Indulge in la dolce vita at Melbourne's newest sensation, the dessert bar. With this guide you are sure to find the sweet spot.
By Sue Gough Henly
Melbourne has seen an explosion of dessert bars in the last couple of years and every neighbourhood now has a selection of groovy spots that might serve gelato or soft serve ice cream, elaborate cakes or bespoke chocolate, cutting edge croissants, macarons or delicate tarts. These might be washed down with the finest hot chocolate, the world’s best coffee or designer cocktails blended for a sweet tooth.
Brunetti is an old school Roman pasticceria that has been owned by the Angele family since 1991 (Giorgio Angele first came to Melbourne as pastry chef for the Italian Olympic team during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics). Enjoy an Italian coffee from the bar, a limoncello cake or hazelnut and coffee torte from the pasticceria, or something savoury from the paninoteca and watch the parade of locals coming to collect their cakes for special occasions. At the end of football season, see the entire collection of cakes with the logos of Melbourne’s Australian Football League clubs. Another Brunetti café is in Melbourne City Square, the perfect place for an aperitif and something sweet.
It is a minimalist pastry temple and The New York Times has said that it makes the world’s best croissants. Lune Croissanterie is the vision of former aerospace engineer Kate Reid who trained with Christophe Vasseur at Paris boulangerie Du Pain et Des Idèes. Today she makes croissants, pains au chocolat and other delectable pastries in a temperature controlled glass cube. Stand in line to see the day’s offerings presented like jewels on a custom-moulded cement countertop: perhaps a Danish with seasonal fruit and cream patisserie, a cruffin with house-made lemon curd, citrus sugar and candied lemon zest, or a croissant aux amandes. For the crème de la crème experience enjoy the Lune Lab tasting menu of three courses: a traditional, savoury and sweet croissant with all the Small Batch Roasting Co. coffee you can drink.
Aqua S is the perfect Instagrammable soft serve ice cream dessert bar complete with puffy clouds on a blue sky wall. Try their signature aqua sea salt soft serve ice cream topped with a cloud-like halo of toasted fairy floss dotted with sweet popcorn, popping candy and a grilled marshmallow. Two other flavours change every two weeks and might be lemon-squash, pandan, mint tea, mocha or lemon cheesecake. Blend up these flavours with mixed scoops and choose from a wide range of fantasy toppings. They also serve lychee or peach iced tea slushies.
The world’s first dessert hotel is at the strikingly modern Adelphi Hotel on Flinders Lane. Its Om Nom Kitchen and Dessert Bar has carpets patterned like cakes and licorice all-sorts stools. Try its theatrical cigar royale made with Valrhona caramelia chocolate and rosemary-infused cigars, lime and Frangelico gel and smoked ash. Can’t decide? Enjoy the chef’s dessert paddle with seven bite-sized desserts du jour or indulge in the three-dessert dégustation best sampled with an inspired cocktail or two.
Pidapipó is a one-woman homage to Italian gelato. Lisa Valmorbida learned from the world’s best at Italy’s Carpigiani gelato university before opening her own pretty pastel pink and yellow gelateria using the finest ingredients handmade each day and stored in stainless steel pozzetti. Try the banana, pistachio, peanut butter and jam, or strawberries and cream with a hint of rose. She only serves a few flavours at a time to ensure maximum freshness. Drizzle some liquid chocolate over your gelato which you can enjoy in fresh waffles or Sicilian-style in a brioche bun.
Chocolatier trailblazer Koko Black employs the talents of Bruges chocolatier Dries Cnockaert to create ganache chocolates from the finest European couverture blended with natural ingredients such as leatherwood honey, single malt whisky, and local walnuts. Enjoy a hot chocolate with their delectable chocolates at the Royal Arcade café.
Come to Burch and Purchese Sweet Studio for Chef Darren Purchese’s extravagant sweet creations that balance flavour and texture by combining jellies, sponges, mousses, cream, crumbles and spreads, layer upon layer, to create works of sweet art. Try the raspberry, rose and lychee choux tart, the Madagascan single origin chocolate and tonka bean éclair, or the chocolate, apricot, caramel and hazelnut cake.
The long lines of beautiful young things make Gelato Messina feel more like a nightclub than an ice cream shop. Its sphere and roll cakes are exotic and eccentric, neon bright and ultra smooth. Try Dr Evil’s Magic Mushroom filled with dark chocolate gelato, peanut cookies, dulce de leche and much more, or sample some of their 35 permanent signature gelato flavours such as apple pie or poached figs in Marsala. Dairy free sorbets such as pandan and coconut or blood orange also entice, or take a gelato appreciation class which is part science lesson, part gelato making and part dégustation.
Come to East Elevation Café for Melbourne’s best hot chocolate and Monsieur Truffe’s chocolate fondue, a chocolate brownie or salted caramel sundae (alongside other savoury fare). Watch Melbourne artisan chocolate makers and chocolatiers from Monsieur Truffe at work through glass windows in the shared space and pick up some of their single origin bean-to-bar chocolates and other chocolate treats.
If your idea of the perfect treat is a rich cup of hot chocolate, then Fitzroy's Don't Lose Your Temper deserves the top spot on your dessert to-do list. In addition to indulgent hot cocoa, Don't Lose Your Temper serves up a rotating pastry menu along with artisan desserts and sandwiches. Stop by for something sweet, or take a look at the savoury snack menu, which features small plates and charcuterie boards.