Reinvention is necessary to keep succeeding in fickle consumer markets and over recent times, dessert products have been undergoing their own revolution. First came the frozen yoghurt trend, then milk became flavoured and fizzy. Ice cream is back in vogue and next on the conveyor belt of reinvention? The dessert experience.
Internationally, bakeries, patisseries and ice creameries are a big deal. New Zealand has not been bypassed and Auckland has seen a rise in dessert experiences. Giapo Haute Ice Creamery has been around for a number of years now, then Milse Dessert Restaurant arrived in 2013 and Oko opened in 2014.
These eateries all go some way to satisfying our hunger for bespoke experiences above and beyond the standard dining fare and appear to defy the inexorable march forward of the sugar-free brigade.
I boldly sacrificed my waistline to personally review each of the aforementioned establishments.
Oko Dessert Kitchen
I stumbled onto Oko Dessert Kitchen and believe the concept is linked to the Movenpick brand. It showcases their ice-cream while extending into patisserie and desserts with a theatrical injection of watching chefs in action in the kitchen. While you are there, throw in some coffee or milkshakes to really round up the calorific intake.
Top marks: The staff service and wide range of offering were great. You can have anything your heart desires dessert wise and the price points weren’t too bad either. The staff were friendly, helpful and keen to offer tastings samples. Yum!
Failed on: The lack of atmosphere and failure to communicate the store’s reason for being make it hard to fathom what you are supposed to do. Do I eat ice-cream? Watch the non-responsive chefs? Have a cocktail? (Yes, they serve liquor.) All three? It felt a little disjointed.
Who hasn’t been to Giapo or Giapo Haute Ice Creamery to give it its full title. This Queen Street institution has been revamped in an attempt to create a more premium offering.
Top marks: The quality of the ice-cream is unrivalled and the range of interesting flavours and combinations makes for tough choices. (Personal fave: Dark Chocolate and Whisky)
Failed on: The store format removes the customer from the experience almost entirely. You stand below the staff who are on an elevated platform and you don’t get to see your ice-cream being constructed until it’s in front of you and you’re asked to pay an exorbitant amount of money. A double cone can run from $15 to over $25 if you opt for the bling-ed out sugar cones.
I was super excited to sample Milse’s dessert delights. There’s nothing I love more than chocolate and something a little bit fancy. And Milse has plenty of both. From French tartlets to macaroons through to gelato cakes. Catering to different customer requirements, the offering is split into three distinct areas – dining, ‘take-away’ and tasting degustation.
Top marks: The desserts are exquisite little pieces of art and the ambience of the dining area makes you feel elegant, royal and bloody clever for being so in touch with trends.
Failed on: The layout and configuration of the glass cabinets where the desserts are displayed. The cabinet is slap bang in the path to get to the restaurant, resulting in a collision of diners, takeaway-ers and loiterers. You can barely stand two people deep, trying to select your desserts without stabbing someone in the stomach.
**To be fair to Milse, we tried three times after it opened to get a table but they were always full, so resorting to takeaway was the only way to try their desserts and I missed out on feeling elegant, royal and bloody clever.
The revolutionary wave of after-dinner dining experiences shows no signs of abating. This welcome invasion may even become a permanent feature on our gastronomic landscape. And why not? Kiwi’s will eat ice-cream in the dead of winter, in below freezing temperatures, preferably on the way to the theatre or a movie. Apparently we are, per-capita, the biggest consumers of ice cream in the world.
Long live dessert!
This piece was originally posted on Hotfoot’s blog.