The search for a quality patisserie in Melbourne is considerably more difficult than expected. Even against the backdrop of our hallowed cafe scene, limp croissants and stale pain au chocolats abound. If you are hoping to come across something a little more inspired than these tired wares, look no further than South Melbourne's Chez Dré.
With Paris-trained pastry chef Andrea Reiss leading the charge and the current desire for all things small, sweet and aesthetically pleasing, it is no wonder that this new locale has been met with such a unanimously warm reception. Hidden in an unassuming laneway and capitalising on Melburnians love for all things tasty and trendy, this modern French-inspired cafe is fast on its way to becoming an icon. So impeccable is the craftsmanship on display at Chez Dré Patisserie, that it has become the forerunner in Melbourne's current love affair with the macaron.
The humble macaron has been the subject of much fanfare of late. The heir-apparent to the cupcake craze, rarely has a sweet confection caused such widespread commotion. Upon spotting the rapidly snow-balling trend, the Wall Street Journal perfectly captured the allure of the pastel toned pastry: "They come in different colours and flavours, and they're indulgent, but they won't wreck your calorie count for the day." Maintaining an air of French sophistication and equally pleasing to both the eyes and taste buds, the popularity of this multi-hued delight doesn't look to be abating any time soon. Such is the momentum that Melbourne Macaron, a student run initiative, has seen October 26th crowned as Macaron Day.
The macaron as we know it today is the creation of Pierre Desfontaines of the famed French patisserie Ladurée. No visit to Paris is complete without passing through Ladurée's hallowed doors to sip from a bowl-like cup of deep, rich hot chocolate and peruse the rows of candy-coloured macarons. Be sure not to return home without the store's signature embellished pastel green box, somewhat of a status symbol for the true gourmand.
The vast array of macarons on offer at Chez Dré certainly don't disappoint. They are just as they should be; suitably hard to the touch, with a pleasingly gooey, chewy interior. A veritable rainbow of colours on display, their desirability lies not only in their texture and taste but in the impressive range of flavours that extend far beyond the familiar staples. The delightfully exotic Kalamansi Lime and Orange Tonka Bean are most definitely to be savoured. Yet, the standout favourite is the Salted Caramel, fast becoming a Chez Dré institution due to a winning combination of sweet and savoury sensations.
However, the beauty of Chez Dré doesn't lie solely in its impressive macaron selection. While you'd be easily mistaken for thinking that it is all about sweets, the savoury offerings are equally impressive. Manage to find yourself a seat amongst the bleary-eyed Sunday brunch hour and you will be rewarded with a concise menu fit to cure even the hardiest of hangovers. Far more than your standard cafe fare, it is well worth becoming a regular just to stay on top of the weekly specials, which range from such culinary delights as Mexican Eggs, Duck Confit and Smoked Trout with Scrambled Eggs. Crowd pleasers, such as French Toast and Poached Egges with Avocado and Salmon, are equally enjoyable.
A visit to Chez Dré is well worth navigating your way through the pram-pushing yuppie mums and market fanatics of the surrounding area. It is the clever re-invention of French classics that sees that it remains the go-to spot for sweets and savouries alike.