Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Balmain Tiger

With a name like Adriano Zumbo, there was no way we weren't going to hit it off. Zum-bo! Hitler, Stalin, Dostoevsky...those are names that make you a little anxious, a little apprehensive, 'Zumbo' leaves you with an entirely different sort of expectation of the person you are about to meet. What two syllables could be more laden with whimsy or with fun? Make no mistake, the man lives up to the name. Cake + Knifelings, meet Zumbo, Adriano Zumbo: International Man of Creative Cake Mystery. Zumbo is so much more than the most exciting cafe and patisserie to ever happen in sleepy little Balmain, it is the sugared, rollicking and startling incarnation of one hell of a bright, playful and restlessly creative mind. I have never dabbled in drugs (they haven't come up with an earl grey version of anything illegal yet), but eating at Zumbo is what I image an acid trip feels like. Surely, Adriano Zumbo's frontal lobes put the honourable Willy Wonka's to absolute, sugary shame, and he has done it all himself, with not an Oompaloompa in sight.

Adriano is a playful, prolific, friendly and curious man, I had a 3 minute exchange with him and I walked away smiling. He is gentle and brilliant, generous and inspired, he is having a ball sharing his creations, and you can just see it in his twinkling eyes. You get the sense upon meeting him that this dream has been brewing for a long time, it's like the brilliant birth of a life time of ideas and inspiration, constantly constantly constantly, from everywhere, even the local Supermarket gets this boys brain buzzing like a bee on speed. Zumbo is little short of an edible Guggenheim, a foodies answer to Post Zen Pastry Perfection, Zum is soooo much better than Zen. Nothing simple, nothing underdone, nothing quiet and unassuming here. It's a Baz Luhrmann film on a plate. This is voloptuous, sexy, tarty, wink-at-you-wicked, playful dessert, dressed to the nines. It's in your-face-heavy-metal-marie-antoinette-let-them-eat-cake-oh-so-so-so-decadent choas in confection. I can actually picture Marie Antoinette firing Adriano from Versailles as her head pastry chef because he was just too much for her, too over the top, just too decadent, too excessive for her relatively simple, spartan ways. This guy takes cake to completely new heights. It's what Max Brennar tried to do, but didn't pull off with nearly quite so much deliciousness or spunk. I am surprised the entry to both of these establishments is not marked by some kind of inter-planetary portal, because what greets you as you step inside isn't the every day, it's a new, crazy world through a hungry looking glass, and it is a wonderful thing to behold...

Before you even set lips on one of the gorgeous little Zumbo Mind Babies, the desserts, cakes, ecclairs, tarts, slices, and other dishes which I will have to call an ecstatic 'What-The F?', do a bit of a number on your awed, unexpecting eye. Those of you that aren't comfortable with drooling or panting in public should stay home and stick to frozen Sara Lea, you commit yourself to a Public Display of Affection the moment you pick up a Zumbo menu. Adriano is a culinary messiah, and I am preaching his pre-diabetic word. 

Here is a man who gets it, who understands that beyond taste, food is art, not pretentious art, fun art, it is about reducing fully grown, functional and responsible adults with mortgages, insurance payments, cheating spouses and snot nosed ankle biters, to partially pulverised puddles of anticipating awe and excitement. We all have it in us to get really excited about pretty cake, and that's half the brilliance of the Zumbo way of doing things, before you eat, you will be seduced: the desserts are so maddeningly pleasing to look at, it's not pushing it much to say that they positively lap dance in front of your gobsmacked jaw. So, losing your Zumbo virginity with your new flatmate, your lovely friends and an adorable bunch of Sydney food bloggers that you are meeting for the first, glorious time on a Sunday morning, goes a little something like this...

That's Wheely Wildly Wendy, on the left, she's a bit of a looker, aint she? Hey, hey, she's pretty on the inside too, and gluten free! Wendy is what happens when Zumbo mixes fresh roasted peach in, oh say, some tonka bean creme legere (!?) and then enscones it all in some almond dacquoise discs followed by a quick decadent dip in some crumbly almond dreaminess. For the love of God. My taste buds have been yapping to each other about it ever since. The texture is beyond my meagre grasp of the flimsy language of English. I actually believe happiness would be the feeling on laying your wearied soul, physically, down to sleep on a beautiful bed of this stuff. Give me an Adriano Zumbo afterworld, so I can sigh eternally...

