Friday 18 June 2010

The best macarons in Melbourne

Macarons by Duncan

I'm sorry, there's just no contest.

Macaron degustation

Yes, I'm one of those food wankers that goes cuckoo for macarons. And yes, I'm a tiresome pedant when it comes to calling them 'macarons', NOT 'macaroons'. If you found this page by googling "best macaroooooons in Melbourne", I submit the following for your consideration:

A macaron is a variety of French petit four made from two halves of almond meringue with a filling (often a ganache) in the middle.

A macaroon is most commonly a sort of chunky biscuit, often containing large quantities of desiccated coconut (or sometimes almond), popular in Scotland and the US. Click on the link to see a photo.

Although some Anglophiles like to anglicise the French spelling of 'macaron' to 'macaroon' when describing the meringue-y one, I prefer to use the French spelling because it avoids confusion with the coconutty one.

So I had to clap my hands together with glee when I recently learned that somebody in Melbourne had actually gone to the trouble of writing a zine entitled "Macarons are not Macaroons". Thanks to the kind generosity of the lovely food blogger Gem, I am now the proud owner of a copy of that zine. Linguistic pedant powers: activate!

Sorry, where was I? Like I said, I love macarons. But with a few notable exceptions (for example, the pink geranium and poppy macaron filled with a handmade fig essence jam, made by Nic Poeleart from Embrasse, that I was lucky enough to have at the media launch for the MFWF was JUST SUBLIME), none of the regularly-commercially-available macarons in Melbourne come close to the perfection of those made by Duncan (macaron maestro and author of food blog Syrup and Tang).

Duncan wrote THE definitive guide to making macarons, 'La Macaronicité'. All five chapters can be found here. Read them!

Macarons @byduncan

Macarons that Duncan has made in the past that I've been lucky enough to taste (at food blogger banquets). That subtle cinnamon and peach, with edible sprinkles!

Subtle cinnamon and peach

What I love most about Duncan's macarons, apart from the inventive flavour combinations, is the texture. They're NOT hard and audibly crunchy (yuk!), but they're not soft and wussy either. They have a gentle crispness that gives beautifully as you bite into them (the macaron equivalent of al dente?). The shells are never hollow (see how nicely full this one is in cross-section in the photo below) and the fillings are never dried out.

Duncan is a bit of a macaron perfectionist (macarons tend to have that effect on you), and is not afraid to point you the difference between a good and a bad macaron. Click on these links to read Duncan's takes on other macarons available in Melbourne, Sydney, Paris and on Masterchef.

Fingerlime macaron

Each for-public-consumption Macaron by Duncan is "branded" with a small, colourful dot on one shell. Yes that's right, for a few giddy weeks in early May prior to his departure on an overseas trip, Duncan's macarons were available to the public at the fabulous EARL Canteen. I caught up with Duncan for lunch last week at Hardware Societe now that he's back in the country, and we discussed his future macaron-related plans: I can't give anything away, but he has a few ideas in development. Fingers crossed!

Sample macarons

Some more photos of macarons. Regular readers will know that one of the surest ways to win my heart (food-wise, that is) is to give me salted caramel. It's my favourite Sugadeaux Cupcake flavour and in my favourite Cutler dessert, the ice cream sandwich. The Philippa Sibley Il Fornaio launch party on Wednesday night was overcrowded with Beautiful People, but my +1 and I stayed until we could try Philippa's signature 'Snickers' dessert (caramel parfait glacé with salted peanut caramel and milk chocolate mousse), which I loved. Oh, and salted caramel was the flavour that first introduced me to Duncan's macarons, waaaay back in November 2007.

So when I learned that Duncan would be making salted caramel macarons during his EARL stint, I was kinda excited. And wow, the two and a half year wait between Duncan salted caramel macarons was worth it. He knocked it out of the park with this one! The filling was a proper salted caramel (rather than a buttercream), punctuated occasionally with little salt crystals to get your tastebuds zinging. TOTALLY addictive.

Scaramel macaron

Pretty, patriotic macarons lined up in the EARL counter. I love that each flavour was given a different name (eg Clancy, Zara, Diego).

Macarons @byduncan

When I first tried the green and gold macarons, I preferred the ones with fresh passionfruit in a white chocolate ganache (mmmmm, fresh passionfruit). But a follow-up finger lime and dark chocolate macaron later in the week really convinced me: the native finger lime gave the dark chocolate a fantastic peppery quality.

Macarons @byduncan

Subtle cinnamon and dark chocolate.

Cinnamon macaron

More salted caramel (scaramel?) macaron food porn.

Salted caramel macaron

As I said, Macarons by Duncan are not currently available to the public (sniff!), but if you're interested in trying them someday I suggest going to the Macarons by Duncan website, and signing up to receive email updates.

