When chaos reigns in a high tea of gorgeous French pastries, quel dommage.
As one of the inaugural themed “Sugar” events and as part of a series of renowned international chefs visiting Melbourne during the 2012 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in March, Number 8 hosted an afternoon tea created by French patissier, Stephane Bour.
The tea setting of the afternoon tea hosted by Number 8 was de rigeur white — white cups, white plates, stainless steel cutlery. Tea was limited to English breakfast and earl grey…and limited to a one pot…a blatant misrepresentation of what was advertised and what is standard practice at every other afternoon tea venues in Melbourne and elsewhere. 😦 Tea was commendably served in loose leaf form.
The afternoon tea entirely bypassed the traditional savoury dimension of a traditional afternoon tea. No ribbon sandwiches, no savouries of any kind and no scones. Not even a French twist on these traditional English savoury components of the afternoon tea. Instead, despite a seemingly lavishly-described menu, there were essentially just seven sweet irresistibles that comprised the afternoon tea created by Stephane Bour. 😦 A further disappointment manifested in the fact that despite the obvious limited space of the restaurant floor area, the afternoon tea had been set up as a buffet…resulting in chaos, disorder and utterly long queues. Queues in an afternoon tea??!! It absolutely killed the atmopshere of it. 😦
The first irresistible sampled from the Stephane Bour-Number 8 afternoon tea was the St Honoure Choux Pastry. Delightfully light but crisp pastry encasing smooth balls of custard and little raspberry pop rocks.
The second irresistible sampled was the pod-shaped Claufoutis, slightly more moist in the cake-base texture than we have had it previously, with a cute pipette of cherry liquid coulis to be squirted as desired for greater sweetness.
The third irresistible of the Milk Pudding, a thick creamy concoction of rice that had taken on an almost tapioca-like mouthfeel. It was balanced with a brushstroke of vanilla bean custard and for textural contrast, scatterings of biscuit cubes.
The fourth irresistible sampled was the Eclair, lime cream swirled with hazelnut cream piped through two perfectly dense-yet-light-but-not-chewy choux pastry halves. One of the best eclaris that MoMo & Coco have ever had…
The fifth irresistible sampled was the Madeleine, of which there were three flavours — hazelnut, vanilla and mint. Of the two that we sampled, they were strangely dried out…overbaked…
The sixth irresistible sampled were hand-made Marshmallows. So soft and malleable, little sweet pillowy morsels punching through with raspberry, coconut and pineapple.
The last irresistible sampled was the Chocolate Mousse, filled into a glass jam jar with a milk chocolate or richly decadent dark chocolate rendition. At the dessert buffet, one was at his/her discretion to scatter a small variety of toppings as desired — fruit, coulis, biscuit cubes and pop crackly things. Simple but so childishly fabulous.
Stephane Bour’s specially created, once-off afternoon tea event hosted by Number 8 during the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival was limited but confident in its culinary execution. Classical French patisserie art at its finest. But afternoon tea is about a dining experience — it should never be about the food alone. Number 8 as a venue was a splendid place, intimate, elegant, with appealing scenic views of the Melbourne skyline. But the whole afternoon tea experience was severely undermined by three factors. Firstly, one is hard-pressed to find the value — renowned international chef presence or not — in the $40pp for seven miniature bites and one small pot of tea that filled two cups, with an undisclosed extra charge for further tea. Compare this to other similarly-priced afternoon teas here. Second, the logistical misjudgment of the buffet set-up: while we can overlook a delay in the food being presented, we dare say that queing for up to 15 minutes for food at an afternoon tea because of the very very limited space is absolutely unacceptable. And thirdly, the most obnoxious, patronising service experienced in a very long time, enough to re-contemplate any future reservations at the restaurant itself. Indeed, but for Monsieur Bour’s generally faultless sweet irresistibles, it was an absolute disgrace of an afternoon tea. Quel dommage.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Afternoon Tea with Stephane Bour, Number 8 Restaurant, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, Vic 3006.
- ☑ Budget: $$$ ($40 pp)
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: High Tea.
- ☑ Must-eat: A one-off Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Event.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: When chaos reigns in a high tea of gorgeous French pastries, quel dommage.