With donutella madness hitting fever pitch in Melbourne, it was only a matter of time before Luxbite entered the ring with their take on the popular dessert mash-up. To be honest, I have not really understood the attraction. Much thicker than custard or jam, the downfall of the nutella-donut combo is the hazelnut spread’s inability to diffuse through the pastry. What you’re left with is one mouthful of chocolate-y goodness, followed by many mouthfuls of dry pastry, further exacerbated by low nutella-to-dough ratios. The solution to this problem? Introducing the Do-Nut-Tell-Lara. Two rings of golden, cinnamon-sugar crusted choux puff hemispheres, sandwiched together with creamy raspberry donut custard, light chantilly cream and hazelnut-centred nutella spheres, haloed by a ring of raspberry chocolate. This is masterful composition; the end product is a ring of bite-sized, nutella and cream-filled profiteroles. Decadent but not heavy, sweet but not cloyingly so, think raspberry ferrero with every mouthful. And it’s not deep-fried so it must get a tick for being somewhat better for you right?
Luxbite has been enticing visitors to South Yarra with creative desserts and colorful macarons since 2010. Master patissier, Bernard Chu, pays homage to his Malaysian heritage by fusing popular Asian flavours with classic French technique. Blueberry marscapone cheesecake is lifted by the yakult-like tang of calpis (a carbonated, fermented milk drink), while matcha lends its distinctive bitterness to fluffy sponge cake, balancing sweet and tangy flavours of layered watermelon yoghurt and strawberry mousse in their signature meringue-encased Meringue Monster.
Kopiko (a popular Indonesian coffee-flavoured candy), pandan, mandarin and oolong tea feature in the macaron selection alongside more conventional salted caramel, white chocolate and red velvet, while fragrantly sweet rose-lychee is upscaled and married brilliantly with tart, fresh raspberries in their Endless Love macaron dessert.
Patisserie is a craft of refinement and elegance, but that does not preclude having a bit of fun. A colorful Lolly Bag Cake looks just like something from the window of a candy store (of the specialty kind given its seven-layer complexity), complete with pink redskin glaze, while a Rilakkuma (Japanese pop culture character, “Relaxed Bear”) inspired cookie, chocolate, banana and strawberry tart is almost too cute to eat. Almost….
It’s a theme that extends to the design of the cafe. Brightly coloured candy stripes stand out against a sleek, monochrome palette of black, white marble and matte gold.
This Chapel St favourite hasn’t missed a beat since its quiet re-branding from Dukes. Other than a move of the roasting facilities offsite, Journeyman is not much different from its original incarnation. The interior is mostly unchanged – a sleek, warehouse-style design melding rendered walls, bare brick and exposed ducting with warm wood tones, and floorboards transposing floorboards to the ceiling before the Block made it cool – just some more (much needed) seating in the back where the roasting equipment used to stand.
Also unchanged is the amazing coffee delivered with clockwork reliability and efficiency by experienced baristas. Duke’s house blend is full-bodied and chocolate-y smooth, my flat white a textbook rendition with the barest layer of milk foam. Rotating single origins, batch brew filters and pourovers will keep the coffee connoisseurs happy.
An inventive menu will make a visit here a dilemma for the indecisive, tszujed-up classics mixing it up with contemporary food trends. Scrambled eggs meet caprese salad in a chili scramble, smoked tomato, basil and mozzarella number, while pulled pork croquettes and apple cider hollandaise take the humble benedict to another level of indulgence. On the more adventurous side, candied bacon cubes add a sweet twist to dukkah-dusted avocado “hummus”, with muntries (native cranberries) livening a rich dish of sauteed Asian mushrooms, shiraz and garlic cream sauce, with apple-y brightness.
Acknowledging, however, that for every diner tucking into a cornflake fried chicken brioche burger, there’s another looking for a heart-healthy salad, clean-eaters are well catered for; a vegan, almond milk porridge or chia pudding maybe, or gluten-free organic quinoa, avo and kale salad with luxurious, ruby-red, beetroot cured salmon. “Charred greens” is a mountainous dish of grilled broccolini, kale, sugar snap peas and roasted almonds, dusted with chermoula spice for a subtle chili hum. Break apart the poached eggs and you have a sauce of runny yolk, creamy labneh and lemon, punctuated by the salty pop of capers to balance out the bitter greens. It’s a superfood creation that I’d happily swap a burger for. Feeling less guilty about following up with a second coffee is an added bonus, though perhaps that doesn’t quite extend to the banana-cream Doughboy donut to go….