When Passionfruit and Cream get it going on, the above is what happens. Oh, delight of delights! I had a tiny spoonful of this achingly orange treat, and the bright burst of tart passionfruit that releases itself like the singing note of an abandonded, angelic lyre bird from a luscious mouth bath of sweetdreamcream, is perfection, cakeified. It is balanced so artfully, tartness and creaminess each playing their role without one overshadowing the other, it's like romeo and juliet in dessert, and it ends in the premature death of your will power to not have any more. A delicious plague on all our asses.
 
Those are the gentler baked, berry beauties. Berry custard brioche, strawberry and peach danish. Seriously, why are you people still reading this and not all making a mad dash to darling street for a hit of this stuff. These desserts were gorgeous, ripe, heady fruit playing peekaboo with you through luscious folds of golden pastry. Not too sugared either, I loved the danish and brioche because the flavour of the fruits is what you taste more than the gentle sweetness that cautiously minds its own business in the base notes.

Charles Du Jour, or Chuckie, as I like to call him, is my new boy toy. I love him in look and in taste more than anything else I tried on this fateful day. The little balls poking up from the splendid snow white coating strike me as a bit funny in a sadistic way, don't know why, but I giggled over this treat a fair bit. It's basically a living testament to the judicious joys of the vanilla bean. Vanilla every way it can be had, held and handled, all combining into one Vampire in Vanilla that sucks every last drop of disillusionment from your formerly embittered heart. Taste this and you will know love. Taste this and the world will be new again. Taste this and there will be angels dancing on your palate. Taste this, concede to its breathless power over you for ever more. It draws a deep, satisfied Oink from even the harshest of cake critics.

That's just a funky patisserie mirror shot to give you a little intermission, I don't want you climaxing on me and Adriano when we are only half done...

Lavender. Truffles. Lavender Truffles. Lavender Truffles. Taste and smell are already twin sisters, and Zumbo plays with this union so artistically. Chocolate + Lavender = Happy Amanda. These are messy, moorish and divine, but the chocolate they always sell out of, the one evil Adriano does not let his poor mother take any of when they are running low on the stash (she told me this herself mind you), is the 'innocently' named Camel Toe:

For those of you that like to be sinful efficiently, this is the Two In One Devil Dropper: red wine and chocolate. The Dark Side of The Force. These are the perfect gift for Satan when he's holed up in bed with the flu. They are a hard coated shell with a naughty, sticky, dripping sweetsweetsweet center, dark and lustful. They only had 4 left and we scored them. Mother Zumbo and I might join forces to arrange some sort of midnight Camel-Toe heist when the stocks get replenished. 

That is more pretty chocolate with deliciously different spices and tangents, there's a whole case of them grinning at you from under sparkling glass. That's Ronan and Sally, Zumbo didn't make them, but they're pretty delicious any way.

Macaroons in all the pretty colours of the rainbow. These are luscious little bastards. They have perfect denseness and teeth sinkability, the colours are vivid and true, they don't taste fake or artificial at all. I tried the rose macaroon in its supporting role in the Paris dessert, so, so, so Yumbo.

The range of treats all lined up in a pretty row like wall flowers that want this dance with you. Very impressed that Zumbo is doing so much gluten free. The range is ridiculous guys, there is so much to try.

That's just the case in patisserie...

See...
Told you so. That's not even touching on the dessert menu, which is as fanciful and as hardcore as cake gets. Come in a big group if you can and get a whole crazy range of things, that way you can ooh and ahh and try the lot of it without feeling like you missed out on something. Despite the range we got, there was so much I did not get to try and have a trip planned back in the next week or so with Mum and my cousin Carol. Don't worry, it's not all cake, you can get pies and tarts and brekkie and coffee and tea from Elmstock. Regarding the tea, the herbal infusions are great but I usually find Elmstock's Black blends a little on the weaker side, which actually might be a good thing in Adriano's set up, you'll get more than enough of a caffeine hit from a camel toe, or two.

That is the best portrait I could get of the Paris, this dessert was so light, refreshing and beautifully pinkity pink. Barbie would've loved this, she would have traded in annorexia for bulimia at the mere sight of it: raspberry sorbet paired with rose brulee (ronan: "are they real rose petals"), sporting a rose macaroon, lychees and a coco-strawberry sago pool on the side. Adriano, are you bloody kidding? I am proposing to you, officially, here and now, as a result of the genius of that combination alone. 

Zumbo...He makes you so happy and so fat. There were some bloggers there who put me to absolute shame, I was dying of sugar overload, but Karen was washing down all the cake with a chocolate milkshake, and one of the boys was having the blackest, thickest looking dark hot chocolate I have ever seen while he devoured a plate of the most caramellishious looking chocolate something or other.

