Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sweet Architextural

Obviously we had to attend something dessert-focussed as part of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival - actually, we were spoilt for choice, and it was pretty hard to whittle down the options. We booked our flights before we knew what events were when, which helped eliminate a couple of drool-worthy candidates - like Chocolate & Spice, which was the day after we left - but we still spent quite a while debating the merits of various options. These decisions cannot be taken lightly! ;-)

To satisfy my sweet tooth we eventually settled on the fabulous-sounding Sweet Architextural, which boasted two of Australia's finest pastry chefs on dessert, with two young Brits providing jelly replicas of some of Melbourne's landmarks. Okay, so they sold it better than I did just now, enough that we clamoured for tickets and put it on our calendar as a highlight.

It was fairly pricey, at $130 (AUD) per person, so it's fair to say we had pretty high expectations. It was pretty apparent right from the beginning that it was going to meet and exceed our expectations, though. The Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda, where the event was held, is a fairly unremarkable venue from the outside, but we were ushered into a dimly lit corridor (disclaimer: due to the dimness my photos are pretty rubbish as I prefer not to use a flash at this kind of thing) and presented with lanyards by girls with towering birds' nest hair (with birds in it). Then we were offered bubbles - and presented with a spoon of molecular gastronomised, bubblegum flavoured bubbles! Tricksy...

In case anyone was disappointed about being misled trays of the other kind of bubbles were proffered as soon as we entered the hall. The servers in this instance were ballerinas, with the crazy sticking-straight-out-the-sides tutus. Before too long curious nibbles began appearing from every direction...

The first tray offered to us was BLT flavoured popcorn. I'm not a huge popcorn fan but as popcorn goes this was pretty tasty. We didn't have too long to dwell on that, though, because next up were two different types of swan; a dark swan was fois gras and apple jelly, while the pale one above was cream cheese and olive. I preferred the dark one, though both were delicious (and both very, very rich!).

When we'd had our fill of swan, we were offered "petrified cauliflower" - can you see what it's served in? ;-) This was delicious, actually somewhat sweet but still very clearly cauliflower, and the crumbs gave crunch. Super yummy!

A couple of jellies came out; the first was cucumber and celery, which was very true to its flavour but I'm not sure that's a flavour that really works as jelly. Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between flavour/texture combinations that are just challenging your expectations - jelly is usually not vegie flavoured! - but in this case I remain unconvinced. Some of the jellies were very good - though a large number were quite alcoholic and a bit too bitter for my taste (I am generally not a fan of spirits).

Darren Purchese and Sam Bompas took the stage for a few minutes to tell us what to expect, and warned us to keep our eyes peeled. A few minutes later, true to their words, a bit of a kerfuffle occurred over by the entrance to the kitchen...

... And out came the ballet dancers, bearing a pink "cake" covered in flowers. In the photo on the left you might be able to spy quite a few cameras - it was an impressive sight! The flowers were chocolate, with flavoured candy centres which were almost slightly sherbetty. They were yummy!

The best ballerina photo I took - love those tutus!
One of the best ways of figuring out when there was something interesting happening was watching the photographer, who was nipping around getting [I'm sure great] shots of everything. We noticed she was over at one end of the bar, so went over to investigate.

Mr Bompas was busy unmolding jellies. Not overly exciting to watch...

But then I got to do one myself - that was more interesting. Actually, it was pretty easy - I was provided with a bucket of hot water to dip the jelly in, and I think that having a properly balanced jelly (i.e. the right amount of gelatine) probably counts for a lot and I can't claim any benefit for that. I'm certainly not a jellymonger!

Next off the bat (literally!) was Battenberg cake. I just love the thought that has gone into every bit of the evening - the detail makes it exceptional. There were other treats as well - including gin & tonic marshmallows and mojito marshmallows. I've never had gin & tonic, but the mojito one was true to form. There were a couple of kids in attendance, and I saw one of them, a boy of about 12, about to pop one in his mouth when his dad swooped in and "confiscated" it. Definitely not kiddie flavours!

We'd been promised instant ice-cream, and people soon started wandering around spooning frozen creamy goodness into their mouths. Mr Purchese had set up shop at the other end of the bar, and was mixing up the ice-cream in a mixer, with the assistance of liquid nitrogen.

A famous face took the stage and told us to prepare for the great unveiling - we can make out a table and a Marie Antoinette-esque figure through the gauze-y curtain, but we're otherwise in the dark, so to speak.

But we have to wait a little longer - Mr Preston speaks to Burch and Purchese about the evening, the festival, and their new store, set to open sometime in the next couple of weeks on Chapel Street (why oh why did we have to come home? Why is there no dessert store in Wellington?).

The jellymongers take to the stage for a few minutes - sadly they didn't sing a duet, though the photos make it look a little that way (I do so love a good duet). To be honest I can't really remember what they said - I was too anxious to see what lay behind the curtain!

When the curtain came up, the dancers performed a short piece from The Nutcracker - and Marie Antoinette turns out to be wearing a table covered in jelly!

The jellymongers have been hard at work, and there are two tables representing Melbourne's cityscape - do you recognise any landmarks? We only managed to figure a couple of them out but I'm sure some of you will be more familiar with the sights of the city.

The dessert buffet is amazing - I think I'll just let the photos speak for themselves:

Again, the detail is incredible - and there is no chance anyone will miss out, plenty to go around! I wish my dessert stomach had greater capacity (this is not something I normally wish for; I have a pretty high pudding tolerance as it is!) so I could have tried more of them - but we made a valiant effort. ;-)

We tried some moussey things, some cakey things, some candy - everything was delicious! My favourite was one of the moussey concoctions in glasses - topped with a macaron, how could I resist?

It was an amazing evening, and we even got goodie bags when we left. Among other things there was chocolate (for making dessert, obviously), Heilala vanilla syrup, and a very generous $40 voucher for Burch & Purchese's Melbourne Sweet Studio (when it opens).

An incredible experience!

Sweet Architextural was hosted by Burch & Purchese and Bompas & Parr as part of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival


  1. It's like Willy Wonka meets Grand Designs. Love it!

  2. What a perfect description! A wonderful combination. :-)

  3. G&T and mojito marshmallows! Amazing. And all that jelly! If I had gone to Melbourne for the food and wine festival this definitely would've been on my agenda.


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