The 80s were a time of excess: big money, big shoulders and gravity-defying hair. Dinner parties were synonymous with shrimp cocktails and beef stroganoff and desserts were of the creamy, sugar-coated variety. There were brandy snaps and parfait to impress your guests, and pavlova to bring the family together. Two decades on, we are seeing these classics appear in some of the best restaurants in town. Menus now have a nostalgic bend and are celebrating the classics, while enhancing them with new flavour combinations. We are being transported back to the era when leg warmers were cool and guys yearned for Simon Le Bon's hair.
Is this part of the return to simple comfort food? Because it seems diners are flocking to their old-time favourite foods, including desserts. There is an enduring popularity of sweets that once made us happy. We’ve found some stand-out options.
Neil Perry's Rockpool Bar and Grill is a fine choice to start with. Based in Crown Melbourne, this restaurant has fancy steakhouse aspirations and makes for an impressive entrance, in full view of the dessert pass. Reinvented classics include the Pineapple Rum Granita with Brandy Snaps, a Passionfruit Pavlova and a Coconut Macaron and Custard Apple Ice-Cream Sandwich.
Tucked under the Adelphi Hotel on Flinders Lane lies Ezard- a restaurant that is quintessentially Melbourne. It's stylish, refined and a little bit underground. The desserts are delicate flavour combinations, but one that might transport you to your childhood is the Duo of Pear and Caramel Parfait, Passionfruit Syrup and Salted Popcorn.
Residing in the enclave of Gertrude Street, Fitzroy is Cutler & Co.. The restaurant runs a slick operation and you can sit up at the front bar just for dessert. The menu features a range of these but the Chocolate Ice-cream Sandwich with Vanilla Parfait and Salted Caramel is a real treat. On the plate it resembles a lamington although not as dense, and is rich and bittersweet with a sprinkling of salt in the caramel.
Down the road in North Fitzroy lies Matteo's, a Melbourne institution that offers sweet relief from the bustle of Brunswick Street. A degree of retro reigns over the menu, including the classic ice-cream icon the Golden Gaytime. It is plated up as a recreation under the skillful mastery of head chef Brendan McQueen, and presented as a honeycomb-crumbed toffee and vanilla ice-cream terrine with a biscuit posing as the stick. It's a fine rendition of a classic and a perfect parting note.
Sweet dreams are really made of these.
Rockpool Bar and Grill
8 Whiteman Street, Southbank
(03) 8648 1900
Ezard at Adelphi
187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
(03) 9639 6811
Cutler & Co
55-57 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9419 4888
533 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North
(03) 9481 1177