This time when we flew back to Canberra (for Christmas) we had ample time, so we didn’t feel the need to drive straight from Sydney to Canberra after arriving from a sleepless overnight flight. We had planned it out ages ago and had made time to call into a Zumbo’s before we drove to Canberra the next morning. You know what’s coming, macaron nerd out time!
As a macaron lover, I was definitely excited to try Zumbo macarons for the first time. So much so, that as we walked into the Rozelle store, I asked for the box sizes and the server behind the counter looked at me quizzically until I then added ‘sorry, the box sizes for the macarons.’ After seeing some of the amazing cakes, pastries and even breads that they had behind the counter, I can see why maybe the macarons (or Zumbarons as they call them) probably aren’t the first thing on every visitor’s mind.
We chose to go to the Rozelle store as it was the easiest to drive to from the hotel that we had stayed in. The fact that it is often featured on Zumbo’s TV show, has the famous graffiti on its outside wall and the window into the kitchen were all just bonuses. I expected it to be packed, especially as it was the last Saturday before Christmas, but quite the opposite. The only other customer there was a young boy about 6 or 7. He could barely see up over the counter but very politely ordered ‘a skim latte please.’
I picked up 12 macarons, which sat comfortably in one long box and a smaller 6 pack for my macaron loving friend, Mrs. No Vowels. The 12 pack cost $30.00 AUD (approximately $34.10 SGD) The lady that served me kindly printed out the flavours that I had chosen. Thank goodness she did, as there was no way I was going to remember what I had chosen in my jet lagged state.
As the macarons were packed for me, I wandered over to the window into the kitchen and about 2 meters away, there was the man himself! He had serious face on and was talking to someone dressed in full chef whites. My first instinct was to wave because I recognised him and of course just assumed he would recognise me too. I managed to keep my arm down, but I must have had the most ridiculous look on my face. I had the camera around my neck but didn’t want to be all weird (at least overtly) and take a photo, so I just trotted back over to Key and whispered really loudly. Zumbo is in there!
Flavours (L-R) Passionfruit and Basil, Candy Cane, Passionfruit and Yoghurt, Apple Pie, Toasted Marshmallow, Popcorn, Caramel au Buerre Sal, Christmas Pudding, Blueberry Pancake, Salted Butter Caramel on Toast, Fingerbun and Pandan sticky rice.
Passionfruit and basil (top right) – The lady that served us gave us one of these in store to try as she packed the macarons. The flavour was definitely there with a strong passionfruit flavour and the intense basil flavour from the dried basil. Flavour wise it was one of my favourites, but as soon as we walked out of the store, both Key and I agreed that the shell wasn’t very crisp at all and quite soft. We hoped that the others were better.
I’m so glad that we tried this one in store because otherwise I would have worried that travelling with the macarons was what had made the shells soft. Most of them had the same softer shell as the first one that we tried in store though, so I can only assume they were like that when we bought them and it wasn’t the travel that had affected them. Perhaps that’s just the style of the Zumbarons though.
Candy cane (bottom right) – This was one of the few macarons that did have a more crisp shell but still not as crisp as other macarons I’ve tried like Lauduree’s or even the Gobi Cakes versions. It had a lot of filling with a true peppermint or candy cane flavour. The pink and white marbled shell on this one was gorgeous as well.
Salted Butter Caramel on Toast – This one was only called ‘SBC on toast’ on the list that the server printed for me. Mrs. No Vowels and I wracked our brains trying to work out what SBC stood for. She came up with salted butter caramel and I’ve since confirmed online that is indeed what it stands for.
This one was my favourite by far. Previously, the Ladurée salted caramel was the best salted caramel macaron I’d ever tried, but this Zumbo version was even better. It was perfectly sweet without being cloying and it was properly salted instead of having just a hint of saltiness. You know what? I didn’t taste the toast though. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was the Caramel au Beurre Sal (below) and vice versa. Nevermind, because this macaron was truly amazing. The filling had melted a little during transport but that might have only made it better. Melty and gooey and salty and sweet * drools * If the shell had of been more crisp, it would have been one of the best macarons that I’ve ever had. I’d definitely go back to try this one again.
