If you haven’t heard of Lune Croissanterie, you have to give back your foodie badge. The New York Times ran an article on them, suggesting that they might produce the world’s best croissants. If you live in Melbourne and you haven’t been there, you are missing out. The lineup as soon as they open on the five days a week they are open (it used to be only Thursday to Sunday, but they have started opening on Monday as well as of a couple of months ago) would indicate that many people are not.
You do need to be prepared to queue up. The line usually snakes out of the black brick warehouse-like building onto the sidewalk. Before they moved to the larger Fitzroy location, people used to have to queue up hours before the shop opened to have a chance at getting their hands on the pastries. Now, you’ll usually manage to get one of their flaky delights if you get there before midday. You will have missed out on their full range though, as the more interesting options sell out well before then.
While you’re waiting in line and looking enviously at people walking out with their brown boxes and bags, the smell of butter and baking pastry wafts out, making the wait just that bit more excruciating. Fortunately they have this sussed out, and as you’re waiting, one of the staff makes their way down the line taking coffee orders.
Inching through the glass door gets you a glimpse of the interior, a large open space with a red brick interior and polished concrete floors. There are high ceilings with exposed wooden rafters, and daylight streams in through the glass windows. At the periphery of that cavernous, museum-like space are benches for people to sit at and eat.
At the heart of it, beyind the serving counters, is a room walled with glass, with lights in a starburst pattern above it. This is the Cube. This is where magic happens, and butter and flour are transformed into what will be multiply-laminated treasures. While you’re waiting, or while you’re eating if you manage to get yourself a seat at the polymer concrete counter at the side, you can watch them roll out and shape the dough that will, in days, become those much-desired croissants or cruffins.
The line progresses fairly efficiently, and soon enough, your turn will come. Depending on when you get there, you will either have a long or short lineup of the remaining available pastries sitting on the concrete counter for you to choose from. I’m not sure if they’ll sell you the display one if it is the last one of its kind and you are really desperate.. It is a very clean, uncluttered setup as well, with the row of pastries, a small single word description in front of them, tablets for them to take your orders on, and a handheld credit card machine. There is no cash register, no pamphlets, no unnecessary things on that surface.
After you have made your selection, you wait a little off to the side, and not long later, they bring you either a brown paper bag, or their cleverly-designed box, filled with your goods. Which one you get depends on how many of the pastries you buy. The paper bag used to have a black label embossed with their signature rocket, but on our return visit, they just had plain paper bags, and less sturdy ones.
The box, as mentioned, is cleverly designed. It has “Lune” boldly printed across the top, and slits cut into it in a radiant starburst pattern, echoing the lights above the glass cube. Through those, you can catch glimpses of the precious pastries within, and hints of the buttery scent drift out. At the front of the box, where you pull out the flap to open it, is a semi-circular cutaway that provides you a hand-hold, is reminiscent of a rising moon on the horizon, and reveals their rocket logo. It definitely gets attention when you’re out and about, and we were stopped by a few people as we were walking through the neighbourhood afterwards, who asked what was in the box and how to get to the croissanterie.
After you have collected your goods, you can just take them away to wherever you are going, or find a space either at the bench seats along the wall or at the counter off to the side of the glass cube, and enjoy them at their maximal freshness. At the island counter where the espresso machine is, and just in front of it, are stacks of plates and serviettes, so you don’t make too much of a mess trying to eat the flaky pastries out of a paper bag.. There is also a tap that dispenses carbonated water (definitely a Melbourne thing), and short, squat little tumblers for you to have it in.
It’s as much timing as patience, but we managed to get counter seats each time we visited, and perched on those tall bar-height wire block seats, watching the bakers at their craft in the glass box. It is a nicely lighted area as well, which helps with the photo-taking.
Through the times we were there, we managed to try their original croissant, the almond croissant, the coconut pandan croissant, the black forest cruffin, and the pain au chocolat.
Their original croissant shows off their skill in simple, unadulterated fashion. It is surprisingly light when you pick it up, but that is part of the art. It has a thin, crisp outer layer that shatters into a shower of flakes when you bite into it, or are brave enough to try to cut it. Inside are soft, tissue layers of buttery pastry, with remarkable rise and loft between them. This is what a croissant is meant to be like. You will never be able to even contemplate a supermarket croissant again. Even those in most cafes will look anaemic. You could justify eating a few of these croissants. Surely a significant proportion of it is air, so doesn’t count.. Be prepared to get messy though.
Lune was also where the cruffin was first created, a fusion of a croissant and a muffin. Layered, but not quite as crunchy or flaky, they are often have indulgent fillings through their centre, as well as toppings. Unlike Dominique Ansel, they don’t seem to be slapping lawsuits on everyone else who has copied their idea. Having tried cruffins elsewhere, and being a bit underwhelmed, we thought we should test the original.
We had the Black Forest cruffin. In the heart of the twisted pastry was a dense chocolate mousse-like cream, with possibly a hint of berry. On the top was more cream. As mentioned, while it was made up of thin pastry layers, it didn’t have the crispness or lightness of a croissant. This is probably because of the way it is baked in the pan mould, which restricts the ability of the dough to expand and rise, so the layers can’t separate as well. Given the choice, I would preferentially pick their croissants.
On that note, their twice baked croissants are croissants on steroids. Depending on which variant you get, they can cost twice as much as the plain croissants, but after you’ve had one, you will see why they are more than just a couple of dollars more.
The Almond croissant was the first of the twice baked croissants we tried. It is surprisingly dense, with a heft that belies its size. Its top is studded with an impressive density of flaked almonds, giving it the appearance of a furious mutant hedgehog. The layer of almond crumb beneath that is baked to an almost cookie consistency, providing a crumbly crunch, in addition to what the croissant pastry already provides. There is a sweetened almond paste inside the halved croissant, which also makes the centre of the croissant soft. The outside and ends remain crunchy though. It is a clever combination of textures, and undoubtedly almond. Every other almond croissant you see after this will be but a pale shadow.
On another trip, we managed to get the Coconut pandan croissant before it sold out. This was not quite as exuberantly decorated with almonds, and looked more like a bedraggled stegosaurus. This too retained crispness, particularly at the ends. The filling on the inside was smooth and coconutty, with the pandan aroma coming on more as the aftertaste than immediately. It was sweeter than the Almond croissant, without being too much so.
The Pain au chocolat had many lovely, flaky layers. The outer skin was glossy and crisp, and the inner layers were buttery, and pulled apart nicely. There wasn’t, however, as much chocolate in it as we would have liked, just a couple of trails through the middle.
Waitstaff were professional and efficient, getting people their orders quickly, and clearing plates and tables soon after customers left so that others could take those seats.
Lune Croissanterie definitely goes on the Must Visit list. Their dedication to their craft shows in the excellence of their croissants. The original croissant and the almond croissant in particular, are items I highly recommend. Just be warned though, that it will ruin almost every croissant you will ever have afterwards because you won’t be able to help comparing them.
Price point: Original croissant $5.50. Twice baked croissants $8.50 to $11. Cruffins $7 to $7.50. Pain au chocolat $6.
Value: Excellent for some items. (Get as many of the original croissants as you can carry and eat within two days. Longer, and they taste more ordinary.) Variable for others.
Address: 119 Rose St, Fitzroy
Phone: 03 9419 2320
Website: Lune Coissanterie (also very cool.)