Take a weekend escapade to a leafy mountain township, to take cake and tea in an immersive French cafe.
Along the main road that marches upwards in a spiral around Mount Dandenong, cutting through the small township of Sassafras, Cafe de Beaumarchais presents an unassuming frontage. A little walk away from the strictly-for-the-gullible-tourist magnet of Miss Marples Tea Rooms, it is an immersive space — one part French country house, another part beguiling French boudoir.
Seating is arranged intimately, rustic metals and woods and elegant marble topped tables. Walls are alternatively painted noir and then navy floral filigreed wall paper, overlaid with vintage portraiture and gold gilded ornaments. Chandeliers of honeyed amber and gothic black crystal glint in the natural light that pours through the long front windows.
Towards the back of the cafe, sapphire velvet chaises are arranged for a dainty afternoon tea seating. Open shelves are festooned with silver plated candlelabras, white ceramics, bags of coffee beans and jars of gourmet preserves. The service rendered complements the gracious setting, distinguishing Cafe de Beaumarchais twofold from the warehouse decor and lackadaisical attitude found at far too many Melbourne cafes.
Cafe de Beaumarchais’ menu sketches through simply breakfast fare (think, toast, croissants, muesli) and light lunches (baguettes, quiches, flans). MoMo & Coco sampled two different flans ($11.95 each): a caramelised onion and chive, and a roast capsicum and goats cheese, garlanded by a small, well-dressed garden salad. A generous platter of charcuterie served with dips, Turkish bread and baguette slices ($18.95) also appealed, but we tightened our resolve against it…for the sweet irresistibles of Cafe de Beaumarchais.
Cleverly positioned at the counter, a jubilee of cakes clamoured for MoMo & Coco’s attention. The wide array departed from the over-the-top puzzling complexity characterising recently-opened “cake” stores (eg, Burch & Purchese) and also the lacklustre fare of most other cafes (MoMo & Coco believes muffins should be banned). Instead, made off-site but delivered daily, within a reasonable $3.5-4.00 for the smaller varieties to $6.00-7.00 for the slices, Cafe de Beaumarchais’ cakes referenced traditional English cakes of the type perfect for chilly weather (bread and butter, rhubarb crumble, lumberjack) and glided to lighter sweeter fare of lemon tarts, baklava blocks, orange pistachio slices, iced cupcakes and chocolate cake cups. There were also gluten free options, shortbreads, croissants and pain au chocolates. And, macarons, of the luridly coloured, morbidly obese variety.
With some restraint, MoMo & Coco selected five different cakes, and purchased a full set of macarons for what proved to be a glorious afternoon tea that Saturday in Sassafras. The cakes were served warm and on delicate vintage crystal platters, perfectly matching its french glamour setting. The first cake, the Lumberjack ($6.50) was a rich dark beauty, resplendently moist with dates and plums, wearing a wig of toasted coconut flakes.
Heralding in the spring season, the second cake sampled was the Mango and Passionfruit Syrup Cake ($6.00), a sunny pillow of exceedingly sweet semolina dreams. The slight acidity of the passionfruit syrup cut through the cloying mango tendrils, and the semolina base held no harsh grainy texture, light and fluffy.
The Pistachio Blossom Cupcake ($5.00) was an ugly little green smurf, lacking any beauty of symmetry in appearance. However, married here with a note of rose weaving through a gluten-free base, it swept us up in a Persian dream, smoting our general lack of desire for most things pistachio.
MoMo & Coco were especially besotted with the Lindt White Chocolate and Raspberry Cup ($6.00), and its chocolate counterpart (see below). It was a rhapsody of everything that a cake should be — a cake, not a mousse (unlike Burch & Purchese). Moist, not dry. Flavoursome, not insipid. Sweet, not saccharine. Cafe de Beaumarchais’ white chocolate version combined morsels of raspberries and a hint of delicate rose in a hard frosted cap of icing.
The Lindt Chocolate, Almond and Raspberry Cups ($6.00) was a gluten-free, delectably decadent chocolate wonder.
Cafe de Beaumarchais is a stockist of Macaron de Paris macarons, an external macaron specialist supplier, whose macarons may also be found at the South Melbourne Market. There are ten in variety ($2.90 each). From Cafe de Beaumarchais, MoMo & Coco greedily purchased one of each to take away home, much to the sorrow of a few cafe patrons after us. Apologies!
The French Vanilla Macaron is moderately flavoured, with a smudge of jam. We love Cacao’s vanilla version better though.
The Cafe Mocha Macaron is endowed with the aromatics of a decidely strong espresso.
