Celebrating Chinese New Year 2020 with a soliloquy on the Melbourne dessert landscape, and a quintet of memorable desserts
When we first launched our dessert blog back in 2011 — just under a decade ago, imagine that — the dessert scene in Melbourne was quite different. Food bloggers were courted and feared by the hospitality/restaurant industry in similar measures, and Urbanspoon, Zagat and Twitter were the social media platforms of choice. Cupcakes had been taken over by macarons as the most coveted dessert nibble, and restaurants were overwhelmingly fixated on deconstructing desserts into foams, gels and little droplets of something here and something there. “Zumbo” was the name of that decade. Then, we come to 2020 and the dessert landscape is so very different. Urbanspoon has become the clunky Zomato, and Zagat and Zumbo are both no more. Deconstructed desserts are mostly, a thing of the past, with many restaurants now preferring to adopt a “classic” dessert and adding minor twists and spins. Many of the food bloggers with whom we used to swap recommendations and tips have retired, and much of the current set of bloggers prefer the title of “influencers.” Increasingly, it feels like the hospitality/restaurant industry has sold its soul to the Instagram juggernaut — where it is difficult to differentiate between a sponsored review, vis-a-vis an anonymous independent post, and where today’s pastry chefs are seemingly competing to create the next outrageous-looking dessert to draw in the crowds and the cashflow.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. We have seen many more full-time food critics become more conversant and educated about foods (and desserts) from cultures other than their own, rather than engaging in the the practice of amalgamating one country’s delicacies into an amorphous geographic region as they did a decade ago. Dessert spots that thrived on hype have thankfully closed, and the ones that remain are stalwarts of decades ago or ones that have been able to evolve with the changing times and tastes. And of the latter, we are thankful that LuxBite remains. For a patisserie that opened just before we started dessert-blogging (see our past reviews here and here), and which today continues to embrace both East and West flavours, and classic and modern dessert-making techniques, we couldn’t think of a better place to visit to usher in the Lunar New Year for the new decade and the new year.
On our recent visit, LuxBite offered four special new year pastry cakes. The first that we tried was the “Year of the Rat” ($10.88), a chocolate tart with layers of lychee jelly, oolong tea mousse and white chocolate decorations. In the second cake, dark chocolate mousse enclosed a centre of pineapple compote and coconut cake in the “Prosperity Lantern” ($10.88), with salted caramel pearls conferring further textural contrast.
The other two LuxBite two cakes were made in the “trompe l’oeil” style that seems to be increasingly popular with pastry chefs across the globe (see e.g., our reviews of similar trompe l’oeil desserts in NYC here, and previously in another Melbourne patisserie here). The “Fortune Mandarin” ($10.88) was probably the lightest of the cakes, featuring vanilla white chocolate mousse, and a heart of yuzu mandarin compote. Although slightly squashed during our commute home, the “Longevity Peach” ($10.88) was a pretty pink ombre creation, of lemon mousse, hazelnut financier, white chocolate and apricot jelly.
We also purchased LuxBite’s “Yuan Bao” ($2.38 each), little boat-shaped chocolate pieces, with muted caramel tones.
Altogether, these dessert creations reminded us of why we loved LuxBite’s cakes almost a decade ago, and why almost a decade later, we still love them today. Because sometimes, even in today’s Instagram-obsessed era, it is still possible to find desserts that are photogenic yet edible, (i.e. do not taste merely taste as though one consumed ten bags of sugar and/or induced early onset diabetes). In short, LuxBite is a testament to the fact that sometimes, style and substance can co-exist in equal harmony in desserts.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: LuxBite, 38 Toorak Road, South Yarra, Vic 3141; and T by LuxBite, 28 Katherine Place, Melbourne CBD, Vic 3000
- ☑ Budget: $-$$.
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Cake.
- ☑ Must-eat: The cakes (skip the macarons). See also, our previous reviews of LuxBite here and here.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: Celebrating Chinese New Year 2020 with a soliloquy on the Melbourne dessert landscape and a quintet of memorable desserts.