Gânache Chocolate (Melbourne), and a hangover

I awoke to a hangover. A dull pain knocked at the back of my skull. Had I been an alcoholic hypocrite? Heavens, no! This was a very special hangover.


The preceding evening had seen me attending my first ever PR event. That’s right, a night of schmoozing and freebies. It was chocolate. We all have our peccadilloes.

The event was the formal launch of a new brand and venue for chocolate in Melbourne. Gânache Chocolate, in South Yarra. A new venture for Arno Backes, once known for his involvement in Melbourne chocolate shop and now-chain Koko Black.

Gânache (ok, should be Gânache Chocolate, but I doubt anyone will call it that for long) is billed as a chocolate lounge, with a teaching-space-to-be upstairs. This could be very interesting. The pralines (individual chocolates) are stunning, even if I didn’t feel every single one was successful or perhaps equally impressive.

Backes is using a range of couvertures, whereas Callebaut dominates among the chocolatiers who aren’t conching their own chocolate. Certainly, Backes has Callebaut on display and sale in the shop, but when asked about his chocolates, he reeled off a long list of respected couvertures, including Felchlin (not one I’ve seen mentioned in Australia before).

The pralines generally have very thin shells — some of the thinnest I’ve seen — which makes them both beautifully delicate and also a little fragile in warm hands. I couldn’t fault any of them on texture, whether ganache, caramel, butter cream or something else. The range of flavours is interesting, though not testing many boundaries. Novelty is primarily in the execution of familiar categories, with the exception of the very good geranium ganache (think pungent rose with a hint of citrus), and perhaps the ‘oriental spice’ ganache (delightful, strong with clove, and perhaps more reminiscent of southern German Lebkuchen rather than anything ‘oriental’). Gânache certainly gives Koko Black, Haighs, [EDITED due to spam from the shop mentioned, name now deleted] and others a run for their money, and probably wins on most counts. Monsieur Truffe is probably the strongest competitor in quality.

So, no disappointment and a lot of enjoyment in the pralines cabinet. Unfortunately, a block of dark chocolate with whole hazelnuts didn’t match the rest of the experience. The chocolate tasted very much like Callebaut Select, with cocoa content around 55%. It’s a fairly hard, slightly waxy dark chocolate with a slow melt and very noticeable vanilla aroma. Strangely neutral, it works fine as an enrobing chocolate, but I’m not a fan of it as an eating chocolate. There is quite a range of blocks available so I can’t comment on the others.

The lovely Donna Le Page (PR wiz) enjoying the chocolate. And my sister going in for the kill.

I had dragged my sister along as my guest and she buzzed around the praline cabinet like an earnest researcher, returning to me regularly with updates of ‘you must try X’ and ‘best to leave Y’. She had sampled fully two-thirds of the cabinet while I had become slightly poorly after my first ten pralines. Ten points for devotion to duty, sis!

At speech time, plates of teency cakes came out, plus a lovely truffle on a chocolate spoon. All were impressive and delicious, though it was noticeable how many people were queasy after so much pre-speech chocolate. I soldiered on, though the richness of the cakes quickly brought me to a halt. They’re good, perhaps a little sweet for some people. Well crafted.

The space is attractive and the lounge concept could work. It’ll be interesting to see it with normal clientele. I hope they can keep the atmosphere enjoyable, as Malvern dames and hordes of chocolate-loving international students (presumably) descend on the place. Backes will be acutely aware of the comparison with Koko Black, which seems to me to be in danger of becoming a chocolate Starbucks.

Gânache Chocolate deserves to be a wild success, based on what I experienced on Tuesday. I’m not sure just how much better than some of the competition it is, but it is certainly no laggard and if Arno Backes and his co-conspirator, Sian Mackenzie (his partner), can stay true to their concept then there’s much to look forward to.

Gânache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Road, South Yarra VIC 3141, 03 9804 7485

12 thoughts on “Gânache Chocolate (Melbourne), and a hangover”

  1. I sort over over ate and didn’t have much room for supper after. Great pics. Truffe uses a lot of Felchlin as well as the whole range of Callebaut. Great now that we’ve got another person working at this level.

  2. Gosh Duncan and Ed, obviously I don’t know the right people!!
    Looks devine yet hard work to do some ‘real’ research.

  3. Oh my! Another one on my to-do list then! Personally, I’ve never understood what all the fuss surrounding Haighs was about. Love that truffle spoon thing by the way. Any idea what the prices at Ganache are like?

  4. Sounds great! But why the circumflex accent on the â?

    And not that anyone probably cares, but in French ‘ganache’ also refers to the bottom half of a horse’s jaw! Ten points to anyone who can trace the etymology of that one!

  5. Prices: my sis remembers a sign saying something like $2.80 per piece, which I think would mean a kilo price of approx $170?

    Y, I think Haighs is actually an underpraised presence in Oz. Their fondant creams are very well executed. I’m not fond of the rest of their range, but haven’t seen their creams surpassed anywhere yet on my travels.

    Harry, I too wondered about the circumflex, but assumed I just filtered it out visually when working with French books in the past. Clearly not… ganache it should be. Not gânache. so I wonder if this brand is contributing to the French mangling that Australia seems to embrace (viz the Melbourne restaurant Vue de Monde).

    Jack, I had three waves of oh-my-god not a drop more, yet was still able to catch the train home without mishap. 🙂

  6. Ok, fair enough – maybe I was too quick to judge, as I haven’t tried their fondant creams before! 🙂 I was thinking more in terms of the general taste of the chocolate they use.

  7. Duncan. I’ve never been that keen on Haighs but will look out for a fondant cream – I find the chocolate too course and in ned of refinement.

  8. Ed you’ll have to turn off any English-childhood expectations though. These are soft, runny creams, rather than the firm things most British chocolate establishments produce.

  9. I want to know the right people too, who do I contact?

    A drunk Duncan eh, I would have paid to see that (a very small fee, we’re talking under $2). 🙂

  10. Duncan will not be surprised to find me commenting on an etymology….the range of possible French meanings for ganache are to be found at: http://www.cnrtl.fr/definition/ganache – but while it tells you everything else, including the derivation (think prognathic…)it doesn’t venture a guess on the semantic shifts involved, which are quite extraordinary. Ganache is hardly chewy….

  11. Oh Greg that’s fun! (Apologies to those who don’t read French.) I like that it also means something akin to ‘codger’… as does gâteau … my old cake:P Hand me the beater you old ganache!

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