Macarons have never really gained my heart in the same way that they have captivated others. I like them, but the idea of spending $2.50 on a bite-sized morsel never felt as soothing to my mouth or belly as something more substantial and calorie-laden. It came as something of a surprise, therefore, when my recent trip to Melbourne was overflowing with macarons.
It must have had something to do with my holiday mentality. While boy was in Melbourne for noble, work-related purposes, I had tagged along with the sole purpose of eating. A lot. Suddenly $2.50 (or $2.90 in some circumstances) felt like a perfectly reasonable amount to be paying for two bites of sweet joy, and, never one to do something by half, I embarked on a Macaron crawl.
My crawl began by accident, after ordering a platter of different desserts at Ganache Chocolate shop/cafe. The platter (ganache panache) consisted of four chocolates, a scoop of gelato, a slice of cake and two macarons. I adored the strawberry and pistachio cake, with it's multiple layers all adding to the taste and texture of the whole, but I found the macarons to be slightly too gooey on the inside of the shell. I know I'm no connoisseur of macarons, but it did lead me to wonder if the 'chewy' part of these macarons was instead 'undercooked'. More research was necessary!
Next stop was Queen Victoria Market Cake Shop. Here, I found monster macarons, nowhere near as dainty as the Ganache offerings, but with a better inside, and lots of filling. However, for me, that enormous shell was verging on crusty, rather than crispy, and the mountains of filling weren't as smooth as I would like.
No Macaron crawl in Melbourne would be complete without a visit to La Belle Miette, and if I was going to have a good comparison macaron, it would be found here. Boasting a ridiculously high rating on urbanspoon, and with Suze posting about them just before I left for Melbourne, I knew I had to follow the well trodden path down Hardware Lane. With a shopfront and fit-out just as dainty and delicate as you would expect from a shop dedicated to macarons, La Belle Miette is an oasis in the midst of a cluster of cafes.
The macarons I was hoping would topple La Belle Miette were those made by A La Folie, which I found at The Little Royal kiosk in Royal Arcade off Bourke Street mall. Their macarons excited me as they had a gorgeous chewiness to them, as well as a generous amount of super smooth, tasty, filling. The only element that stopped them overtaking La Belle Miette as my favourite macaron was that the outer shell wasn't quite as crispy as it could be. However, as well as classic macarons, they sell creations like the one at the top of this post. Hello! While only set up at an arcade kiosk at the moment, The Little Royal should be opening a shopfront on Chapel Street in two or so months.
It was with trepidation that I made my final crawling stop. News reached me of McCafe having a macaron range, and for your benefit, and your benefit only, my friends, I took the plunge! Surprisingly, they did have more redeeming features than what I was expecting. While the texture of the filling was disappointing, there was good flavour, and the shells somehow managed to be both crispy and chewy. However, they still managed to be more of a candy bar than a delicate macaron, with a similar outcome as a beefy rugby player trying to pass themselves off as a ballerina.
Ganache Chocolates 7.5/10
Queen Victoria Market Cake Shop 7.5/10
La Belle Miette 9/10
The Little Royal 8.5/10