A sumptuous affair in an unexpected pocket of Melbourne suffused with a touch of Old Europe.
At first glance, the nondescript Johnston Street that runs from Fitzroy to Collingwood is lined with dilapidated warehouses and terraces in various washes of dreary browns and greys. Yet, here lies what MoMo & Coco consider to be one of the most beautiful hidden gems of Melbourne. With a frontage of an antique shop that probably wouldn’t look out of place further down south and east along Armadale’s High Street, Mamor Chocolate Szalon beckons with a distinctively garnet red facade.
Stepping inside Mamor Chocolate Szalon, the first thing that one sees is a sturdy antique walnut cabinet with a glass counter mounted on a marble slab, displaying trays of the boutique’s signature petite chocolate products. All clearly lovingly hand-crafted, MoMo & Coco spotted some rather exotic flavours, including beer, absinthe, lemongrass and chilli. With stomachs growling, we knew we were in trouble.
Swivelling around however, one next becomes spellbound by a most lavishly furnished setting. Upholstered button-backed antique chairs and settees, chandeliers dripping with crystals, plush velvet cushions, dramatic leopard highlights, polished silver, glistening glassware. As the intimate venue for a Hungarian-themed afternoon tea, it felt as though one had been teleported into the Buda Palace on the banks of the Danube.
The tea setting was as imperial as the venue, with pervasive gold and silver touches, embroidered cotton napkins, and heavily brocaded tablecoths. Water was served in bohemian glassware reminiscent of Moser glass, and tea in delicate matching tea sets with the cutest glass tea pot that was continuously heated by a tealight throughout the afternoon. French bubbly acccompanied a beautiful French earl grey with strong notes of vanilla and bergamot.
The first item served was a hot appetiser – a beautiful rich and creamy pumpkin soup, with a dash of what MoMo & Coco think may have been paprika (commonly used in Hungarian cooking) to add a peppery touch for greater warmth and fire.
Served on an exquisite antique silver platter, the high tea thus began with four savoury irresistibles that were most unique, remaining faithful to their old-European origins. Proffered with a generous heart, one could have up to two or three of each delicacy if so desired, or more if requested.
The first savoury to be sampled was a small cup of light crispy filo pastry enclosing a heart of onion puree.
The next savoury irresistible was the earthy chicken liver mousse sitting on a morsel of Turkish bread, perhaps as a nod towards the Ottoman influences infusing Hungarian culture. The chicken liver had been fried and delicately pureed with olive oil, onions and pepper. MoMo & Coco were politely warned by our hostess that it was an acquired taste. Nonetheless, we quite enjoyed it.
Made from ricotta and feta cheese turned with spices (we taste a hint of paprika here also), the third savoury irresistible was the delicate liptó cheese pâté, served on a square of Turkish bread, and to cleanse the palate before the sweeter irresistibles, disks of fresh cucumbers.
The beautiful porcelain and brass three-tiered stand of sweet irresistibles awaited us since we first entered the Chocolate Szalon. MoMo & Coco simply could not resist any longer….
From the bottom tier, each guest had the opportunity to sample two moist and pillowy Hungarian savoury scones (pogácsa).
Departing from the Hungarian theme, English scones were also available, expressed stoutly with a crumbly texture, and lashed with light whipped cream and the most aromatic home-made feijoa preserve.
Also from the second tier, the Zserbó slice. Originating from the legendary Gerbeaud Cafe in Budapest, it is the Hungarian relative of the Parisian opera cake. Instead of coffee and chocolate, the Zserbó slice comprises a sweet dough sponge, alternately layered with a strongly-flavoured paste of ground walnuts and rich apricot jam, and iced with a dark chocolate ganache for pure decadence. MoMo & Coco inevitably found this traditional Hungarian delicacy quite…hmmmmm…irresistible…
The next irresistible was met with widened eyes, dropping jaws and cries of delight from all in attendance. May we introduce the highlight of our afternoon tea, the Somló sponge cake – a Hungarian version of the Italian tiramisu, with macho rum replacing foppish coffee. Presented in a martini glass here, the Somló sponge cake is something like a trifle, with vanilla and chocolate sponge cake soaked in rum, layered with walnut puree and apricot jam, scattered with raisins to further bring out the rum flavour. It is then coronated with a generous swirl of whipped cream and chocolate sauce, and a crunchy golden toffee web. MoMo & Coco would also like to say that this adults-only sundae was rather…hmmmmm…irresistible…
Following a quick cleansing of the palate with a rather thoughtful bowl of seasonal fruits, MoMo & Coco cast our big greedy eyes to an assortment of six petite chocolates, signature products of the Mamor Chocolate Szalon. From white to dark chocolate, each painstakingly hand-crafted petite chocolate variously contained hearts of tangy passionfruit cream, delicately-scented lavender, tart raspberry framboise, refreshing mint cream made from the hostess’ own garden mint leaves, nut clusters and lusty brandied cherry syrup.
Overall, Marmor translates to “ectasy” in Hungarian, a state of mind that MoMo & Coco experienced throughout a most leisurely three hours of luxuriating in a perfect symmetry of unique food, lively conversation, and sumptuous surroundings suffused with a touch of Old Europe in a most unexpected pocket of Melbourne. MoMo & Coco feels exceedingly lucky to have partaken in this appointment-only, tightly-held secret and decadent affair. We extend the most gracious thank you to Dr. H. Frederick for her warm, accolade-deserving hospitality, and for sharing her dream and her part of Old Europe with us.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Mamor Chocolate Szalon, 153 Johnston Street, Collingwood, Vic 3066.
- ☑ Budget: $$$ ($45 pp)
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: High Tea.
- ☑ Must-eat: By booking only.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: A sumptuous affair in an unexpected pocket of Melbourne suffused with a touch of Old Europe.