Friday, 19 December 2008

adriano zumbo chocolat cafe

Published in Time Out Sydney Magazine
Shop 5, 308 Darling Street
Balmain 2041

Balmain has all the luck when it comes to good food and cute men making it.
Inner city gossip talks of Perry Silvio from Bertoni Casalinga, Ed Cutcliffe from the Little Marionette...and the latest recruit to the ‘hot food guy’ ranks: Adriano Zumbo. It’s a deadly combination of good looks and exceptional epicurean talent that make these men smolder. Pay attention gentlemen, if you’re after the ladies, you better get in the kitchen.

After causing such a buzz over the past 18 months with his way with pastry and desserts, the latest feather in Adriano Zumbo’s cap is his new Chocolate Café. Tucked away in a nook not far from his Balmain patisserie, you’ll find this stylish little hole in the wall complete with hipper-than-hip red chandeliers and zebra striped lampshades, a peek-a-boo coffee counter that gives you a unique view into where the magic is made, and a seriously killer selection of handmade chocolate goodness.

These are some of the best names for dishes you’ve been likely to come across in a while, with names like Ed knocked me up (a secret wish of many a Balmain housewife) Miss Marple, Deconstructed, It’s Not A Hamburger and, um... The Camel Toe.

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Sydney-siders are so serious about gastronomy, perhaps we’ve forgotten how fun it is to play with our food. So it’s nice to see Zumbo injecting food with a little humor.
And speaking of ‘injecting’ – order the Younger Years if you’re into chocolate (let’s face it, if you’re here, chances are you’re a bonafide addict). A decadent warm chocolate pudding served with peanut-brittle ice cream and raspberry crème anglaise in a gigantic syringe. The idea is that you inject this knee-weakening concoction into the pudding, like so much Botox on high maintenance housewives. The pudding is a delicious combination of crisp outer crust and gooey molten centre whilst the raspberry crème anglaise gives a really nice tartness to the dish, preventing sweetness overload.

If you’re a fan of Sex and the City, try ‘Paris’ an all-pink tasting plate consisting of a raspberry macaron, lychees with raspberry sorbet…and to top it all off, a mini strawberry milkshake for one. If that doesn’t cure your girly fix, you’ve got no hope.

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The raspberry macaron’s fuschia pink exterior may not be a colour you’d normally put in your mouth, but you really should. The creamy interior and the crumbly exterior are a match made in heaven. Nibble it slowly and pretend you’re Mary Antoinette. Next on the plate, lychees topped with raspberry sorbet make a fragrantly tart change to the sweetness of the macaron. Think of it as a Zumbo-style palate cleanser. Wash it all down with the strawberry milkshake for one – reminiscent of old school strawberry thick shakes, with plenty of the real thing blended into the pastel tinted drink.

Zumbo has become well known for resurrecting the popularity of the humble macaron – that favourite bickie of Napoleon Bonaparte’s is a meringue-like pastry sandwiched together with a creamy ganache filling. Zumbo is all about unexpected combinations, so expect to find Lavender or Olive Oil flavours alongside the classics. The menu houses a super sized version, the size of a (not so small) burger. Dainty? No. Delicious? Oui!

If you’re sweet enough as you are, savoury items do exist on the menu. Order the classic corn fritters or one of the deliciously authentic panino – Zumbo is, after all Italian. And keeping with Balmain tradition, the coffee is impeccably strong and smooth, thanks to the man with the machine, Johnny Lahood.

If you go to the counter to pay, be warned: the impulse purchases are overwhelming. Namely, the rows of mouth-watering chocolate, made by Zumbo himself. It’s a combination of variety, texture, quality ingredients and unexpected combinations of flavours that make this selection pop.

You’ll find classics sitting beside some more left-of-centre creations, from Yuzu-encrused jewels to chai-flavoured truffles and the notorious ‘Camel-Toe’ (red wine liquid centred chocolate). Chances are you’ll find something to make you laugh…and then cry for more.

With a spate of chocolate cafes opening around the city, it’s Adriano’s apparent humour, kookiness and obvious passion for what he does that makes this establishment stand out from the pack.

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