Weekly pop-up dessert degustations with a touch of Heston Blumenthal’s deception.
Once upon a time, desserts were reserved for the end of the meal. One day, some naughty little person rebelled and issued invitations for a meal comprising entirely of dessert. As a first course, a second, a third and if your brains were not addled enough by then, a fourth. Dessert-only meals are a rarity in Melbourne — your Dessert Correspondents have partaken in a handful created by Pierre Roleof on Thursday evenings at a thumbelina-sized cafe in Fitzroy, and also at the dessert bar at Mr Hive. Venturing further west, consider a visit to Spotswood’s Duchess of Spotswood to eat away your Monday blues. Exchange a fifty dollar note to receive five dollars and four courses of dessert. We dare you to tell us that you have a more excellent idea for Monday evenings.
On MoMo & Coco’s visit, the first course comprised wine grapes injecting a sharp sweetness to a tumble of papery shards of uncertain flavour and wobbly tubes of softly-scented liquorice jelly. A sprinkling of grated chocolate and puddles of grey meringue-like rocks also featured.
More stylised in appearance than its predecessor, the second dessert course continued the savoury dessert theme, and introduced another, dessert ambiguity. In appearance, a peach melba fertilised with an egg. Its orange eye was a cured egg yolk, a chewy texture akin to a dried apricot. It had distinctive saline and sour endnotes. It snuggled itself in the centrefold of a creamy spiced meringue base. A scroll of what seemed like dried tofu skin topped this. The finishing touches were little bijoux crystals of crystallised ginger, sugared pistachios and a dribbled oily pool of something that reminded us a little too much like raw egg yolk (later, we understood it was supposed to be pumpkin oil).
The third course was a snow dappled forest that arrived shrouded with a minty-scented mist. A refreshing dessert, perhaps MoMo & Coco’s favourite of the evening. A bi-colour mound of chalky coconut meringue powder sat adjacent to the cool chill of lime and mint granita, barbed by fragile, wiry fennel twigs. One mouthful dissolved like fragrant snow on one’s tongue. Burrowed beneath was a cave filled with a sharp pineapple-like paste, though we noted hints of sour plum in this too.
The fourth course wrapped up our dessert evening at Duchess of Spotswood. Devoid of plate ware, it was presented on a thick black linoleum canvas, with the wait staff announcing the arrival of each component like courtiers to a king’s ball, and presenting with the spirit of an artist in the throes of inspiration. A stroke here, a flick there, and scattering here and behold! It didn’t look like a a dessert and it certainly didn’t taste like one. A G-spot with two ovaries at the sides. The sugar-shelled eggs cracked to reveal frozen vanilla ice cream that was a real delight. Tufts of powder were alternatively popping sherbet and bland meringue. There were thin twigs of poached rhubarb, logs of chocolate disguised as exceedingly aromatic cinnamon bars, and little rocks of chocolate with the appearance of dates and nuts. The deception continued with the circular frame of milk which was condensed sweetened milk of sorts, and a triangle of butter that was actually some sort of sweet, lightly lemon-y, curd.
Shaun Quade’s Dessert Evenings at the Duchess of Spotswood brings a touch of Heston Blumenthal to Melbourne. A trip to Wonderland, it’s curiouser and curiouser by the course. The book of Desserts 101 has been seemingly flung out the window — there’s no chocolate, no caramel, no desire for nostalgia or the traditional. Rather, what you have here is an example of a highly creative mind blurring and pushing boundaries by creating desserts with ambiguous sweet profiles, with often surprising if not alarming savoury appearances, but which also provide a multi-sensory experience exploring the most unusual tastes, textures, sight and to a degree, smell. Although these dessert-only bloggers prefer desserts with a more distinctive sweet inflection, Desserts Evenings at the Duchess of Spotswood are one dessert-only meal worth seeking out.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Duchess of Spotswood, 87 Hudsons Road, Spotswood, Vic 3015.
- ☑ Budget: $$$ ($45 pp)
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Dessert degustation.
- ☑ Must-eat: The “Coconut, Lime, Fennel Snow Mountain.”
- ☑ The short and sweet story: Weekly pop-up dessert degustations with a touch of Heston Blumenthal’s deception.