When the who’s who of the culinary world peddles an of-the-moment dish on their menu, it’s safe to say that the transition from food fad to food fixture is at least well on the way. Right now, salted caramel is on the cusp of becoming an essential component of the Melbourne food scene, its contradictory but oh-so-addictive flavour celebrated in restaurants, cafes, patisseries and ice-cream parlours around town. Not since the advent of macarons have we embraced a sugary addition to our diet with such gusto, and in celebration of the fact, we’ve taken a stroll through the city streets to discover who’s putting this tasty concoction to best use.
The revamped Hamer Hall has barely opened its doors and already its dessert menu is taking the salted caramel movement to the next level. Trocadero head chef Nick Bennett's caramel cooked cream is served in a tumbler, allowing diners to marvel at the stratum of sweetness before diving in with a spoon. From the ground up, you have a light cream base followed by a sticky layer of honeyed cooked pear, chocolate ganache and toasted pine nuts, all topped with a salty deposit of blitzed popcorn.
Hamer Hall, Arts Centre, Melbourne
(03) 8698 8888
La Petite Crêperie
This small street-side stand packs a punch with its homemade salted caramel crêpe. Served in a paper cone, it’s surprisingly unsickly, despite the gooey layer of caramel heaped upon the base as it bubbles atop the hot plate. For an authentic French experience, chew off the crunchy top and delve into the soft, aromatic interior. Or if you’re looking for some serious slurping action, nibble from the bottom and let the juices flow.
Corner Little Collins and Swanston Streets, Melbourne
0404 002 341
Freddo’s out of a job now that his salted-caramel cousin has found a home on the shelves of this gift and produce store on Degraves Street. Tad Lombardo, head chocolatier at Cioccolato Lombardo, has created an über-rich artisan chocolate frog with a fluid caramel centre that exudes the faintest hint of salt. It’s hard to deny the salted caramel combination at the best of times, but with chocolate added into the mix, no sweet tooth stands a chance.
7 Degraves Street, Melbourne
(03) 9639 2681
Forget breakfast at Tiffany’s next door, the Lindt Chocolate Café on Collins Street serves a caramel macaron – a crisp outer shell balanced by a milk chocolate cream filling – that’s perfect for morning tea, afternoon tea or any meal in between. Some days (yes, multiple visits will be necessary) the taste of pink Murray River salt is stronger than others, with the occasional crunch inciting eye-closing moments of bliss.
271 Collins Street, Melbourne
(03) 9667 0900
Don’t let appearances be deceiving: while it may lack the pizzazz of its red velvet neighbour, and portray an uncanny resemblance to the humble chocolate cupcake, the mini salted caramel option here offers much more than meets the eye. Housed within is a rich and toffee-like taste – one bite and it's gone.
7 Degraves Street, Melbourne
(03) 9077 0413
You’ve queued in the stairwell of this Mexican institution for hours, had your fill of tacos and corn on the cob, but aren’t quite ready to vacate your seat. Mamasita’s sweet corn ice cream cone with caramel popcorn might be just what you need: a fun and not-too-heavy means to complete the meal and get your daily dose of salted caramel.
Level 1/11 Collins Street, Melbourne
(03) 9650 3821
Le Petit Gâteau
Born and raised in France, pastry chef Pierrick Boyer is no stranger to salted caramel, having first tested the combination when gobbling the flavoured sweet as bon bons as a child. Now, his salted caramel buns, made by request only, are the talk of the town. A choux pastry exterior topped with white chocolate fondant and a dark chocolate square encircles buttery Maldon-salted vanilla caramel custard, which oozes decadently when pillaged with a fork. Thankfully, according to Boyer, the flavour is here to stay. “It’s a classic,” he says. “It’s just a matter of finding the right balance of flavours.”
458 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
(03) 9944 8893