Cacao Fine Chocolates and PatisserieThe first cab off the rank was Cacao in the Melbourne GPO. Cacao comes well recommended as the winner of the Melbourne's Best Macaron 2010 award. In my opinion it was well deserved and I'm not prejudiced ... they won it for my favourite macaron of the store and the day; the sumire (violet and blackcurrant). The store in the GPO is more of a kiosk and concentrates on chocolate, drinks and macarons only, the macarons being made in their St Kilda store. The macarons at Cacao are also on the small side but at only $2.20 they were the cheapest we tried.
The macarons we tested were: sumire (violet and blackcurrant), coconut , hazelnut and praline, passionfruit and salted caramel.
The consensus was that the macarons were soft and delicate, with a lovely sheen, crispy on the outside and very chewy on the inside. There were special mentions to the passionfruit, which tasted firstly of chocolate followed by passionfruit. And a special mention has to go to the salted caramel which was an explosion of salt and caramel, crispy and deliciously chewy.
La Belle MietteEverything about La Belle Miette is delicately pretty: the store window, the boxes, the decor, and I think it's one of the prettiest stores in Melbourne generally. The day we visited we were looked after by the owner's mother who was filling in for the day. It was lovely hearing her obvious pride in her daughter and her daughter's devotion to her craft, and I think her pride is well placed. Because the store is so small the macarons are made elsewhere in a commercial kitchen (in Richmond I think). The macarons are around the same size as the Cacao macarons, and are $2.50 each.
The five macarons we tried were: ginger and macadamia, violet and blueberry, pistachio, pink grapefruit, and raspberry.
The flavours were delicate and subtler, with the texture more like a traditional meringue. They were also slightly sweeter, the shells were a little crisper with a slightly firmer texture, but they were still chewy although not as chewy as Cacao.
Overall, the group was mixed when it came to whether the subtler flavours were better. Some preferred this with the violet and blueberry preferred over Cacao's violet and blackcurrant because of the subtlety. But on the other hand, the view was expressed that a stronger flavour would have been nicer for the ginger macaron. I tried the pink grapefruit, which had a small air bubble in it, and with my preference for more intense flavours I thought both the pink grapefruit and raspberry needed a little more oomph.
The Hardware SocietyThe Hardware Society is one of the most popular CBD eateries tucked away in Hardware Lane, and offers macarons cooked on the premises as an after meal treat. The range isn't large at about half a dozen or so, but they're larger than everywhere else I've visited and $2.50 each.
Maybe it was because we visited on a Saturday, only four of Hardware Society's macaron range were available: lime and coconut, lemon, green tea, and passionfruit.
Hardware Society's macarons were good but couldn't compete with the professional macaron makers. Overall, the macarons had pockets of air, were sugary and more biscuit like, and lacked the chewiness I've come to associated with macarons. There was also the suggestion that most of the fillings needed a lift because the filling lacked intensity and needed more 'tang'.
LuxBiteOur last stop was LuxBite in Toorak Road, South Yarra. It was also another place in the Top 20 for Melbourne's Best Macaron 2010 award. LuxBite has around twice as many macarons are the other stores we visited, and it was the only place we could see any baking happening because they're made on the premises. It also sold other bakery items, including a monster macaron ... as if the range of around a dozens macarons wasn't enough. PS They were about $2.50 each.
The five macarons were tried were: white peach and jasmine, Kaya toast, chocolate cherry, salted caramel, and rose and lychee.
The macarons had a lovely crispness, but didn't quite have the chewiness of the macarons from Cacao. The first taste of the Choc Cherry came from the chocolate and it didn't have much cherry, It was, however, liked because of the bits on top. The salted caramel was different to Cacao; rather than the explosion of salt from the top of the macaron this time the salt was included with the ganache and still came with a lovely explosion of taste and chewiness. The texture of the rose and lychee was good, with a subtle, sweet flavour. The kaya toast was the most unusual of the day: the texture was good and came with an excellent filling with a layer of pandan and separate layer of coconut, the only macaron of the day with two different ganache fillings. The white peach and jasmine came with a delicate peach flavour but had little jasmine flavour or aroma, and wasn't very chewy.
As a dedicated macaron eater, I'd been to all the stores beforehand for several taste tests with the exception of LuxBite. After all, a good hostess trials her recipes before the big day. It was a great day and proved Melbourne can hold its own macaron wise against most. The choice for favourite store of the day came down between Cacao and LuxBite. My choice was Cacao because I love the chewiness of the salted caramel and its explosion of salt, and the depth of taste of the Sumire. Others, however, preferred the macarons at LuxBite were equally good and loved their originality of flavour and the fact there was more to choose from. I'm prepared to revisit ... well, all of them really.
Cacao Fine Chocolates and Patisserie
Ground level, Melbourne GPO
Tel: (03) 9662 4777
La Belle Miette
30 Hardware Lane
Tel: (03) 9024 4528
The Hardware Societe
120 Hardware Lane
Tel: (03) 9078 5992
38 Toorak Road
South Yarra 3141
Tel: (03) 9867 5888