The Dark Chocolate Macaron poses a formidable challenge to La Belle Miette’s dark chocolate interpretation.
The Caramel Salé Macaron is inclined towards a sweet caramel, rather than a more appropriately salty rendition. No matter, it yields a distinctively buttery smooth ganache filling that is quite exquisite.
The Rose Turkish Delight Macaron is a rose-tinged, rose-scented beauty, with even the ganache filling possessing a slightly gelatinous texture characteristic of its namesake irresistible. It is quickly added to MoMo & Coco’s favourite macaron list.
The Summer Berry Macaron is very, berry beautiful. Nothing more need be said.
The Strawberry Macaron is the first strawberry macaron that MoMo & Coco have sampled which does not have an artificial strawberry taste. A definitive success, and another to our favourite list.
The Creme Brulee Macaron will be long remembered. If the best of La Belle Miette is the Rasberry Ganache (see here), the best of Cacao is the Violet and Cassis (see here), the best of Cafe de Beaumarchais is this. Its outer shells are mottled brown with a sticky caramel glaze, swept with a flame torch to blacken the meringue discs. The filling is a stable firm custard with an exquisitely true creme brulee flavour.
The Cointreau Orange Chocolate Macaron reminded us of a cat-eye marble. Its thick chocolate ganache filling rapidly neutralised any orange notes.
The Bubblegum Macaron is the first of its kind. Nostalgically evocative of childhood eras, its shell was strikingly coloured with yellow and blue and a slight sparkly sheen, its flirty pink filling imparting a strong bubblegum essence. It was a divisive little fruit-loop-like round critter though, either shockingly delightful or categorised as an acquired taste.
For those who dislike soft mushy macarons, the Macaron de Paris macarons stocked at Cafe de Beaumarchais are worthy of a trip to leafy Sassafras. Otherwise, the cakes at Cafe de Beaumarchais are sure to attract greater universal appeal.
- In terms of appearance – Cafe de Beaumarchais’ macarons are morbidly obese bulbous big babies, literal burgers of the 21st century bourgeois as we have labelled macarons before (here, here, here). However, they do generally suffer from “appearance injuries.” In this sampling, a few contained large hollow air pockets encased within their meringue discs, often sustained when macarons are baked at too low temperatures for too long. Others lacked symmetry in formation, with lop-sided shells. Conversely, slightly too high temperatures are usually the cause of these problems.
- In terms of taste – If La Belle Miette can be beaten, it is perhaps in this category. Like Cacao, Cafe de Beaumarchais’ macarons are high-powered, vibrantly flavoursome. None are insipdly-flavoured, all-sugar mediocre messes commonly found elsewhere. The ganache filling of each macaron is the most generous of all the macarons MoMo & Coco have tasted, and also imbibed with some of the most genuine of flavours (note especially the Mocha Coffee and Strawberry macaron). A few are brilliantly innovative — the Turkish Delight, Creme Brulee, and the Bubblegum macarons especially.
- In terms of texture – The weakest link of Cafe de Beaumarchais’ macarons is texture. While there is the desired airiness and a slight chewyness, Cafe de Beaumarchais’ macarons tend to be overly crunchy. However, this increased crunchy texture finds a natural, and indeed ideal complement with the very generous soft ganache fillings of the macarons.
- With regards to maturation – “Maturation” (ie allowing to stand for a day or so, or refrigerate for a few hours) is not necessary. Cafe de Beaumarchais’s macarons may be eaten on the day of purchase. MoMo & Coco however also note that they last far longer than macarons from other places that tend to disintegrate into soggy messes after a day or so — their distinctive crunchy texture softens after a few days, but still maintains its airy disposition and strong flavours.
Cafe de Beaumarchais is the cafe cum cake shop that Melbourne has been wringing its hands for. It’s not your usual hipster or otherwise pretentious hang-out that focuses solely on coffee to the detriment of where both decor and food become spartan afterthoughts. By contrast, Cafe de Beaumarchais is an all-rounder beauty — consistently friendly and focused service, a simple menu complemented with simple but mouthwatering cakes, pastries and other sweet irresistibles, all enclosed within a beautifully decked-out French nook secluded in the hills of Mount Dandenong. For a decadent morning or afternoon tea at a non-decadent price, it comes with our highest recommendation.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Cafe de Beaumarchais, 372 Mount Dandenong Road, Sassafras, Vic 3787.
- ☑ Budget: $-$$.
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Cakes and macarons.
- ☑ Must-eat: The “Chocolate Cups,” and the “Creme Brulee” and “Bubblegum” macarons.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: Take a weekend escapade to a leafy mountain township, to take cake and tea in an immersive French cafe.