Grabbing a bite to eat at a street market isn’t that extraordinary – unless your hotdog is actually an éclair and your burger is filled with ice cream. Not to mention you’re in Sydney’s Shangri La ballroom with disco lights and a DJ… Welcome to Sweet Street.
Why hang out for dessert when you can make a five-course meal of it? This is the mentality of Sydney’s high-energy pastry chef Anna Polyviou, who came up with the genius idea of dedicating an entire evening to dessert and inviting 500 guests along to enjoy it.
Teaming up with a who’s-who of pastry – LuxBite’s Bernard Chu and Yen Yee, Cacao’s Tim Clark, patissier Adriano Zumbo, Savour’s Kirsten Tibballs and N2’s Min Chuan Cha – is not usual for Anna, who collaborates regularly with her close-knit group of pâtisserie friends. What was in an entirely new league, however, was the setting.
In a break from her dessert degustations in the Shangri-La pastry kitchen, Anna transformed the hotel’s typically-classy grand ballroom into a street-market scene, complete with disco lighting, a DJ and breakdancers.
For a $55 entry fee, guests were presented with 10 “stamps” to spend on whatever treats tickled their taste buds. With each purchase generally one stamp, the night presented exceptional value-for-money, considering the vendors’ regular retail prices.
While the queues were long and personal space limited, the guests were genuinely thrilled and furiously Instagramming.
“Originally, the idea came from Bernard and Yen, who have been doing the Sugar Hit food festival for a while. I was sitting down with the two at LuxBite and we started talking about collaborating with Min from N2 as a way to bring them to Sydney, and the idea just grew and grew,” Anna said.
“I immediately wanted bring Tim into the mix because I’ve seen what he does with éclairs over at Cacao Lab. Then I envisioned Adriano taking control of the macaron side of things, with Kirsten – the queen of chocolate – setting up her chocolate garden to add to the ‘street festival’ vibe.”
For those in fear of a sweet overload, the Shangri-La also offered a savoury stand helmed by the hotel’s executive pastry chef Steven Krasicki, who spent the evening handing out chicken larb and green papaya salad, lamb skewers and plates of succulent pork on vermicelli and butter lettuce leaf.
Did those involved make a profit? No, not really. But it was never designed to make money. As Anna said, when you start making an event like this profitable it becomes more expensive for guests – and the emphasis was always on offering an attainable and memorable food experience for Sydney’s dessert lovers.
“Events like this make up-and-coming chefs get excited and want to innovate. This group of chefs has always been about collaboration, harmony and respect, and that’s something the younger generation can look up to,” she said.
“Even for me, it was such an amazing experience, such an honour, to have all these chefs in my kitchen. Kirsten was someone I looked up to and admired when I was an apprentice. Min, Bernard, Tim and Adriano have their own businesses and Bernard and Min in particular always remind me to have fun and to not take my work or myself too seriously.
“I came into the hotel to shake things up a bit, to have fun. I want to bring back the show business to the hotel industry.”
And, she’s certainly done that. Come 6pm there was standing room only and demand for a sequel has already got management putting the question out there; ‘how big can we go in 2015?’
“You know me, I always think big. But what makes an event like this such a success is the fact it’s just a bunch of people who live and breath pastry wanting to get together and have fun – and the crowd can see and feel the authenticity,” Anna said.
“This event wasn’t designed to make money, it was about generating interest in the pastry sector and getting Sydney dessert lovers excited. It’s never going to be about the money either. My dream for future Sweet Street is to become a day event for’ charity, where kids come with their parents, eat some pastries, meet the chef, get their photo taken and really just forget about their problems for a day. Then, at night, we can open it up to the public.”
FIRST STOP: Anna @ Shangri-La Hotel
Beneath the glow of a neon “show” sign, Anna and her pastries gleamed. Her team had prepared five colourful treats; salted caramel popcorn, a strawberry gel yoghurt with biscuit crunch, passionfruit and banana verrines, a mango-pineapple-passionfruit posset, and panna cotta and strawberry pavlova – and guests couldn’t get enough. With so much sugar on offer, the Asian Malaysian – a passionfruit posset with mango gel and pineapple popping pearls – came with a coconut lime doughnut and offered a refreshing counterpoint to the rest of the sweets. (See page 20 for the recipe).
