If you like high tea then shoot down the rabbit hole into the Adriano Zumbo-created dessert wonderland called Fancy Nance.
Fancy Nance is this famous patissier’s new high tea salon that’s named after his mother, Nancy. It occupies the site behind his eponymous patisserie on Claremont Street and is the former premises of George Calombaris’ Mama Baba and Manu Fiedel’s short-lived Le Grand Cirque.
Can another celebrity chef make a go of this site?
Based on the spectacular high tea I tried today, I hope so. This is high tea unlike anything I’ve tried in Melbourne.
The setting is quite unique. The space is cavernous and the industrial framework can be quite cold (literally and figuratively). But the designers have carved up the centre into cosy plush booths to give it a bit of warmth. There’s a sleek brass cocktail bar with chic brass detailing once the venue opens in the evening.
Both ends of the room are book-ended by exuberant, psychedelic Alice-in-Wonderland inspired street art and you can watch the long open kitchen at work preparing your delicacies.
There’s no traditional three-tiered stand. Instead, you’re given three choices – $65 for twelve course degustation of sweets and savouries, $45 for seven mini savoury and sweet courses or scones with jam plus tea, coffee or hot chocolate for $15.
The courses come one after the other…and dessert comes first. I don’t have a problem eating dessert in any order during a meal but I did think it was curious…so I asked a waitress why the topsy-turvy approach. Apparently it’s just the way Zumbo likes to do it and in a traditional three-tier stand going from top to bottom you’d start off with sweets.
The ingredient combinations and attention to detail in presentation is quite stunning. Not everything was too my taste but 10 points for creativity!
To give you a rundown of the current menu:
Linzer cake with vanilla chantilly, grapefruit with white chocolate ganache, olive oil and shizo and a tube layered with passionfruit curd, lemongrass pannacotta, lime tapioca and coconut espuma.
Choux bun covered in freeze-dried cherries and filled with…tarragon ice cream.
The dish is an wow-inspiring colour bomb but I can’t say I loved the savoury, anise flavour of the filling.
A deconstructed apple pie with a cinnamon marshmallow and sorrel leaf plus Zumbo’s signature macarons (or as he calls them, zumbarons).
There’s a reason these macarons are famous – the texture is just perfect, with a crispy-shelled but still moist biscuit sandwiching a not-too-sweet ganache. It also comes nestled on top of a WHOLE BOWL of chocolate beads which you can dig into at leisure!
The one concession to tradition – the scone – was perfect too, fluffy and light. [spoiler] What no one warned me about was that one of the jams was capsicum! I actually quite liked the unexpected peppery flavour and I worked out that one of the ‘creams’ was actually a whipped ricotta. The other jam is sweet (cranberry) and you can pair that with double cream…or cheese if you so wish!
The pastries are a segue into the savoury courses, with a petite pain au chocolat, a raspberry and coconut danish and a tartlet with caramelised olives and topped with smoked ricotta.
The traditional smoked salmon finger sandwich is turned into a cured salmon, crunchy rye, slices of fresh apple and creme fraiche. The other ‘sandwich’ is melting pork rillette inside a salt-flecked pretzel turned into a bun shape!
The final course is a cube of osso bucco decorated with delicate pea shoots.
I really enjoyed my high tea at Fancy Nance. Their version of high tea is a playful take on an old tradition and you’ll be surprised at every turn. Given the menu changes periodically I can’t wait go down the rabbit hole again! Later the small space at the front will become a cafe and patisserie called ‘Little Frankie’.