Adriano Zumbo Pâtissier, Sydney

Everyone has heard of Adriano Zumbo. Known as the ‘patissier of pain’ on Masterchef, he is renowned for his over the top cake creations and vast array of creatively flavoured macarons (also known as ‘zumbarons’). His patisserie was definitely a must-visit while I was in Sydney.

Zumbo’s store at the Star casino has two parts: there is a patisserie section, as well as a sit-down bar with a dessert train. The patisserie had a sort of show-room area with cakes and macarons in little displays. The cakes are plastic, just like the display food commonly seen in Japan. The macarons appeared to be real though.

The dessert train operates in the same way as a standard a sushi train: you help yourself to things from the train and take your plates up to the counter at the end. There was also an a la carte dessert menu.

Of course we couldn’t help but dive into a plate of macarons ($10) straight away. I was glad we’d wandered through the other section first so that we had an idea of what the flavours were.

The gingerbread macaron (bottom left) was far too gingery for my liking. I wasn’t really a fan. The malted milkshake (top left) wasn’t bad. The blackened vanilla (top right) was a little strange. It had a slightly burnt, bitter flavour to it which balanced out the sweet macaron well, but I’m still not quite sure if I like it. Now the popcorn, on the other hand was absolutely fantastic and probably my favourite flavour of all of them, including the second plate. It consisted of what appeared to be plain macaron shells coated in salty popcorn crumbs, with plain buttercream filling. The buttery-ness and saltiness were a great combination.

All the macarons were a good size with a perfect smooth domed top. The shells were nicely crispy with a soft and chewy texture. I read a few reviews which described the macarons as being ‘gluggy’, ‘pasty’, ‘mushy’ and ‘tasteless’, with comments about them being the worst macarons ever. Not sure what macarons these people had but surely they weren’t here. Trust me, there are much worse macarons out there!

The salted caramel (bottom left), a classic favourite, was very good. I know caramel isn’t that hard to do, but believe it or not, I have had bad salted caramel before. The chocolate doughnut (top left) was quite nice. It was basically a combination of chocolate and cinnamon, which was lovely, but I’m not sure that I would say it tasted anything like a doughnut. The chocolate mint (bottom right) unfortunately was a bit of a let down. I prefer chocolate mint things to be more chocolate than mint, but this was the other way around. The mint was too overpowering.

Two macarons each was enough to give us a decent sugar headache so we decided to move on to other desserts. We snatched up a pine and mint splice ($5) as it went past as it seemed like a nice palate cleanser.

It consisted of pineapple mousse, biscuit crumbs, mint-scented whipped cream and rum-soaked pineapple pieces. It wasn’t bad but it was very sweet and the pineapple was a little too boozy. It wasn’t quite the palate cleanser I had been looking for. I know it’s not really practical when it’s on a dessert train, but it would have been nice if the mousse was a sorbet instead.

By this stage we were struggling with the amount of sugar in our systems and most of the rich, chocolatey desserts going past just looked like too much. Eventually after much deliberation we settled for the ‘violet crunchie’, $6.

This consisted of two dollops of mousse honey flavoured mousse a little bit of violet cream. The mousse was garnished with a shard of chocolate and a small piece of honeycomb.

The honey mousse was nice but again very sweet. The violet mousse wasn’t bad but it kind of made me feel like I was eating soap. The two flavours worked well together, much better than they did on their own.

The accompanying honeycomb wasn’t that great as the moisture of the mousse had caused it to weep sugar syrup and lose its crunch somewhat. I would have preferred a biscuit, some nuts or crumble or something to provide a better texture variation to the mousse and help counteract the sweetness. The shard of dark chocolate, while adding visual appeal, was just too rich and strong for the rest of the dessert.

The verdict

The dessert train is another one of those things that you have to do just to say you’ve done it – it’s a cute idea, but I’m not sure how well it works in practice. The variety of non-macaron desserts on the train was pretty poor and the ones we had were a bit sad-looking and not much to shout about. It’s a shame that none of the cakes from the patisserie were available on the train.

If I lived in Sydney I probably wouldn’t bother with the train, I would just get the macarons to take away. Especially those popcorn ones.

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