“It’s named in honour of Bernard and his Malaysian background!” Anna said.
“The Banana-Rama desserts in glasses were probably the most popular, and everyone really loved the caramelised white chocolate, passionfruit and banana jam combination. We offered that one with a pop rock doughnut, which was really fun.”
SECOND STOP: Yen & Bernard @ Luxbite
Over at the LuxBite stand, colourful tarts were flying off the table; a hint at what’s to come at Bernard and Yen’s new tart shop, T By LuxBite, due to open later in the year in Melbourne.
The Endless Love tart, inspired by Pierre Hermé’s famous Ispahan, was undoubtedly LuxBite’s most popular product of the night. With lychee ganache, rose cream and fresh lychees and raspberries, the slender finger of tart was certainly hard to resist.
Known for their experimental Asian-inspired flavours, Bernard and Yen even added a Thai twist to the humble lemon tart. The Sood Tee Ruk, complete with calamansi lime curd tart with jackfruit, longan, chili salt, meringue and kaffir lime sherbert, “could be your happiest ending,” Bernard joked.
“We’re really into tarts at the moment and were surprised about just how much love there is for LuxBite in Sydney – it was unbelievable.
“It was great to collaborate with N2 for the #LuxBiteN2 Lolly Bag burger – we create something together every time we do Sugar Hit in Melbourne. It was burger week in Sydney at that time, so we thought we could build on that and bring a dessert burger into Sweet Street.”
The effort didn’t go unnoticed. The team, which started work at 5am that morning, sold its 600 tarts in less than 40 minutes. Regardless, Bernard said they would do it again in a heartbeat.
“Whether it’s with Anna or with other pastry chefs, we’re excited about collaboration. We’ll do anything for the pastry family,” he said.
“We saw pictures of our tarts on Instagram for the next 72 hours. Feedback has been amazing and it was very encouraging for us. Every time we heard good feedback we told ourselves we can do better.”
THIRD STOP: Tim @ Caco Fine Chocolates & Patisserie
Luckily, Tim had prepped his team to bring a taste of his entire Melbourne Cacao Lab, because the queues for his stand were long and lasted all night.
Éclairs were the undisputed hero, with six varieties on offer, four of which debuted at Sweet Street.
“The “Hot Choc Doc” éclair was one of our out-of-the-box varieties that came out much better than I had hoped. It was a massive hit and certainly my favourite,” Tim said.
“It’s a sausage-shaped chocolate mousse dipped in raspberry gel and placed inside our éclair bun. We then added a squirt of two sauces that looked like ketchup and mustard, only it was a sweet cream.
“For good measure, you could order it with or without ‘cheese’, grated yellow-coloured white chocolate over the top to finish off the surrealism.”
Always keen to celebrate the highly-innovative pastry industry, Tim said he was on-board from the moment Anna mentioned the idea of a market-style get-together.
“I have such a huge respect I for the other chefs involved in the event and to have the opportunity to work alongside them in such a collaboration is fantastic. It’s certainly very positive for the industry to have so many competitive-natured chefs in one place, working together,” he said.
With a string of prominent hotel groups on his CV, Tim knows how to cater for elaborate, large-scale events. Still, he was surprised by the guests’ energy and demand for Cacao’s products.
“We knew we had some big fans in Sydney, but simply putting it, we got smashed,” he said.
“We didn’t stop from the start to the finish, the demand was that intense. In fact, we had queues with a 20-minute wait. I only wish we had more éclairs because we ran out halfway through the night.
“As it was the first event of this kind, none of us really knew how much to prepare. I thought I had too many éclairs, only to realise after 30 minutes it was not going to be the case. Everyone was buying up éclairs to take home – almost every person bought four or more so they went much faster than I had anticipated.
“It just confirms the food scene in Australia is at an all time high. We all must continue to challenge ourselves in whatever we do. Chefs are pushing themselves and consumers are open to trying new things, this creates change.
“We all get bored very easily and we are on the constant search for something unique, if you’re not working to fulfil that hunger for something new then you will be left behind.”
