Recently, I braved a Melbourne summer's pouring rain to attend an event that had me the envy of my entire social circle: a croissant degustation (tasting menu) at Lune Croissanterie.
Back in early 2014, when the croissanterie was in its original home in the south-of-the-river suburb of Elwood, Eileen Kenny wrote about Lune and its seemingly permanent line around the block for Sprudge. But sibling owners Kate and Cameron Reid, who had been a wholesale supplier to the city's rapidly growing specialty coffee scene, soon required a larger prep space and dining area. Thus, the move north to Fitzroy, one of Melbourne’s culinary hotspots.
The new space is in every way an improvement. An enormous slab of granite—“The biggest we could get,” says Cameron—allows them to prep four times more croissants and other viennoiseries at once. With a loose intergalactic/outer-space decor theme, the new Lune is a cozy warehouse that churns out croissants and coffee Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays to the enthralled masses. The queue is 10-to-50-customers deep during all opening hours—Cameron says they typically make a total of 2,500 pastries per week, 600 to 700 of which are traditional croissants—but trust that this is a vast improvement on the previous situation.
The jewel in Lune’s new crown is the Lune Lab: part cellar door, part pastry tasting menu, and the hottest ticket in town. When tickets were made available for this tasting, the site crashed within minutes. For $50 a pop, eight lucky punters sit at a bar where they are fed three courses: a traditional croissant, a savory one, and last, a sweet. They also have some conversational access to the Reid siblings, and are given a development story and information to complement each course. The idea was born of a desire to have Lune's customers experience the croissants in the best possible way, where the Reids can completely control the conditions in which they are served.
There may not be anyone else in the world doing this—a croissant tasting menu with an intimate look at one of the world’s most progressive makers of viennoiseries is new.
For each course, the Reids brought out a silver tray of fresh-baked croissants and hand-picked one for each of us (“This one is really vibing you this morning,” I was told).
Between courses, we chatted among ourselves as the morning at Lune went by, the Reids busying themselves with their craft. Watching them is like watching twin lab technicians; their matching top knots bob in unison as they furiously roll croissants in their matching chef whites. One can’t help but feel like a voyeur as they assemble their goods in the nearly soundproof cube. They press dough in the laminator (laminoir in French), meticulously cut, and roll like a well-oiled machine; it’s meditative to watch.
Kate told us that the traditional croissant—the first course—may seem like the most basic, but it’s actually the most experimental. They are constantly refining and developing their methods and recipe. Kate is the trained chef of the two, but her formal training was minimal. After a stint at the famous Du Pain et Des Idées in Paris, she came back to Australia and set out to replicate what she’d learned. She spent hours on research and development, tweaking and reworking to fit the needs of her new audience. Cameron says that French chefs have come to Lune and, now, upon seeing what his sister does, they are baffled. Her recipe and technique are truly one of a kind.
The savory course was a short-rib croissant. They start with a custom-size braised short rib from local butcher Meatsmith. It’s served wrapped in croissant pastry, accompanied by American black-wax cheddar, reduced braising liquid, and cole slaw. Cameron demonstrated how to eat this course: First, we pulled the bone from the meat. Actually, “pulled” is an overstatement—the bone slid off effortlessly. We then poured the thick sauce into the space the bone had left. Lastly, to ensure the temperature and textures were perfect upon consumption, we were instructed to pack—with our fingers—the slaw into the croissant. Then the eight of us silently stuffed our faces while those in the queue to purchase croissants watched enviously.
The sweet course was a peach-cobbler croissant. The heaviest of the three, this creation incorporated peach done many ways, including slices roasted in sugar and butter in the middle of the pastry; peach puree with butter folded throughout; and dehydrated slices cut with powdered sugar over the top with a crumble. It was served with a vanilla crème anglaise.
It should come as no surprise that it's important to the Reids to serve high-quality specialty coffee alongside their viennoiseries. After all, what is more perfect—or more French—than a coffee and a croissant? Espresso-based coffees are expertly extracted on a three-group La Marzocco Linea PB. The coffee is by Sprudgie-award winners Small Batch Roasting Company, based in North Melbourne.
I spoke to Small Batch owner Andrew Kelly, who had a lot to say about their synergistic match.
“We’ve been working with Kate and Cam for going on two years now, and find them most excellent people and great evangelists for quality,” Kelly says.
Regarding the pairing of Small Batch beans and Lune Croissanterie, he says:
“We each strive for a classical perfection of execution, not gimmickry and flashiness. And the products—buttery croissants [among other kinds] and great coffee are already a match made in heaven. But there’s something further unique about Small Batch and Lune. Our crafts share Maillard and sugar-browning reactions. We seem to be a perfect pair in terms of degree of cooking. We are engaged in a sensual embrace of sugar-browning levels. Seriously—it’s an epic pairing.”
To make sure Kelly wasn't being hyperbolic, I had Small Batch's Candyman espresso twice: first in a magic (Melbourne’s name for a short, strong flat white) and then in a long black.
Three courses of creative, boundary-crushing croissants paired with delicious specialty coffee in an intergalactic warehouse in Australia: what a time to be alive!