For it was through an email update last week that a few other existing subscribers and I were able to get our hands on free sample packs of cinnamon-choc-mandarin macarons that Duncan has been testing out in a new kitchen! It felt like an illicit drug deal: I visited a secret CBD location on Friday afternoon between 1 and 4pm, gave my name to a stranger at reception, and was handed a plastic bag containing a fix of pure macaron gold. :)

Sample macarons

Yeah, the label said "imperfect sample". Duncan lied. I thought they were perfect!

As he noted in a subsequent email, whilst the ganache was *very* assertively cinnamony on Wednesday, by Friday it had mellowed. This made the fruitiness of the mandarin to really come through in the sample - a feature I really liked.

Sample macarons

In this light, they look a little like cheeseburgers, but let me assure you that they're a bajillion times tastier than cheeseburgers. Many sincere thanks to you Duncan, for allowing me to be the beneficiary of one of the sample packs!

Sample macarons

If you're looking for commercially-available macarons in Melbourne, my recommendation is to avoid the ones at Laurent and Lindt (horribly dry and crunchy, based on my past experiences). And as much as I love their croissants, the macarons I had a few months ago at Le Croissant in Burwood were also dry, crunchy and hollow.

On the other hand, I've enjoyed Baker D Chirico's macarons in the past (though the macaron nerd in me wishes they'd experiment with some more unusual flavours). EARL now stocks Macarons by Josephine, and I have high hopes for the macarons that will be made in-house at just-opening Le Traiteur.

Macaron snobs, where else do you go for macarons in Melbourne?

Sample macarons

UPDATED 27/07/10: Macarons by Duncan are now available to the public once more! Read about it on Melbourne Gastronome here and get full details directly from Duncan's site here.


Celeste @ Berrytravels said...

I've tried many different macarons (including those made by the author of the macaron zine - luv'd it!) but have only recently tried the amazing flavour that is salted caramel via Earl Canteen.

Simply put, I want more.

Sarah said...

I liked the Zara passionfruit ones the best! But then again, I am a sucker for passionfruit and white chocolate - yum.

I don't mind the Lindt ones occasionally, but I agree with you that the Laurent ones are horrible! Saw a macaron pyramid there yesterday that was full of flat, dry and broken macarons! So very wrong.

Haha - I had a passionfruit/dark chocolate macaron as my phone background recently, and everyone kept asking why I had a cheeseburger as my display pic! Lol.

xox Sarah

Duncan | syrupandtang said...

Claire, that's sooooo sweet of you! Thank you for such kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed last week's test batch and am excited about doing some more experimenting soon.

Gem said...

*giggles* You forgot to say that when people call it "ganashe" they make baby Jesus and Ganesh cry :)

Incidentally, the author of the macaron zine says exactly what you just said about macaron making inspiring obsessive perfection.

syoosyoo said...

*throw down gauntlet*

although i agree on Lindt's. they were passable when they first launched the macarons in melbourne, but on my 2nd visit one year later (which was last month) i was really appalled by them.

anyway, i make good macs too :P LOL

Emily said...

Ahhh macarons. Love them.

I agree entirely - I have had dismal macarons from Laurent and Lindt. Not even worth eating.

I love Duncan's macarons and of the flavours, salted caramel was my favourite as well. Seriously delicious.

Retail macarons that I have enjoyed have been Chimmy's (although sometimes they aren't great) and macarons by Josephine (available at EARL and Breadwell in the city).

Hopefully Duncan will get back into retail production at some stage!!!

Gossip Food said...

They look awesome!

Christine said...

I ate my first ever macaron last weekend... I happened to be walking past Lindt on Collins St and decided to pop in and get some to try. I ordered a Peach with white chocolate ganache, and a Strawberry macaron. I thought they were really nice.. so to hear that these really don't measure up to what else is out there makes me excited to try more!! I'm not particularly fond of sweet stuff, but these really appeal to me... and I'm still yearning to experience this 'salted caramel' you talk so much about :)

Sarah said...

I just (as in less than 2 mins ago) tried macarons from Cacao in St Kilda. Then I had to run here to tell everyone... don't bother. They were awful. Dry and crunchy and practically the whole shell was an air bubble.
I bought the dark chocolate, passionfruit and salted caramel. Dark choc flavour was just a bit too bitter. The passionfruit, taste wise, wasn't actually too bad but they whole thing crumbled in my hand.
Salted caramel? AWFUL. It made me cough and I couldn't finish it - despite the tiny size.

The Food Addicts said...

gorgeous macarons!

Anonymous said...

I quite enjoy Macarons at Cacao @GPO, although they are prob still commercial made...but love love the salty caramel. The balance of sweet and salty are just perfect! And agree with those at Laurent or Lindt...I use to be served Macarons just taken out from the fridge from Laurent. I actually saw the ice on them melting! Any really gave my teeth a stroke!


Anonymous said...

la tropezienne on glenferrie rd hawthorn makes awesome macarons...other than that noisette makes the next best-in my opinion :)

Lingy said...

