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

La Belle Miette – move over cupcakes

A few years ago, there was a cupcake frenzy rampaging throughout Melbourne. No one seemed to be able to get enough of a little cake that is covered with swirls of frosting and decorated with little red heart candies/sprinkles/other sugary goodness. This observation is evidently well-supported if you were to google “melbourne cupcake stores” – which I did do; since googling is a favourite, frivolous pastime of mine. 639,000 results appeared in an instant, or 0.48 seconds to be exact. There were the usual suspects such as the Cupcake Bakery, Little Cupcakes, the Cupcake Queens, Cupcake Central, and The Cupcake Family. Outside of Melbourne, someone by the name of Paolo (or who likes the name of Paolo) had opened his very own cupcake store, affectionately called Cupcakes by Paolo.

With so many stores located just within the Melbourne Central radius, I started to view cupcakes as sneaky little things. It did not help when someone in my lab stuck up a funny Weight Watchers poster that showed a pink cupcake holding up a white flag with the words: “I come in peace”. Whilst it amused me, the poster didn’t quite convince me of the cupcake’s innocence. To paraphrase from Shakespeare, that cupcake doth protest too much. Whilst I did try a few cupcakes from different stores, I didn’t understand the fascination surrounding them. Suffice to say, I wasn’t a cupcake kind of person, and I didn’t score well in the “what cupcake flavour are you?” quiz in my honours lab either.

So, imagine my panic when macarons started to gain popularity in Melbourne, boosted possibly due to its guest appearance in MasterChef. I termed it the macaron movement. Oh no! I thought, soon there will be macaron stores sprouting the streets just like those cupcakes. It turns out that I was half right. There wasn’t an overwhelming increase in the number of stores that specialised in macarons. Rather, there was an increase in the number of existing stores that started to sell their own macarons. For a period of time, there was heated debate between friends as to what constituted a macaron, and what size it should be. This was largely based on confusion between macarons and macaroons – and how to pronounce each one correctly. For a small little round biscuit, it sure courted quite a bit of controversy.

The first macaron that I bought was the black and white macaron from the chocolate store, Shocolate, which had apparently won an award. It looked good in a zen kind of way, and it tasted very good. Long story short, I was hooked on macarons. That’s when I created the macaron expedition which involved creative logistics such as how-long-can-I-disappear-to-cover-all-these-shops-without-anyone-missing-me? In reality, the macaron expedition took place over several weeks as experiments and reports joustled successfully for my attention. Slowly, my friend and I ate our way from Shocolate to Cacao to Ganache Chocolate to LuxBite and macarons by someone else called Duncan. Apart from one very disappointing experience which sent me on a macaron hiatus, I enjoyed the sugary expedition.

It was by chance that I came across La Belle Miette. Some would even say it’s fate. One day, a friend and I had trooped off to Hardware Lane to eat the crepes at Le Triskel as we were in our francophile mood. That’s when we notice a cute little shop that sold macarons. Naturally, we detoured and popped in to have a closer look. Round little perfections sitting atop a marbled table gleamed happily behind a glass barrier. They were all pastel shades ranging from a light lemony yellow to intense raspberry red. I was sold, and when I looked at the pretty boxes, I was smitten. The design of those boxes tell a beautiful story which you can read on La Belle Miette’s website. This is very similar to a thesis, which is meant to relay a story too, albeit a less tasty one.

How many should we get? 2 or 3? In the end, we got 6……….That is to say, 6 utterly scrumptious macarons that should individually win macaron the year award. We devoured in no particular order:

  1. 72% Cocoa Single Origin Chocolate (Venezuela)
  2. Caramel a la Fleur de Sel
  3. Hazelnut Belle Miette
  4. Pimm’s & Pomegranate
  5. Strawberry & Vanilla
  6. Lemon

I loved them all, no matter what flavour they were, all had a wonderful egg-shell crunch when you first bit into them. Then your teeth sinks into the the sweet moistness of an impeccably rich ganache that can only leave you in an exuberant sugar-high mood. The single origin chocolate macaron is sin in a box, and the delightful chewiness of the salted caramel macaron has caused my mind to wander many a time during lab meetings. I noticed that La Belle Miette also dabbles in cheeky flavours such as Pimm’s & Pomegranate. Although I have not tasted Pimm’s before, I can assure you that people who prefer tart flavours would very much enjoy it. Although some might consider lemon or strawberry and vanilla fairly boring , their lightness provides a welcome contrast after eating the heavier flavours. Sometimes, the best things are the simplest.

With the spectrum of flavours like theirs, La Belle Miette captures a range of clientele – those who like to play it safe and conventional, as well as who are adventurous enough to try exotic combinations. What La Belle Miette does even better is her ability to strike the right balance between textures and sweetness. One does not overwhelm but complements the other. Within the patisserie circle, it is safe to declare that Pierre Hermé and Ladurée are giants in the field of macaron creation. Melbourne may not have either of these outlets, but we have our own giant in the making – La Belle Miette.
La Belle Miette on Urbanspoon