Last updated on July 13, 2016
Bibelot is one of the heavyweight fine dessert destinations of Melbourne. This wasn’t our first trip there, but it definitely deserves its own entry on the blog. It is an offshoot from Chez Dre next door, which used to have a selection of the intricate cakes under glass at the counter. The popularity of its sweets led to the dessert section taking on a life of its own, budding into Bibelot.
On the hunt for late afternoon food on a Sunday (why are so few places open after 4pm?), this turned up as one of the available options. Who were we to argue with that recommendation?
The front of the cafe is floor to ceiling glass windows, so passers-by can be tempted by the treats within. Once through the glass doors, two things catch your attention. The shelves filled with chocolate products (that may actually count as many things), and the long service counter, with taps that dispense chocolate at one end, leading on to the display of available cakes as you progress down it.
The chocolate taps aren’t, unfortunately, DIY, but provide the chocolate topping for gelati, of which there is a changing list of available flavours in the wall. Some may also go into the chocolate drinks, but we didn’t see that.
The cafe has warm lighting, and light wood floors. The high ceilings give it a sense of space. The dining area has smart black chairs and tabletops. Along the side walls and right in the centre of the floorspace are emerald green booth seats, adding a punch of colour that is striking without being garish. One of the walls is tiled in fine black and white zigzag patterns. This fine detailed pattern is also present on the sign at the front of the cafe (behind those chocolate taps), and echoes the attention to detail in their pastries.
Relaxed jazz was playing softly in the background, and altogether the cafe had an air of sophistication without being stuffy, which I suspect was their intent.
It was fairly easy to decide what to order, as by late on this Sunday afternoon, the cake cabinet was mostly empty. So we just had one of each of the Petits Gateaux (little cakes) left, which were the Peaches and Cream, the Lemon and Basil cheesecake, and the Chocolate-Blackcurrant Tart.
For drinks to go with the cakes, we had a flat white, a Peruvian Cacao Tea, and the Golden Grind.
The flat white..was an alright flat white.
The Peruvian Cacao Tea was written up as having notes of fresh cherry and malty spice, with aromas of chocolate and citrus. It did smell of cocoa, and tasted faintly of it, but the other flavours were missing. As a result, it was like a runny, weak hot chocolate.
The Golden Grind was a latte with tumeric, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper. Tumeric lattes seem to be all the rage now, purportedly with anti-inflammatory and other magically health-promoting properties. In this instance, it was ordered to have something that wasn’t coffee, wasn’t tea, and wasn’t too sweet. It had an almost banana-yellow colour. It was gingery, with a cinnamon aroma, and peppery heat. The main flavour in it was ginger, rather than tumeric.
The gateaux then arrived, all three served on a long wooden board. While it made for a pretty presentation, the waitstaff had never actually asked if we intended to share the cakes. It was a good thing we had planned to, but even then, it was not really convenient to reach across the table to get a slice of the cake on the other end of the board from you, and given the length of the board and all the other things also on the table, turning the board around (and also avoiding tipping anything off it) was an unwieldy exercise. It all would have been easier to manage if each cake was on its own little dish.
The Peaches and Cream gateaux had peach gelee, raspberry compote, white peach mousse, sesame praline, and almond dacquoise. It was a blush-coloured cake with an almost panna cotta-like soft, creamy texture. The white peach mousse had a subtle flavour. There was a thin, fruity layer of peach gelee on top. In the centre was the raspberry compote, which was slightly sweet, rather than tart. It had a tempered white chocolate curl on top of it, giving the presentation height, and also contributing a crunch element. At the base were the sesame praline and the almond dacquoise, imparting a nutty flavour.
The Lemon Basil Cheesecake had lemon white chocolate and cream cheese mousse, lemon creme, basil-olive oil biscuit, almond sable, and basil cremeaux. The cheesecake was light and fluffy, and mildly lemony. The basil cake in the centre had a fine crumb, and had the colour of basil, but didn’t taste too strongly of it. The almond sable at the base was indeed like fine sand, with an almost powdery texture. The surface of the cake was sprayed with white chocolate, which gave it a light frosted appearance. There was a little teardrop-shaped tempered white chocolate on the top of the cake, and when cracked open, had a basil cream inside. This had a much stronger basil flavour than the other components, without being unpleasant. Basil isn’t a flavour one would typically associate with dessert, but it worked alright in this case.
The Chocolate-Blackcurrant Tart had blackcurrant pate de fruit, chocolate ganache, chocolate biscuit, and opalys white chocolate chantily. The white chocolate chantily on the top was like a light, sweetened cream. The chocolate mousse was also light, with a rich chocolate flavour that didn’t oversaturate you too quickly. The blackcurrant pate de fruit was like a thick jam, sweet and sour, with the balance being slightly more to the sweet side. The chocolate biscuit base was dense and solid. Altogether, the components made a nicely chocolatey mouthful, but because the chantily and the mousse were light, you didn’t feel like you were full of it too quickly.
Service was, unfortunately, one area that was lacking. Once our drinks and cakes were served, we were essentially ignored. Our water glasses were never refilled. We had to wave a lot to get attention for a refill of hot water for the tea. As mentioned, there weren’t even that many cafe patrons at the time we were there, so it wasn’t like they were flat out serving other customers. Staff were friendly and pleasant enough when we did have interactions with them, it just took more work than it should have to get to that point.
Overall, Bibelot does very fine gateaux, some with very traditional flavour combinations, some with more modern ones. Like Luxbite and Burch and Purchese, it remains a dessert favourite in Melbourne if you’re looking to impress.
Price point: Cakes (individual serving size) $9.50.
Value: Alright. How do you price cake art?
Address: 285-287 Coventry Street, South Melbourne
Phone: 03 9690 2688