Monday, May 28, 2012

Choukette, Brunswick

Where: 318 Sydney Road, Brunswick, Victoria

When: 28 May 2012

Rating: 5/5


Since Charlotte's last review was a French bakery, Parisian Patisserie Boulangerie in Essendon, I think it's only fitting that I complement it with a review of the French bakery we visited today, Choukette in Brunswick, before getting through the backlog of other places we've visited lately. We'd heard plenty of good things about this place and had been meaning to go for some time - in fact, we've walked past it repeatedly without noticing; it has a very small street frontage wedged on the south side of Savers.

Apple turnover and lemon tart.
We walked in to be greeted by a lovely range of sweet and savoury pastries - danishes, escargots, tarts, brioches, eclairs, millefeuilles, filled rolls, pies, etc. Not to mention an actual French guy behind the counter, which is always a good sign (plus he evidently has good music taste, giving us the horns for Charlotte's Alcest t-shirt). It was really, really hard to choose. I was going to go with a cherry band until we noticed that they have apple turnovers, much to my excitement. I can barely walk a block in New Zealand (or some other parts of Australia) without stumbling over an apple turnover, yet most bakeries in Melbourne don't seem to do them. Chain bakery Michel's does do them, but ruins it by 1. putting whipped cream in them (that should be an optional extra), and 2. charging way too much. Soon as Charlotte pointed out the apple turnover, I knew I was buying one.

Most of the pastries are priced around $3 to $6, generally with a 50c surcharge to eat in (which is a shame, but whatever). Same goes for the drinks. They do tend to incline to being about $1 more than the average. However, you can get a coffee and croissant for $5.

Besides my apple turnover, we ordered a lemon tart and two ham and cheese croissants, along with a chocolate milkshake for me and an iced chocolate for Charlotte. How were they? In a word, superb. Absolutely superb. The weakest part of the order was the chocolate milkshake - it was perfectly good, but unfortunately didn't come in the metal tin (I always feel a little let down when my milkshake comes in a glass) and was just overshadowed by everything else - including Charlotte's amazing iced chocolate. We recently went to Friends of Mine on Swan Street, Richmond (unfortunately before we started this blog) and had what we thought was the best iced chocolate we'd found anywhere in Melbourne. Never mind that! Choukette has possibly set the iced chocolate benchmark with a generous glass loaded with chocolate ice cream and real rich chocolate. I had serious drink envy.

The apple turnover was a delight. Crisp and very tasty pastry surrounds a good quantity of apple filling. Now, it doesn't quite top the best apple turnovers I've had in New Zealand, but it's certainly up there, it's nice and fresh, and worth the price. The lemon tart was even better. It's expensive, I'll warn you straight up, and I was hesitant about paying the price. Given that I can buy divine lemon tarts in New Zealand for $1 (are you getting the theme that I think New Zealand bakeries really outclass Aussie ones in range, price, and quality?), I'm generally reluctant to pay $3-4 in Australia for lemon tarts that don't tend to be very lemony, a bit fake, and cased in mediocre pastry. And this one was $5 takeaway/$5.50 eat-in. Worth every cent. It is quite obviously made from real lemons, the pastry is thin, unintrusive but enjoyable, there is a nice little drizzle of chocolate, and this is possibly the only lemon tart I've had that equals the fresh taste of those that Charlotte's mother makes from lemons straight off her lemon tree. Like the iced chocolate, Choukette has set a benchmark I don't expect many will equal.

Marry me.
But the absolute star was the ham and cheese croissant. I don't even know where to begin without sounding too effusive. We've both eaten a hell of a lot of croissants in our lives - I've even enjoyed them in Paris and Geneva. Yet I am happy to say, without a shadow of a doubt, that Choukette's ham and cheese croissant is quite simply the best I have ever had in my life. Anything else is going to be a letdown now. The croissant itself is flaky, buttery, and fresh as anything. The ham is delicious. The cheese on top of the croissant is a very welcome touch. But the star is the melted cheese inside that oozes out the gaps, over your fingers, and into your mouth. Croissant perfection. We enjoyed it so much, we bought a plain croissant ($3 takeaway) to have with our afternoon tea later.

Choukette may be more expensive than your average bakery, but in this case, you are paying for quality - fresh, delectable quality made by an actual French baker. No "French bakery ... run by some guy from Keilor who's never been to France but saw the French rugby team play the Wallabies once in the nineties" bullshit. It's the real deal. Get down there.

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