65 Degrees Café – Converting hot chocolate lovers

Lately, something peculiar has been happening. Instead of craving hot chocolates, I’ve been more interested in trying out coffees. I blame it on the blustery and Wintery days, and perhaps, more pertinently the fact that EVERYONE around me is drinking at least two cups a day. I smell coffee in the morning and usually around 3 pm – someone would buy another round of it.

65 Degrees Café has been circulating in the news for awhile – even my Dad knows about it! It is located at 309 Exhibiton Street which is close enough to where we are during the weekdays. A few weeks ago, I read on twitter that 65 Degrees was promoting their hot chocolates and boy did the picture of it look good. Scrolling through their website – I found that they sold brioche for breakfast. Wow! My two favourite foods – how could I not go now? So, I sold the idea to my friend and off we went two days later. The weather was incredibly and unusually sunny that day. In fact, it was so good that my friend suggested we walk there – unheard off!

Upon entering the café, we were pleasantly surprised by how fragrant the aroma of the coffee beans were. The outfit is small but cosy and they sell a selection of cakes/pastries/baguettes behind a glass cabinet. We ordered a medium sized mocha as well as the hot chocolate. One of my guy friends say that people who order mocha or cuppucinnos are girly, but since I am one, I didn’t have a problem with that. Also, I figured that going with mocha was a safe bet because I wasn’t quite ready to take the coffee plunge just yet. If you were to draw a Venn diagram, mocha falls nicely in-between coffee and hot chocolate. Perfect for me!

We sat on high stools as we waited and watched whilst people busied themselves with their iPads and work folders. What caught my eye was a picture of people lining up to get their gridlock coffee. One of them even had pouffy hair. It reminded me of the picture which shows evolution from ape to man. You can even buy their T-shirt with the logo on it, as the website has clevely noted: all the cool kids are wearing ’em. Soon enough, a friendly waitress brought over our drinks.

I made a cardinal mistake of drinking the mocha before the hot chocolate. The mocha was incredibly robust and creamy. I loved that the froth doesn’t just disappear in one sip. With its punchy flavours and just enough sweetness – how did they know my sugar level? – both of us were mocha converts. There was a slight bitterness at the end of each sip and gradually I grew to appreciate why people could be addicted to caffiene. This was the first coffee that I drank and really enjoyed. Ice coffee doesn’t count! The only downside to the mocha was that it kind of stole the hot chocolate’s thunder. My friend drank the hot chocolate before the mocha and she found that she quite enjoyed it. For me, I prefer hot chocolates that are dark and decandantly creamy – such as the ones served by Gânache Chocolate. The hot chocolate at 65 Degrees Café was silky light without being watery thin. Again, the sugar level was just spot on. We found ourselves enjoying the mocha a lot more perhaps because the hot chocolate didn’t share the same intensity. Due to us arriving a little later in the afternoon, we sadly missed out on trying the brioche.

65 Degrees Café derives its name (I think) from serving coffee at this temperature – great to warm hands in the cold Wintery months. Coincidentally, this is also the optimal temperature for sharing smiles and laughter with friends any day of the week – Mondays especially. We are delighted to have found this gem of a place and can’t wait to return to satisfy our next caffiene hit!

65 Degrees Café on Urbanspoon

Crêperie Le Triskel – Arrogantly French and Rightly So

There are quite a few places in Melbourne that sells crêpes, but none can make them better than the one located at 32 Hardware Lane. The beautiful shop goes by the name of Crêperie Le Triskel and it is unabashedly French. I know this because the little black sign that hangs on the outside of the shop proclaims its origin loudly and proudly. I’m tickled by this place whose front window showcases volumes of books so convincingly that I initially mistook it for a quaint bookshop café. I adore the wafts of fresh crêpes and the friendly “bonjours” that their staff call out when they see you pass on by. But most of all, I love their bold confidence. Any shop that dares to strut that they are arrogantly French is a good sign that they have the goods to deliver.

My friend and I love crêpes and see them as comfort food especially during the Winter months. I know a lot of people swear by hearty stews, but when you want to eat something light that still keeps you warm, there is really only one answer: crêpes. Melbourne city has the good fortune of being home to several well known crêperies such as Aix Cafe Crêperie Salon, Breizoz French Crêperie, Choix Creperie Cafe, and Roule Galette. In Melbourne Central itself, there is Harajuku crêpes – Japanese-styled with most varieties immortalised on a wall for easy visualisation. If you venture a little further into South Yarra/Toorak, there is cute little place called Le Petit Français Crêperie & Café whose range is easily comparable to the others in the city. So far, our absolute favourite has been Le Triskel because of its consistency in producing mouth-watering deliciousness in a convivial Parisian atmosphere. There is a map of France, a rack supporting several French magazines and the shop also plays nice French songs – none of which I understand. These songs are either classically dramatic or enthusiastically upbeat in their chorus which is very French.

