SPECIAL REVIEW ~~ Free entry, sugar-controlled, full-of-fun Gingerbread wonderland, from 1-24 December 2012.
MoMo & Coco have scoured the irresistible sugar land of Melbourne to find a selection of the most covetable Christmas treats for your festive wishing and dreaming. Our first special review covered a perfect stocking filler from Burch & Purchese, our second featured exquisitely creative, themed macarons from Luxbite, and for our third review of the best things to do/eat in Melbourne for Christmas 2012, something at no cost, but arguably one of the most memorable, dessert-focused exhibitions that Melbourne has ever curated…
For Christmas in Melbourne this year, a team of very talented pastry chefs from Epicure Culinary Centre have reconstructed iconic Melbourne landmarks into a mesmerising display of dessert construction/engineering prowess. The Gingerbread Village exhibition is available for public viewing from 10am-5pm daily, 1-24 December, at the Melbourne Town Hall. MoMo & Coco recommend at least two visits — the first will absolutely stupefy you with wonder. The second visit is needed for photographing for your memory. We advise visiting near opening or closing times to avoid the gaggle of hysterical children and crazy parents insisting on bringing prams into the small space. Entry is free, though any donations are appreciated and will be directed to the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
A carnivalesque red-white stand sells heart-shaped and man-shaped gingerbread, as well as small tubs of gingerbread ice cream. It attempts to substitute for the fact that although being so tempting to eat especially because of that spicy gingerbread aroma, the entirely-gingerbread exhibition is not edible. Touching is strictly prohibited.
The Gingerbread Village Exhibition is contained within a small room. It is an imagination of Melbourne transported to the Northern Hemisphere — that is, one would never see snow blanketing the spires of the Arts Centre or the grounds of Flinders Street Station. Overlooking this, it is a magical little world.
From the entrance, the first set-up to catch your eye is an Arctic-blue lake surrounded by conifers that belong more to a Canadian rather than Australian Christmas landscape. On and around the lake, there are numerous gingerbread figurines covered in fondant icing. They skate with varying levels of success and are watched over by lifeguards in the form of miniature penguins that beg to be picked-up and taken home, and also by solidly-built snowmen.
The second sculpture is a foreboding, medieval-style, gingerbread castle, complete with gleaming, lit windows, high crenellated walls, watch towers, and a grand keep with a roof of ridged tubes of penne pasta. A handful of intrepid skiers are venturing up the drawbridge, overlooked by none other than Mr Shrek the Green Monster and his queenly bride, Princess Fiona.
Our guess is that the third sculpture is a representation of Melbourne Town Hall itself. At the right hand side of the piece, an actual-working clock face has been embedded into the Prince Alfred Clock Tower. Its grand portico frontage is present also. It’s a formidable gingerbread construction.
The fourth section of the exhibition was perhaps our personal favourite highlight of the Gingerbread Village Exhibition. A Christmas Market of the type commonly seen in some parts of snowy Europe during this festive time of the year. We wish Melbourne had [a real] Christmas market!! Being the insatiable dessert-lovers that we are, MoMo & Coco stood in front of this Christmas Market for an inordinately long time, pretending to be slowly shrinking into 5cm-tall figurines in order to take part in the veritable sweet feasts happening in front of the miniature cake, gingerbread and sweet stores! Complex layered gateaux, macarons, candy canes, O.M.G. We also spotted florist, bakery, butcher, delicatessens, grocer, kebab, seafood and vino stores. What else can you see?
The fifth gingerbread sculpture is the impressive Arts Centre, finished with its intricate wired spire. A line of eager theatre-goers forms a queue at its front.
The slightly maniacal gaping grin of Luna Park greets visitors at the sixth sculpture of the Gingerbread Village Exhibition. It’s a very colourful display — there are hapless, screaming riders hanging on for dear life on the amusement park’s famous roller coaster that frames its outer borders. There’s also the more serene merry-go-round experience, which actually whirls around too! At the centre of the park, there are an array of enticing funfair food stands — burgers, pretzels, ice cream, hot dogs — and a crowd of wide-eyed gingerbread people looking more happy than apprehensive as they enter a haunted house.
The last portion of the Gingerbread Village Exhibition diverges away from the Melbourne landmark building theme. The seventh sculpture is a long train station building, from which spans a network of railways that connects each sculpture in the exhibition. An old couple, vagabonds moping on garden benches, and ruffians being questioned by police comprise the crowd around the dark column of the train set. At one side, there’s a tall steeple church with little people at a picnic, and at another, a manger of pink little pigs. Behind the train foreground, there’s a snow-covered walk-way where a melee of cloaked pedestrians are tramping up and down. A line of terrace houses with windows and doors bordered in white piped fondant makes up the backdrop. Mr Santa sits ready-to-launch on the roof of these terraces — the detail put into him is incredible! His beard is etched to give it a whiskery, fluffy effect; his eyes endear him with a slightly intoxicated, or jet-laggged demeanour; he has his full red suit on, burdened by numerous presents, and his adorable red carriage is gilded with exquisitely tiny flourish work. His sleigh is drawn by nine resting reindeers, including Mr Rudolph the Red Nose leading the herd.
The eight sculpture is a superb twirling windmill, perched atop a stony hill. From this hill, a waterfall that trickles into a pool where a ring of fishermen with their toothpick rods and their sweet little penguin friends patiently await for fish.
The ninth sculpture of the Gingerbread Village Exhibition is Melbourne’s 21st century answer to Rome’s Colosseum — the MCG. The huge light stands highlight the Hawthorn and Swans football team members in a variety of poses — whether in the midst of cheerleading, modelling or exercising, it is difficult to say, but rather funny! The gingerbread sculpture is carefully etched with levels representing the inset, circular seating. There are also white fondant goal posts and markings on the bright green playing turf.
At the left corner of the MCG are the very easy to miss, figurines of the pastry chefs involved in the creation of the Gingerbread Village Exhibition. This tenth sculpture should really have been exhibited on a more prominent display set, with little identifying name tags even. The unknown pastry chefs behind this exhibition deserve an applause for creating perhaps the most magical exhibition in Melbourne that we have seen in a long time. Aside from the obvious inter-generational appeal, it’s a plus that this is an exhibition that is bound to appeal to art lovers who are also dessert lovers (aka, us!). Unlike so many other past exhibitions in Melbourne, Gingerbread Village by Epicure are not the works of European masters imported from overseas galleries as though to fill a creative vacuum. Rather, what you have here are masterpieces borne of the exceptional creativity, imagination and skill of … local talent. Bravo!
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Gingerbread Village by Epicure, City Gallery at Melbourne Town Hall, 110 Swanston Street, Melbourne, Vic 3000.
- ☑ Budget: Free.
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Cake.
- ☑ Must-eat: N/A.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: Free entry, sugar-controlled, full-of-fun Gingerbread wonderland, from 1-24 December 2012.