Blueberry Pancake (left) – The blueberry pancake had a very soft shell with no snap at all. As you can see, it again had a lot of filling with a definite blueberry taste. I’m not sure I quite tasted pancake but it was quite buttery and perhaps had a hint of a cakey taste.
Caramel au Beurre Sal (right) – This had a creamier consistency than the SBC. It was quite toffee like and nice and sticky. It was good, but it paled in comparison to the amazing SBC on toast.
Pandan and Sticky Rice (left) – I was really excited when I saw this flavour in the shop as it was the kind of unusual flavour that I love. I ended up being disappointed though. I could taste the buttery pandan flavour and the filling had actual bits of rice in it. The rice was hard though. The only thing I could think of was that perhaps it had been candied or caramelized to start off with but it just tasted hard like it hadn’t been cooked properly resulting in a weird texture. Neither Key or I liked this one at all.
Popcorn (middle) – This one confused me a little. It definitely had the flavour of popcorn and was indeed covered in little popcorn pieces. The popcorn seemed like plain popcorn though without any of the buttery or salty goodness that people generally love about popcorn. So yes it tasted like popcorn but plain popcorn. Dare I say it, it was a little bland, however this was another one that had a slightly crispier (and better) macaron shell.
Apple Pie (second from the left) – This macaron definitely had the best shell of the lot. Crispy and crackly as I bit into it. The filling was unmistakably apple pie including the hum of cinnamon. Very tasty.
Toasted Marshmallow (third from the left) – I’m not sure what to say about this one. It tasted nice but I didn’t get much of a marshmallow flavour. I’m not much of a toasted marshmallow fan so perhaps I just didn’t recognise the flavour as I haven’t had a fire toasted marshmallow in years. Unfortunately whenever I now see ‘marshmallow’ in the title of a macaron, I’ll compare it to the fantastically gooey and textural Chocolate Coco Marshmallow that I had from Ladurée. Sadly this Zumbaron flavour was no comparison at all though.
Christmas Pudding (top) – This one was unmistakable as soon as we bit into it. The filling was studded with little pureed bits of fruit and I’m guessing from the taste, even actual pureed Christmas pudding. I could taste the rum, the boozy fruit and the cake flavour of the pudding. Delicious and perfectly seasonal and the gold dust decoration was lovely.
Passionfruit and Yoghurt (left) – This had a delicate passionfruit yoghurt flavour but the filling was not entirely smooth and therefore looked (but not tasted) a little curdled. Key loved this one, but it wasn’t one of my faves.
Fingerbun (left) – I’ve seen how a lot of the Zumbaron flavours are made on TV. Often, cream is infused with the whole item that they are trying to get the flavour from. I’m guessing that this fingerbun flavour was made that way, as the buttercream filling tasted exactly like a fingerbun. The coconut was a nice touch too, as not only did it add to the fingerbun flavour, but made for a pretty decoration as well.
Overall, I’m sorry to say that I was a little disappointed. Perhaps it was just a case of having expectations that were too high (shall we call it the Jamie effect) but I personally don’t think that most of the flavours had the egg shell crack texture in the shell that I look for in macarons. I know that the last macarons that I had from Ladurée were probably the best I’ve ever had texturally, but I don’t think I was comparing the Zumbarons just to those. I happened to have a redskin macaron at Ricardo’s later in our trip and that one macaron was miles ahead in texture compared the Zumbarons.
It wasn’t just me either, Mrs. No Vowels agreed that she was a little disappointed too. Some of the flavours were the wacky ones that I was hoping for and expecting, but some (like the Pandan Sticky Rice and Popcorn) just didn’t work. I’d like to give them another try though (especially the fantastic SBC on toast) and the chances of me being in Sydney will be higher once we are living in Australia again, so that might just happen sooner rather than later :)