We have visited Le Triskel quite a few times to try their sweet and savory offerings. Le Triskel even has a blackboard on which they teach you how to place your order in French. Based on my very limited understanding of French, I think the words loosely translate to “I will like an a chocolate crêpe and an Oragina please”. This is great, but unfortunately all the crêpes that I am keen on are not purely chocolate, and I don’t want an Orangina. For example, I desperately wanted to order a sweet crêpe by the name of La Carabistouille (Salted Caramel, Braised Apple, Vanilla Ice-Cream and Walnuts) or La Mongolfiere (Vanilla Ice-Cream, Whipped Cream, Mixed Berrys and Chocolate). My friend on the other hand smartly decided to order our old favourite – the raspberry puree, melted chocolate and vanilla ice cream crêpe. There’s no art to saying that because the words were already in English.

Oh God! Why did the crêpes that I want have to have such long difficult French names?  So I practiced saying those four little French words over and over and over again in my head. It always sounds better in my head. I had it spot on at “La”, and then it kind of crumbles…like a cookie. When I felt relatively confident enough, I put up my hand to attract the attention of one of the staff members. A nice girl came along and she spoke in a heavy French accent, “Ready to order?” In that precise moment, my voice went into hiding and I lost my nerve. I just pointed rather hopelessly to the menu and the kind girl pronounced it (La Carabistouille) easily for me and walked away. My friend has a smug smile on her face because she knew I chickened out, so I rewarded her with a swift kick under the table. I wanted to kick my vocal cords too (but that is physiologically impossible) – all that five minute of practicing for nothing! However, I feared massacring the French language even more especially since the shop front clearly stated “arrogantly french”. They mightn’t give me the right crêpe, or worse, they mightn’t give me a crêpe at all which will be a monumental tragedy. MONUMENTAL because it was close to 2 p.m. in the afternoon and I hadn’t had a bite to eat all day.

We watched on giddily from our table as the staff prepared our crêpes. It’s mesmerising to watch as a pale gloopy batter gets thinned out to a lovely light golden blanket with one swift flick of the wrist. They always make a perfect circle without any breakages in the middle. Making crêpes is an art which is why I leave it to the experts at Le Triskel. I can make pancakes at home. When I feel creative I try to make animal-shaped pancakes without a mold, which ultimately may or may not bear any resemblance to the real animal. “Is that a funny shaped cloud?” A family member would ask, and I would say with a bright smile, “Why, of course it is!” There’s no point telling them that it was meant to be a koala or a humpback whale. I should invest in animal-shaped molds, shouldn’t I?

Anyway, back to the crêpes. We love Le Triskel’s crêpes because of its warm doughy aroma and it’s slightly stretchy nature. It has just the right amount of soft chewiness and there’s always plenty of filling to colour the crêpe with. Salted caramel appears to be this season’s flavour and we can’t get enough of it. We love salted caramel ice cream, salted caramel macarons and Le Triskel’s salted caramel crêpes. We won’t mind at all if the caramel was saltier. Salted caramel is also incredibly versatile because it goes well with almost anything. Le Triskel has paired braised apples and vanilla ice cream with their salted caramel crêpe and it has got to be one of their genius moments yet. The warm juicy sweetness of cinnamon apples is coated by the smooth coldness of vanilla ice-cream. The gentle saltiness of the caramel adds a slick finishing touch and the crêpe itself enrobes the flavour explosion. My friend’s folded crêpe held a gorgeous raspberry tartness and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Flamboyantly decorated with lashings of dark chocolate, it remains a perennial favourite which we never tire of.

If sweet is not your thing, there are plenty of savory galettes to tickle your fancy. On another occassion, my friend thoroughly enjoyed the La Triskel (Egg, Swiss Gruyere Cheese and Mushrooms with a choice of one of: Spinach or Tomatoes or Ham or Prosciutto or Turkey) and craved their ham for the next few days. I didn’t enjoy it as much mostly because it was crispy and I do not like buckwheat flour. Give me floppy sweet crêpes any day of the week.

Chances are, you will want something to quench your thirst too. There is a nice selection of beverages ranging from ciders to coffees to hot chocolates. Order their hot chocolate if you like them a bit lighter and thinner. There is a bowl of coffee that you can also enjoy if milky coffees are your thing. Once, we ordered the bowl of coffee just for the sheer fun and novelty. Boy was it a huge bowl! It was rather funny too, because the both of us are not coffee drinkers (unless you count ice coffees) and we found it, after the first spoonful, to be horribly bitter. So we did what every other good science student would have done, we improvised it. By this, I meant that we dissolved at least 30g of sugar into the bowl of coffee and stirred furiously. We did all this while trying valiantly to hold back our laughter at the absurdness of the situation. Surely we were ruining good coffee, but it certainly was a lot more palatable after the sugar hit and the both of us left Le Triskel buzzing with energy. Till this day, it remains one of our fondest memories of Le Triskel.

Crêperie Le Triskel is a lot like a good book. You know how the story ends (happily-ever-after) but it is still a favourite to pick up and read again whenever you have a spare moment. No matter how many crêperies we have been to, there is something about Le Triskel that always draws us back. Perhaps a little Parisian magic and flair is mixed through the crêpe batter to make it taste so good, so “arrogantly french”.

Creperie le Triskel on Urbanspoon