Yeh I'd agree with Anonymous, La Tropezienne is actually not bad! No Lindt for me, Laurent is obscenely terrible. I bought a box of macarons from Cacao myself, it is just as horrible as Laurent's. Cafe Vue does one of the worst ones in town too. I don't know why they bother selling them. I did give feedback at one of the Brown's bakery outlet before, saying how bad the crunch and hardness of the macaron was, the retailer just could not be bothered. I took a bite, and chuck it out in the bin!!!!! LOL. I had the nerve to tell them, just down the road there is La Tropezienne and that they actually sell decent macarons :-b

It's such a shame that I didn't get to try out Duncan's macarons at the cafe in the city :-( I've heard of the raves before!

My Restaurants Melbourne said...

Great article, i found this very fascinating. Now i know the difference between 'macaron' and 'macaroon'. Loved it!!

Chickie CYK said...

You should visit Ting Tongs Macaron's Kitchen at the Alfred they are the best!

Candy Mitchell said...

Are you all crazy what about Shannon Bennetts... let me know your thoughts.... must admit I haven't had the pleasure of trying Duncans though - can you still get them in Melbourne?

Kate said...

It's blogs like yours that make me want to move to Melbourne! Oh, the food envy!

Having said that, we don't do too badly in Adelaide and I thought I'd share a link to a little patisserie that has developed quite a cult following for its macarons (and I'm SO glad you clarified that spelling issue!).

From Scratch creates the most gorgeous little morsels of perfection and you can put in requests for colour tints and fillings. To. Die. For.

Great packaging in egg cartons and old wooden cheese boxes.

Thank you for highlighting the hot spots of Melbourne's food scene - makes for a great itinerary whenever I'm over.

Unknown said...

How does one obtain Duncan's Macarons?

I had three from le petit gateaux today - they were SOGGY, no shell at all. For a place that makes awesome cakes their pattisery skills do not transfer for the macarons at all.


Anonymous said...

Cafe Vue make nice macarons also, much better than Lindt Cafe.

MildlyCrafty said...

Perhaps these are the best macarons!

Angela said...

I've recently been on a macaron baking rampage, and have gone through that many egg-whites, I feel the death stare of chickens every time I walk past them down at Vic market.

Last week I made some rose and vanilla bean cream batch which turned out relatively alright -- in terms of flavour and texture, but my brother said that it looked like something out of pink panther's ass!

Good news for all however.

Down at the NGV at the high tea place upstairs just above the cloak rooms, they have perhaps the most divine, inspired range of macarons I've seen in Melbourne. Violet, Lychee and Rosewater, Blueberries and Cream, Bubblegum and a whole host of other flavours you would never have thought of.

I'm going again tomorrow to buy a batch. I'll bring some home and see if I can see where I went wrong.

I won't cease trying until I've got a perfect batch on my kitchen bench!

Corry said...

I agree with Angela,
I have just had the most divine and best macarons in Melbourne today. They have to be tasted to be believed - made by the Mauritian-French chef Selvana Chelvanaigum at the Tea Rooms' - National Gallery Victoiria International, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne.
Honestly, it’s like being in Paris. Selvana is French trained and is such a delightful person to talk to which is such a bonus. We were so wrapped that we actually applauded her when she walked out of the kitchen.


Corry said...

I agree with Angela,
I have just had the most divine and best macarons in Melbourne today. They have to be tasted to be believed - made by the Mauritian-French chef Selvana Chelvanaigum at the Tea Rooms' - National Gallery Victoiria International, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne.
Honestly, it’s like being in Paris. Selvana is French trained and is such a delightful person to talk to which is such a bonus. We were so wrapped that we actually applauded her when she walked out of the kitchen.


Anonymous said...

You have to try La Belle Miette!!! Divine :)

Anonymous said...

What about LuxBite?

Chateau Cuisine said...

Hi guys
Chateau Cuisine has a macarons class.
You wont be disappointed after tasting our macarons. Come and try !!
We are exhibiting at the Good Food & Wine Shows (stand B 41). There would be our new creation of macarons.

Pete said...

I think I have perfected the salted caramel macaron. Would love to give you a sampl. Let me know when you are in the CBD next and I will be more than happy to provide you with some. Anyone for that matter.



sharm said...

I don't count myself as a macaron expert, but I really enjoyed the macarons at Schocolate in Brunswick, much better than Lindt's

Anonymous said...

I can't remember the name of the place, but i found a bakery in the south melbourne market which sells macarons. from the times i've visted, they've been consistantly lovely...

Anonymous said...

Ive just had high tea in Westin and they had the best macarons!!!!

Catherine said...

The macaron shop La Belle Miette in hardware lane does fantastic macarons Flavours include cherry bloosom and sake, pink grapefruit and pimms and pomegranete.

Anonymous said...

La Belle Miette sells the most exquisite macarons, I'm particularily fond of the rose flavour. Lovely stores across Melbourne and beautiful Laduree-like boxes.