296 Darling Street, Balmain is where this all happens, and this is his site

I am genuinely gobsmacked. Yes, I am smacked in the gob. This is the kind of place you'd expect to find in New York and London, the imagination of it all is enough to dazzle you, even without the perfect execution. There's no nice way to put this, but Colour, Texture, Taste and Form are all Zumbo's bitches, he works them fluently, fluidly and what seems like effortlessly, all for your sensory pleasure. This is a wonderful place to take old and young people for an experience that glorifies everything food is about. Everyone around me and in my group looked like they were having so much fun. Adriano draws you into the way he sees the world, it's fun, crazy and decadent, a bit like being a kid again.

If you do manage to see Adriano in store, go and introduce yourself if he doesn't look too busy, he is great fun to chat with and most of the girls who have been here are as enamoured with the man as they are with the creations.

Adriano Zumbo, would a rose macaroon by any other name smell as sweet? 

20 comments:

Reemski said...

Amanda, gorgeous post! I can't believe I didn't know about you...So glad you enjoyed yourself, and happy to have assisted in the popping of your Zumbo cherry! ;-)

amanda said...

heh. you dirty girl! thankyou so much for organising it all x

Linda said...

Hey Amanda, Awesome post!! I can't believe I actually read through the whole thing. Nice to have met you yesterday. I'm now hooked on your blog =D

turksall said...

Babe.. not only do you have the gift of the gab you have the gift of the fab. Dude, this stuff can't simply be a blog. You have to publish this shit. I mean hardback, signed and centering every coffee table.
I mean it... Do it.... Or else.

Howard said...

Hey Amanda, that was a fantastic read. You've got me hooked with your writing.

charmaine said...

looks like you got yourself some commenting fans girl, wooooo. my hangover head (yes, still, slightly!) is ouchies at the sight of all this yummy sweetness i missed. dayam. xx

Karen said...

Amanda, what an interesting (and very sensual) take on the Zumbo experience! Thanks for the mention...now everybody will know what a sugar-happy glutton I am!

I loved reading it - your photos and prose - it's food porn at its best!

amanda said...

loveliness flood, guys, thankyou x

karen, glutton is a nice word for what you are!
chazza, i have to take you here, its the world beyond buzzbar
howard + linda, georges is waiting, baby.

Simon Food Favourites said...

hi amanda, love your writing style and will have to agree with Karen, it's like Food Porn! hehe. looking forward to reading more. S :-)

Helen (AugustusGloop) said...

A delicious plague on our asses indeed! lol! Great write-up. I think you work magic with words as much as Zumbo does with his pastries :)

FFichiban said...

Woooww funny and entertaining post ^^! Can't wait to read moooree!

So good to meet you, always more fun when sharing these with other fellow bloggers!

Btw I am that boy that cannonballed the thick hot chocolate the It's NOT a hamburger... sugar shock was imminent but worth it XD

chocolatesuze said...

as always a fantastic post dude! lol i actually made an oompaloompa necklace...

Bean Sprout's Cafe said...

Wow...looks so yummy ! Even I don't really like coconut in dessert but PARIS: La Vie En Rose is too beautiful...I have to try !

I just found ur blog, I will come back often :)

Belle said...

Loved your post, Amanda. Maybe Zumbo should dedicate a cake to his girl admirers (called 'It's not a leap year, but...'). And say hi to Ronan for me - I chatted with him on Sun.

amanda said...

oh my god. you guys are like the blog mafia! ever since youve all added me my reader count has tripled...im a 'made' man. thankyou, i cant wait blow the top button on my jeans many more times eating with you!

erin said...

awesome as always, but I suspect you will have to go without me ... those cakes don't look vegan ...

your mittens are started!

Teresa said...

mmm everything looks so yummy! Loving your writing and pics! :) And it was very nice to meet you on Sunday.

thewayitcrumbles said...

wow, such beautiful writing, I (almost) skipped past the pictures!

Lorraine E said...

I can see that you're now full within the throes of Zumbo love and he has woven his magic with you too! Which is not a bad place to be-with the rest of us addicts :)

yum-bo! tum-bo! said...

you got me on zum-bo! wow gluten free AND colorful. that rocks! a little slice on NY + London in the heart of balmain's darling. your piece and images knocked zumbo's website off its boots. his website bites; but boy oh boy can abs write! fun-bo!