FOURTH STOP: Kirsten @ Savour
Kirsten Tibballs’ extraordinary handmade chocolate garden, complete with mushrooms and flowers, wasn’t for the guests to eat. The Savour Chocolate and Pâtisserie School director did, however, have a chocolate goodie bag on sale.
For just one stamp, guests could take home a chocoron – a layer of macaron with a layer of ganache on top, cut into squares and dipped in Callebaut dark coverture, with a mini macaron on top – along with chocolate-dipped honey comb chunks.
“A lot of people didn’t initially realise the garden was actually made of chocolate, but once they were told, they were amazed,” Kirsten said.
“It took two of us one full week to prepare the garden. Savour has got a bit of a name for itself for chocolate flowers, so it was great to be there to explain the garden to them in person.
“It was such a great atmosphere! We sold out very quickly and could have easily doubled the amount of products we had there.
“I love what Anna does and I was excited to support her in this project. She has an energy that is kind of addictive! I would love to do something like this again – we make a great team!”
FIFTH STOP: Min @ N2
It may have been N2’s charcoal brioche bun topped with hundreds-and-thousands and filled with popping candy, mandarin gelato and musk whipped cream that attracted the crowds. Or, it could have been the huge plastic syringe filled with Redskin ganache. Regardless, one thing was certain; the self-professed “extreme gelato” team had a product nearly every guests just had to have.
The ice cream burger was an idea Min and the team conceived to celebrate the brand’s second birthday, which coincided with Sweet Street. However, the #LuxBiteN2 Lolly Bag Burger took collaboration to the next level.
“We’ve done dessert night collaborations before in Melbourne for Sugar Hit, with Krimper, Luxbite and Mork, so we knew how much fun this was going to be,” Min said.
“The idea of the syringe just came to us when we were flipping through our supplier’s catalogue during a brainstorming session to make our gelato better. People love it because it adds interactivity and customers get to exercise imagination in terms of what to do with the ganache – drizzle it, suck it, squirt it, you name it!
“The feedback from the guests was, ‘this is crazy, but it works’, and it was great to share their excitement.”
For those with a more conventional palate, N2 also had a Ferrero Rocher deconstruction on offer: chocolate and hazelnut gelato with roasted hazelnuts, topped with Rice Bubbles, coated in Chocolate Top and served with a syringe of dark chocolate ganache.
“Our aim was to have fun, and we certainly had a great time! We were surprised at the number of burgers we ‘sold’ – we were not expecting that kind of response,” Min said.
Asian Malaysian by Anaa Polyviou
400g caster sugar
120g passionfruit puree
1. Bring cream and sugar to the boil
2. Allow to boil for four minutes.
3. Add passionfruit puree and boil an extra four minutes
4. Fill glass ¼ full
PINEAPPLE AND CORIANDER JELLY
175ml pineapple puree
40g caster sugar
15g gelatine sheets
10g fresh coriander
1. Warm pineapple puree, water and caster sugar.
2. Soften gelatine into ice water.
3. Once warm remove from heat, add coriander and allow to infuse for 10 minutes.
4. Strain, allow to cool and add to set posset (just a thin layer).
5. Place popping mango pearls and tropical fruit compote on top.
Doughnuts by Anaa Polyviou
520g plain flour
20g fresh yeast
80g caster sugar
10g sea salt
2 whole eggs
10g vanilla paste
10g unsalted butter
200g icing sugar
1. Dust the surface with flour and spray a large bowl with non-stick spray.
2. Place the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix for about 15 seconds to distribute the yeast evenly. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the butter, and mix on low speed for four minutes to incorporate.
3. Continue to mix on low speed for about 30 minutes.
4. Add the butter a few pieces at a time, incorporating each addition before adding the next.
5. Place the dough in a bowl, cover and let it sit room temperature for about one hour.
6. Release the dough onto a lightly flour work surface. Roll out the dough into an 11-inch round. Transfer to a lined sheet tray and refrigerate for roughly 30 minutes.
7. Using a round cut the dough and then a smaller one for the middle.
8. Brush off any excess flour. Proof for one to 1½ hours, until the doughnuts double the size.
9. Heat some canola oil to 117°C. Flip doughnuts over and fry till golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool down. Toss doughnuts in sugar.
10. Beat the icing sugar and milk together; add in the green colour and lime. Dip the doughnut into it and then coconut.