It’s no secret I love dessert. Well really I love food in general but I can’t help but get excited over all things sweet. Desserts have the power to recall moments of the past, to elicit longings and nostalgia. They can comfort, excite and entice us on good and bad days.
So when Marnee (owner and creative genius behind Inglewood hotspot Sugar & Nice) and Brendan Owens (pastry chef from Rockpool) announced that they would be holding their first dessert degustation and needed some guinea pigs, I was pretty quick to put my hand up and happily declare I’d be coming. And because dessert is best shared with others, I roped in my friends and fellow foodies Bryony from Perth Eats and Carly from Perth Munchkin.
Arriving promptly at 6.30pm on the Sunday night, we entered the normally bright and airy cafe and were greeted by a glass of sparkling wine. The lighting was dim and intimate, the tables pushed together into a long table.
Sugar was wafting in the air, and along the table were eager food lovers and (I loved seeing this) some of the Sugar & Nice staff who were being treated to a night off. It made for great conversation and excitement as we all indulged in dish after dish.
The first was a playful reincarnation of some childhood flavours. A soft brown powder was a mystery to us all until we spooned it into our mouths and it reconstituted back into something recognisable… Nutella! It was so silky and just slid down our throats with each mouthful.
Alongside it was a silky peanut butter jelly (how have I never had PB jelly before?!) topped with jam and crunchy pearls. Texture – tick. Flavour – tick!
It wouldn’t be a Sugar & Nice, Brendan Owens collaboration without donuts – and what a wonderful dish! A fresh as anything donut with apple, cream and a sweet powdery version of crumble. I couldn’t tell you what went in half the dishes we ate on this night because my eyes were too busy already starting to eat!
This was one of my favourite courses for the night, and I really enjoyed taking my time to savour each bite. It’s rare you get a donut this fresh! I’m not surprised that the girls at Sugar & Nice call Brendan Mr Donut after eating this.
We all excitedly jumped up to watch them plate our third course for the evening, which was another real standout. Miso caramel, chocolate ganache, chocolate crumb, ice-cream… oh god there’s so many other textures and flavours here I can’t remember but it was their rather complex ode to a Twix bar.
Miso caramel is something I’m starting to see more and more lately, and I just love it. You get that umami smack which injects some saltiness and savouriness to offset the risk of things being too sweet.
But in saying that, I think real credit needs to be given to Brendan and Marnee for their deft hands at being so restrained with sugar in their dishes. Everything was clearly identifiable as dessert – but not one dish was too sweet or cloying in the least. It meant that we were able to eat and eat (and eat) without feeling overly sugared or sickly.
Another favourite dish was a clever injection of flavours and ingredients. When I say I love dessert, it’s closely followed by cheese and so you can only imagine just how buggy my eyes got when I saw this. A generous wedge of Brillat-Savarin cheese sat on the board, with the soft insides oozing out onto the board. I’ve tried this before at Simon Johnson, and the white mould rind triple cream brie is just heavenly.
Super creamy, slightly chalky and oh so rich you just want to dive into the middle of it – it’s everything you could ask for. I loved that they served it with soda charged fruits which were tingly and brought some sweetness and freshness into each bite.
But what really sold this dish for me was the inventive ‘bread’ component – the sweet palmiers which are like crack to eat. Crunchy, sticky and just the perfect companion… I have to admit I was staring at the others plates to see if anyone couldn’t finish so I could happily sub in… Not that anyone was willing to waste a bite!
Our second last course was a dedication to chicken and waffles. First off – most breakfast joints in Perth could really take a page out of their book to learn what a great waffle really is. Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and most importantly light. It’s surprising how often places are unable to nail waffles, and so I was really happy when I took my first bite of this.
The dark chocolate ice-cream on top for me was too overpowering and perhaps a bit too large a serving. I liked the idea of it, but the strength of that cocoa took over the other ingredients and didn’t let them shine.
The crispy chicken skin was a fun addition, and nice and crunchy. I would have liked a bit more of this – or maybe something else savoury to cut through the richness of the dish to lift it. I did like that there were jugs of maple syrup on hand to pour over the top at your own leisure. An enjoyable dish, but it was definitely my least preferred for the night.
When our final dish was placed on the table, I have to admit I was slightly worried. Jaffa is definitely not a flavour combination I gravitate toward. But I shouldn’t have even been concerned for a second, this was a flavour bomb and another favourite.
Chocolate pashmak (fairy floss), chocolate soil and a zingy, refreshing and perfectly executed mandarin sorbet. Now mandarin is definitely a flavour I adore, and this one screamed with intensity – I’d happily take home a container of this and sit on the couch slowly indulging in spoonful after spoonful.
It was an excellent palate cleanser and wonderful flavour note to finish on for the evening.
I definitely recommend you checking out Sugar & Nice’s dessert degustations when they launch officially. At $90.00 per person they’re a much more affordable version than other venues I’ve seen around town – and there’s a great combination of techniques, ingredients and flavours. And since this was their trial run, they’ll be refining and growing to make this even more of a special event.
Love desserts? Then this is definitely for you.