A gem of a cafe-bakery,visit this tiny place for luscious American-style baked sweets.
We acknowledge that Beatrix came to our attention by the recommendation of our long-standing Twitter follower and fellow dessert-lover, @eatnik. Thank you.
In the last half-a-decade or so, Melbourne’s northside has been increasingly viewed as an up-and-coming place, a favourite of the hipster and bohemian, the student and young professional. Mirroring this trend, a few inspired dining venues have emerged from its generally nondescript road strips, not to mention a proliferation of cafes on an epidemic scale. Arguably, these cafes, rather than the restaurants, embody the laid-back, moderately gentrifying nature of Melbourne’s inner-north. A Lilliputian space that seats about ten people at a time, Beatrix is one cafe for which we have happily, multiple times, crossed Melbourne. There are window stools and cramped little tables, from which you can people-watch the interesting melee traipsing along Queensberry Street (a curious mix of vagabond hipsters, local families and tertiary-age students). Or you can admire a wall of vintage and antique egg beaters worthy of a mini-museum exhibition. A blackboard is scrawled with the weekly rotation of ciabattas that are delightfully named and come delightfully over-stuffed. There are a few other breakfast-y bites, but you don’t come to Beatrix for those. You might visit for the ciabattas but you really visit for the glass-fronted treasure trove of baked goods that channels American sweet sensibilities.
Although we have visited Beatrix a few times since our first visit earlier this year, we will not feature all the sweets we have had from this cafe. That would scare both you and us! Rather, here are a selection of our favourites, most of which are usually available, though two are seasonal favourites. Apart from these sweets that we feature, we note that Beatrix also offers a selection of traditional slices and biscuit things, and a rotating range of cakes and tarts (tarte tatin and lemon tart). A so-called Elvis Cupcake (peanut butter, praline and caramel galore) that we have heard much of has proven to be a most elusive sight. No matter, this means more reason to visit often!!
The first, not to be missed, is the Meyer Lemon Chiffon Cake ($5.50). If you have made a chiffon before, you will appreciate the bicep-hurt-inducing egg beating that you have to endure to make it properly. We have made chiffons about half the size, and would love to know where to source such a deep container for this one…not sure if it would fit in our oven though. Anyway. Out from this spell-binding cloud of a cake, the Beatrix staff will slide out a generous slice for you and present it on a dainty porcelain plate. Although over several samplings, it seems to possess a persisting dry disposition, there’s no denying its ideal spongy texture. nor that strangely addictive subtle citric end-taste. Many would call this Beatrix’s signature cake, but MoMo & Coco actually prefer the Red Velvet (see below). Perhaps we would love it more with a dollop of lemon curd.
Our second favourite sweet irresistible from Beatrix is the Red Velvet ($7). Two layers of cake dense with moistness sandwich a layer of cream cheese. It is better than any we have had before in Melbourne, including our favourite cupcakes stores, for three reasons. First, the slight cocoa flavour is evident amidst the red glory of it. Second, it is soft and moist but not to the point of coating a buttery or an oily film on one’s lips. Third, we get a h-u-g-e slice of it that requires sharing for two! Yes!
Other favourite sweet irresistibles from Beatrix include the non-cakes, look out especially for the all-American Chocolate Whoopie Pie ($5), the Banoffee Pie ($8) and the Sweet Potato Brioche Doughnut ($5).
MoMo & Coco are somewhat surprised that the Whoopie Pie craze pervasive across the US about two years ago and the UK as of last year has not yet made much of an appearance in Australia. In fact, we have only seen these fat hybrid cookie-macaron stocked by a specialty-order-only patissier at David Jones Food Hall (our previous review here) and the pre-mixed boxes at supermarkets (doesn’t work by the way). Come on Melbourne, get with it!! Beatrix’s Whoopie Pie ($5) is less dense than other whoopie pies that we have previously sampled (in both US and Melbourne), but richer in chocolate flavour. The highlight is the perfect marshmellow-y filling bisecting the two chocolate-cake halves.
The Banoffee Pie ($8) was a recent winter-season sighting at Beatrix, but it really deserves a permanent fixture. A cup of buttery short-crust pastry enclosed a pool of overly salty caramel, layered with braised banana, piped droplets of thick cream, and chocolate shards and shavings. Decadence epitomised.
Previously included in our “Guide to Doughnuts in Melbourne,” the Sweet Potato Brioche Doughnut ($5) is rather special and a favourite of local families who drop-in throughout the weekend. On one occasion, a man bought half a dozen of these holey things! It isn’t a porous fairground doughnut type, but rather a heavier deep-fried, ultimate comfort food item.
Non-critical reviews make for an excruciating saccharine read. It’s something we have tried to refrain from. That said, with the greatest honesty, apart from the slight points noted above, there isn’t much to cavil about Beatrix at all. Beatrix exemplifies what a good cafe is about — warm service, cosy setting and a bounty of fabulous cakes and other sweets. We only wish it was closer to us, and that the space was a little bigger so that our visits can be more sit-downs than drop-ins. Overall, it’s a charming little place, a hidden gem of Melbourne’s inner-north.
Dessert adventure checklist
Dessert destination: Beatrix, 688 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne, Vic 3051.
Sweet irresistibles: Cake.
Must-eat: The red velvet, sponge, and chocolate whoopie pie.
The short and sweet story: A gem of a cafe-bakery,visit this tiny place for luscious American-style baked sweets.