldn’t resist a plate of warm doughnut balls. Orbs of pillowy fluffs, every square centimetre sugared without caution, and decadently and generously drizzled with hot molten chocolate, it was the stuff of dreams.
Just as Zumbo’s patisserie was one of a kind, Zumbo’s High Tea at Fenix for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2012 was also one of a kind. Although MoMo & Coco would have loved to see and re-eat the rest of Zumbo’s patisserie range at the high tea — because we know there is far more fabulousness available beyond ubiquitous tarts and macaron — the sweet irresistibles available at that high tea were reliable exquisteness. But afternoon tea should be about the experience rather than the food alone. And at Zumbo’s High Tea event at Fenix, it was an experience. The venue was perfectly suited for the event, the execution itself well organised and delivered by sweetly-mannered staff (something which cannot be said for another once-off high tea event that we attended as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival). We would note however that what with the ever shadowing cameraman, the stage kitchen complete with sound system and television screens, the book signings, the inevitable photographing, Zumbo’s High Tea event at Fenix arguably focused more on showcasing and increasing the cult-like Zumbo (and Mehigan) than the sweet things themselves. No matter, though MoMo & Coco have said before that we are repelled by celebrity anything, Zumbo’s High Tea for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2012 was undoubtedly, a highly memorable experience of an afternoon tea.
- Dessert adventure checklist
- Dessert destination: Adriano Zumbo High Tea at Fenix, 682 Victoria Street, Richmond.
- Budget: $$$ ($25 entrance, $4 per item).
- Sweet irresistibles: High Tea.
- Must-eat: A one-off Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Event.
- The short and sweet story: Focused on showcasing the cult-like Zumbo, dessert trolleys feature in this TV-show worthy high tea event.