Weekly pop-up dessert degustations with a touch of fairy land.
The concept of “pop-up” stores have long existed in the fashion world. Before the advent of the likes of Net-A-Porter and Shopbop etc, and before department stores in Australia found it necessary to compete with such international offerings, “pop-up” stores were MoMo & Coco’s first source for seasonal designer imports and designer sales. If there has been a positive consequence of the post-Global Financial Crisis (some would say, still ongoing), it has to be the emergence of “pop-up” food-oriented shoestring operations that exemplify a spirit of small business entrepreneurialism against a melancholic backdrop of rising housing and rental prices. While the US may be the epicentre of the financial crisis and this “pop-up” food phenomena, Melbourne too has increasingly had its share of “pop-up” restaurants, cafes, bars, and even a recent “pop-up” truffle boutique and food truck. Being the insatiable sweet-tooths that we are, MoMo & Coco have been particularly attracted to “pop-up” vendors of sweet irresistibles — we remember a joyful pre-Christmas sweet shopping at a Baker D Chirico “pop-up,” braved the hoards at a laneway cafe for a “pop-up” macaron maker, and recently divulged to our readers, our long-held cupcake “pop-up” secret. With desserts the highlights of a celebratory dinner at Maze, we returned to indulge at a dessert and cocktails “pop-up” bar (a perfect amalgamation of our favourite food groups). The rather business-savvy pre-official shop opening spruiking in the form of a CBD “pop-up” by Burch & Purchese magnetised us to later visit the official South Yarra store. For all that, we have long heard of a certain “pop-up” dessert master. Constructing sweet irresistibles for an elite group of no more than 15-20 patrons in each of 2 or 3 sessions, every Thursday evening, this dessert master has stationed his headquarters in the tiny kitchen of Cafe Rosamond — a little hide-hole with dated furnishings, entered via an inconspicuous entrance opposite a soldier troop of garbage bins, around the corner of gritty Smith Street.
On a bone-shaking wintry night, MoMo & Coco finally visted for Cafe Rosamond’s “Best Of” Dessert Evening, distinguished from the weekly event as a quarterly affair where the “best” desserts of the previous three months feature on our dream meal — a 4-course dessert-only degustation ($49). One may, of course, choose to do 1, 2 or 3 courses only, at $20, $30 and $40 respectively, and/or the dessert tube alone at $9, but because the servings are small and light, we highly recommend the complete menu. 🙂 Being a member of the dining ilk that prefer planning ahead and making reservations, Cafe Rosamond’s most exasperating no-bookings policy meant that MoMo & Coco held vigil at the entrance of Cafe Rosamond at 6.15pm, for a 7.00pm sitting.
The first irresistible sampled was the “Bombe Alaska Tube.” It was a test tube with brandy jelly at the bottom, followed by layers of liquid sponge, flamed meringue purree and topped with icy vanilla icecream. Tilting back our head at the same obtuse angle as draining a sake or vodka shot, one long suck of this dessert tube transformed us from an unsure, tentative Dr Jekyll to a Mr Hyde with smacking lips and an evil, delighted grin.
As our first course, the “Chocolate, Beetroot, Raspberry, Cocao” was the miniature stalgamite and precious ore formation as found in the caves of Snow White’s Seven Dwarves. Its foundation consisted of jewel-like droplets of tart raspberry and silky chocolate, creamy parfait-like cubes of raspberry and beetroot, and crackly rocks of raspberry. Countering the sweetness of the chocolate and raspberry, soft airy savoury splinters of beetroot wafer were wedged in to create three-dimensional stalgamites. With a colour scheme as red as Snow White’s pout, we chipped away at this formation of preciousness as carefully and as lovingly as the Seven Dwarves.
If the dessert test tube made us grin evilly like Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde, and the first course conferred a soft dreamy smile of a fairytale princess, the second course of a “Popcorn Soup” made us sigh in the same way as Goldilocks with her steamy bowl of porridge. The Popcorn Soup was as pretty to look at as porridge, but one swirl and one spoonful revealed a soulful dose of liquidised salted caramel and caramelised popcorn, balanced with a slightly medicinal tasting biscuit crumble of popcorn that left a dry, powdery palate.
The final course of “Semolina, Golden Syrup, Marmalade and Macadamia” was straight out of the mystical world of Alice in Wonderland. With a segmented body, one could almost visualise the hookah-smoking caterpillar advising Alice as to which mushroom to eat. Each segment of its body was rotatingly composed of beige macadamia nuts, golden syrup flavoured sorbet, and tangy marmalade drops. A scattering of mini pop corn bits and semolina grain interspersed with little green foliage also conjured up an image of a forest floor. A medal-winning golden finish that left us as grinning Cheshire Cats.
Contrary to many bloggers perhaps, MoMo & Coco insist on ambience and service to complete a dining-out experience. Excepting a large group of student know-it-alls, the company mainly consisted of quiet duos and trios of young after-work early birds and eager-eyed locals. The atmosphere was rather cosy and moderately subdued, punctuated with gushes and sighs, albeit no Meg-Ryan-in-When-Harry-Met-Sally moments. The only problematic issue we note is that, unless you have a photographic memory, the lack of even a small printed menu card ensures forgetfulness of irresistibles that lists ingredients rather than confer a name. Special mention to the Cafe Rosamond staff and the dessert maestro — notwithstanding the extremely high-pressured environment of constructing and serving almost every patron a 4-course degustation of intricately crafted creations within an hour or so, and in such a Thumbelina-sized space, the service staff were exemplary. Friendly, focused, never flustered, they were an army crack team who looked after the couples, the singles and the groups in equal measure.
Integrating whimsical, well-balanced spectrums of textures and flavours, the visually stunning and delight-in-mouth deconstructed creations conjured by the dessert maestro at Cafe Rosamond poses a sophisticated challenge to, and indeed, could be said to surpass the infuriatingly careless dabbling at the finale of a meal by an overwhelming number of restaurants and other dining venues. Redefining what a meal should be (dessert-only, oh yes please), Dessert Evenings at Cafe Rosamond deserve a permanency in the fleeting “pop-up” dining landscape — they are to MoMo & Coco what the luminous white pebbles were to Hansel and Gretel. If fairy tales could be re-written, follow the weekly moonlit trail to Cafe Rosamond, and to a happy ending, where desserts and sweet irresistibles live forever and happily ever after.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Cafe Rosamond, Rear Corner of 191 Smith Street and Charles Street, Collingwood, Vic 3065.
- ☑ Budget: $-$$$.
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Dessert degustations.
- ☑ Must-eat: The weekly-changing “dessert test tubes.”
- ☑ The short and sweet story: Weekly pop-up dessert degustations with a touch of fairy land.