North Essendon, VIC, 3040
Ph: (03) 9379 3815
I've recently gone to Paris for a holiday, and my three favourite things to eat were croissants, almond croissants and macarons. In the seven days that I was in Paris, I ate about 40 croissants and 30 macarons. When I was invited to Parisian Patisserie Boulangerie where their signature item was an almond croissant, I was 90% excited and 10% wary. I was thinking that I had surely tasted the best croissants possible in Paris, but I'm glad to report that a classic can be redone and still taste just as good.
Parisian Patisserie Boulangerie is located in North Essendon. It's a quaint little space and decorated in a very chic black and white decor. I love the simplicity and elegance of the place, with little touches here and there that make you smile. I couldn't help eyeing off the Pierre Herme book on the shelf and wanting to secretly take it without anyone knowing. The black and white photos of Paris were lovely and brought back so many memories of how much I loved Paris. Fresh flowers, little trinkets and ornate lighting fixtures complete both the front and back room.
Neil McKenzie, owner and head chef at Parisian, took some time out of his extremely busy day to chat with my cousin Allan and I for over an hour. We found out that Neil and wife Majella moved to Paris for 9 months, where Neil studied at Le Cordon Bleu for 6 of those months. During that time, Neil went to "every patisserie in Paris" and ate as many croissants as he could. Upon eating all those croissants, he decided to come back to Australia and perfect his own almond croissant, which he has clearly done. I asked Neil if he has plans to expand, as the business seems to be thriving. He said he's thinking of options, but he doesn't want to lose quality control over his products. Hence, mass production is currently not an option until he finds a suitable way. This is a shame for those of us living in the South Eastern 'burbs as we can't readily try Neil's amazing pastries. However, just as we were chatting, a regular patron, Steve, walks in and joins us. I love how everyone knows Neil and are like his friends. Steve starting semi joking about how he has some great ideas for Neil on how to expand. Steve himself is in the retail industry.
Just when I think it can't possibly get any more communal, Neil's wife Majella and daughter Octavia come back from acrobatics class. Octavia produdly shows us the blue ribbon that she has won for acrobatics. She was so adorable and wanted to tell us everything, from how daddy lets her bake when the shops closed, to her favourite pub (the one around the corner, for food of course), to all the shops in Bendigo. We chat with Majella about Bendigo as Allan is going there for a six week internship at the hospital. Apparently steer clear of the markets and head to the main street for some lovely food and coffee.
We all chat on and on about the fact that Neil doesn't hang around other chefs that much and is a "real bogan", loving to spend time with his family and his V8s and boats in his off time. He also recalls that he wanted to be a chef from a very early age, maybe to stop himself from starving as his adopted mum was a terrible cook, except for her beautiful Sunday roast. After reuniting with her natural mum, Neil discovers that his grandmother was a cake maker, so maybe he picked up the genes from her. We discuss more and more topics like how we would both love to meet Pierre Herme, why his macarons are the best, how Neil doesn't mind being known to his patrons and the public, how he likes to use fresh ingredients and that he loves my blog. Oh wait, ok I made that last bit up. But after talking to Neil for on an hour, I felt like I knew so much about him and his vision for his bakery. I can see why his patrons such as Steve, follow him to wherever he opens his bakery.
As for Neil's pastries, especially the almond croissant, Neil said that he uses fresh almonds and a heavier brioche base to give that required flavour and texture. He said that he had to sacrifie that lighter airier texture to have something that will hold the centre almond cream better. And oh, my, goodness, that almond croissant is heaven. The beautiful buttery pastry, the fragrant almond filling, and the crunch of the almonds sprinkled on top and the edges of the croissant. I can seriously eat 5 of those. The apricot brioche was similary amazing, with that apricot flavour really coming through. Lastly, we ate the pizza brioche, which was again so tasty. Neil was explaining that it this and that ingredient and Octavia kept cutting in asking what pesto was, what prosciutto was while all the time licking the snow sugar (sguar that doesn't melt so you get that nice frosted effect on pastries) off her custard donut. I think that she is a spitting image of Jessie from Toy Story 3 with the huge eyes and red hair, so cute. What do you think?
Neil took us on a tour of the tiny kitchen in which everything was cooked. I was so surprised as my home kitchen is bigger. And to think they pump out all those wonderful pastries from that kitchen. We deeply inhaled the beautiful aromas of sugar, butter and yeast before getting out of the chefs way. As Allan and I were leaving, we went to buy some almond croissants and other pastries to take home, but they were ALL GONE. In the hour and a half that we had been sitting there, so many patrons had come in and bought the store clean. Booo. I wanted to buy four almond croissants, strawberry tart, lemon tart, apricot brioche etc. The only things left were some macarons, and the waiter kindly gave us some to take home after seeing our sad faces. The macarons lasted as far as two steps outside the shop, where I inhaled the pistachio one (quite good) and Allan ate the Rose, Lemon and Hazelnut (all pretty good he informs me).
We had a fantastic time at Parisian and only wished that we lived closer so could go more often. Neil, Majella and Octavia were a delight to get to know and the pastries were stunningly delicious.
EDIT: I asked my cousin Allan to guest blog occasionally and he decided to start on this post, so below is his opinions of Parisian.
A 24 year old Melbourne-born food lover, who’s always hungry and is therefore always seeking to eat! Has a rather Asian palate, but has a growing zeal for all ‘walks of food’. Please excuse my conversational style, msn-influenced and sometimes analytical expression. I’ll try my best to write with convention, be decipherable, and hopefully shed a little light from a different slant. And, many thanks to Thanh for inviting me to be a guest blogger on I Eat Therefore I Am.
Parisian Patisserie – indulging my butter senses!
Croissants d'amande (almond) – had a slightly crispy shell with a divine light texture. It is a little different from your average flaky croissant, err-ing slightly on cake-like, just heavy enough to keep the almonds from sagging in like a biscuit. The subtle aromas of unsalted butter (sourced locally of course) and beloved custard filling were marvellous – tis heaven!!!
Brioches d'abricot et d'amande (apricot) – had an almost airy bouyancy about it. Made with heaps of butter & eggs, with a little apricot tart'ness – I had one bite after the next, all the while Neil & Thanh were conversing away. I just couldn’t help myself: Eat first, talk later!
Brioche savoury pizza - a savoury brioche, to my surprise a delight on the tastebuds. The base had the fluffy brioche texture, contrasted by an explosion of flavours from the savoury pesto and prosciutto.
Macarons (lemon, pistachio, rose water, hazelnut) – fantastic flavours, slightly chewy middle with a delicately crunchy shell.
It was a pleasure speaking with Neil, Majella & Octavia - they were incredibly welcoming. My only regret was not being able to sink my teeth into every piece of pastry, and bathing my tastebuds in its awesome’ness (great English, haha). P.S. I did take photos, but maybe save them for next time, one set for one place is enough. Though I must say, one can never salivate too much over delicious food.
Food: 17.5/20 will definitely be back for more!!
Service: super welcoming & unpretentious.
Thanks to Eugiena Pratley from Harvey Publicity for the invite and to Neil, Majella and Octavia for entertaining and feeding Allan and myself.
For even more photos and detailed reviews of the pastries, see my fellow Melbournian food bloggers posts below.
Iron Chef Shellie
Off The Spork