Back in 2007, while holidaying in Melbourne, I happened to chance across Monsieur Truffe, a small stall at the Prahran Market. Neatly stacked bars of single origin chocolate sat alongside decadent truffles infused with raspberry, passionfruit and chilli, as well as other goodies such as nut-studded hazelnut pralines, caramelised almonds and cocoa nibs. The owner of the stall was a delightful and soft-spoken Frenchman who clearly knew his chocolate.
In 2009, I discovered Monsieur Truffe had morphed and translocated to a small store on Smith Street - in addition to the brilliant chocolate bars, sinfully good hot chocolates, light sorbets and a range of desserts also made an appearance. Famed dessert chef Pierre Roelofs had a brief nighttime stint, which was a gastronomic highlight.
Monsieur Truffe's latest venture - L'atelier de Monsieur Truffe - is located in an old warehouse on the edgier stretch of Lygon Street and has been open for just under a month. The larger space houses all the machinery required for converting the humble cocoa bean into its more glamorous form; glass panels invite one to hop along for the ride.
My lunch companion and biomedicine buddy, A, started with a 72% Ecuador hot chocolate ($5) and I opted for a moccha ($5).
Let me make it emphatically clear: a Monsieur Truffe hot chocolate is in a class of its own - none of this saccharine, whimpy stuff with a marshmallow perched beside. A Monsieur Truffe hot chocolate is a brooding, dark, luscious hue of brown. A Monsieur Truffe hot chocolate is rich and intense to the taste and offset by a perfect level of bitterness. A Monsieur Truffe hot chocolate will linger on your tongue and tickle your senses. Yes, if a Monsieur Truffe hot chocolate were ever personified, I would have to marry it.
L'atelier de Monsieur Truffe also serves food which is a little left of centre from conventional cafe fare. A went for the apple and rosemary pancake, smoked duck breast, scrambled eggs with chestnut puree and truffle oil ($16). Forever seduced by the egg, I ordered the winter panzanella salad with 65/65 eggs ($15).
Both dishes were beautiful visually and delicious gustatorily. My salad - traditionally made using day old bread and tomatos - was a colourful assortment of beetroot, heirloom carrots and baby parsnips. Nestled in the middle was a perfectly wobbly, just-cooked egg (65/65 refers to the temperature - in degrees Celsius - and time - in minutes - the egg is cooked).
The cake selection was simply too good to pass up: A had a slice of the chocolate cake ($4), and I went for the simply named 'pudding' ($4). The chocolate cake was dense and rich; the pudding was sweet, eggy and embellished with figs (huzzah!).
Chatting to the ever-friendly Thibault Fregoni (aka Monsieur Truffe and the lovely Frenchman I met in 2007), he mentioned that chocolate production is yet to start but is imminent, and that the menu changes regularly - sometimes even daily - depending on what produce is available. Two excellent reasons to be back soon!
Tip: If possible, try to visit during the week when things are less busy as the staff are still finding their feet, and can be a tad absent-minded at times.
L'atelier de Monsieur Truffe
351 Lygon Street