Tastemakers: Adriano Zumbo on Where to Find Australia’s Best Desserts

desserts in australia Adriano Zumbo

Welcome to The Latch Tastemakers, where we sit down with people who know a city’s scene like the back of their hand to ask their must-try restaurants, cafes and bars. Dive into our Tastemakers series and curate your ultimate hit-list, whether you’re exploring your own city or venturing somewhere new.

Australian chef Adriano Zumbo is one of our most renowned chefs. Zumbo spent nearly 30 years as a pastry chef, currently runs QTea by Adriano Zumbo at QT Hotel Sydney and knows Australia’s dessert scene inside out.

“What I think Australian chefs do well with their desserts is they add an element of fun, quirkiness and creativity,” he says. “That Australian humour… flavour and texture process where they use a lot of nostalgic and local flavours and to mix it all together to create a beautiful end piece.”

So, where can you find some of the most beautiful end pieces? From a Japanese-inspired ice cream shop serving hojicha-flavoured scoops, to a tea bar at the front of a restaurant, these are the restaurants Zumbo says have the best desserts in Australia, so you can trust that they’re going to be top-notch.

Tarts Anon

Zumbo is a big fan of Melbourne bakery Tarts Anon. Owned by Gareth Whitton and Catherine Way, the bakery has locations in Cremorne and Collingwood, both open seven days a week for dine-in or takeaway.

“Their tarts are just out of this world,” says Zumbo. “They’re delicate. They’re as good as any restaurant dessert out there. I’ve had the mango, the lemon, the yuzu. They do savoury tarts as well. I’ve had a chorizo and potato and they’re just out of this world.”

Mapo Gelato

Next on Zumbo’s list is Mapo Gelato, an artisan and sustainable gelateria owned by Matteo Pochintesta in Newtown and Bondi. According to Zumbo it’s a Sydney institution, making delicious gelato.

“I mean, there’s many great gelato places in Sydney, but Mapo just has this edge with the intensity of his flavours and the texture of his gelato,” says Zumbo.

“My favourite flavour is nocciola or pistachio or fior di latte. They’re the three flavours I usually go with to get a base and then I usually add one or two a bit more exciting flavours for something different.”

Quay and Bennelong

Zumbo loves any dessert at Sydney fine-dining restaurants Quay or Bennelong, headed by one of the country’s most celebrated chefs, Peter Gilmore.

“Peter Gilmore makes delicious, real nostalgic desserts,” Zumbo says. “You name it, it’s a snow egg or the lamington or ethereal or any of those desserts he’s created over the years — for me, I’ve always had a memory of those. They excite your senses and he does a really good job.”

desserts Australia snow egg
Image: Instagram @quayrestaurant

Among Zumbo’s memories dining on Gilmore’s desserts, his experiences eating the snow egg stand out. The dome-shaped dessert is filled with poached meringue and ice cream, topped with maltose tuile and perched atop fruity layers of guava fool and granita. Gilmore took it off Quay’s menu in 2018 but brought it back for 10 nights this year.

“It was the first dessert I ever had at Quay,” says Zumbo. “Just cracking through that little shell and then inside with the guava sorbet and all the different textures was absolutely delicious. I’ve only had it twice. I’m sure there’s been plenty of demand for it.”

Omnia Bistro and Yugen Dining

Zumbo also mentions desserts from two neighbouring venues on Chapel Street in Melbourne’s South Yarra: Omnia Bistro, a European bistro, and Yugen Dining, an omakase and sushi restaurant. Yugen Dining has Yugen Tea Bar at its front, which serves pastries, like tarts, domes and slices.

“[Yugen] is all Japanese-inspired and modern,” says Zumbo. “Any dessert from there is delicious. The patisserie has some great cakes, specifically the yuzu meringue. You can’t go wrong with any of the Japanese-inspired flavours, green tea, yuzu or black sesame, any of those delicious creations there.”

The Sugar Man

Adelaide’s pastry shop The Sugar Man is also a favourite of Zumbo’s. Owned by baker Alex Crawford, the shop is open Fridays to Sundays from 10am ‘til 2pm for takeaway. The shop serves the likes of banana bread pain suisse, strawberry and rhubarb rice pudding Danish and fried chicken croissant sandwich.

“He [Alex Crawford] makes some of the best pastries in the country,” says Zumbo. “Australia has a lot of great pastry shops in the last 12 to 18 months that have really gone out there. But I really like The Sugar Man. He’s a little bit different. He creates new menus every week. It always changes. They’re just interesting fillings.”

Kori Ice Cream

Last on Zumbo’s list of venues serving some of the best desserts in Australia is Kori Ice Cream in Melbourne’s Hawthorn, which serves Japanese-inspired ice cream, some flavours made with milk, others plant-based.

desserts australia Mapo Gelato
Image: Instagram @mapo_gelato

“They do ice cream with an Asian twist, and they do it really well,” says Zumbo. “They have a range of everything. White sesame and orange. Their vanilla is made with tofu. Everything has this interesting edge to the norm. They’re not really out of the box, but there’s just enough for you to go, ‘I want to try all that’.”

Zumbo nearly did “try all that” on his most recent visit to Kori, leaving with no less than eight scoops. His favourite flavour? The hojicha, Japanese green tea. He’s a fan of its taste anyway, but in ice cream, it’s “out of this world”.

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