Desserts, no matter how grown up and sophisticated we may be, are still something to get excited about – who really ever wants to skip the final course? With good reason, desserts often provide a great finale to a perfect meal. So we caught up with Circa’s head chef, Jake Nicolson to find out what makes the perfect dish for any old sweet tooth.
"Desserts bring that element of fun to the dinner table” explains Nicolson. "You can be the best pastry chef with years of experience behind you, but the fact is one of the most popular dishes we've had at Circa is a salted caramel ice cream, with caramelised pop corn and chocolate sauce. It's such a popular and classic flavour combination that it’s hands-down the most popular dessert that we could offer. All we do is try to make food people will love."
In short, the best dessert doesn't necessarily have to come out of a gas canister or be found in the form of an inventive foam, sometimes it's just about making the most of a selection of considered ingredients and matching flavours.
For example, when looking over some of Circa's dessert menu highlights, it's impossible not to notice the nod to classic Australian flavours, albeit with additional modern flourishes.
Take the native lemon pavlova with hibiscus ripple ice cream – Nicolson explains that it’s always a priority in the Circa kitchen to embrace seasonal local produce. The crowd pleaser however, is revealed in the modern twist, which offers diners a wow factor they have never come across. At Circa, this is evident in their use of contemporary Asian flavours.
"Our dessert menu does lean toward the Pacific Rim, we think it's a really fresh take on a French-style, richer dessert. It also corresponds well to our main menu that also takes on some Asian flavours," says Nicolson.
The addition of unexpected twists to old favourites suggests some experimentation has been going on behind the scenes, but Nicholson admits that with years of experience there's always at least a vague idea of what ingredient combinations, however strange they may seem together, will work.
"Generally we closely consider what our customers might have eaten in the main course. After having savoury foods, you generally want something creamy at the end of meal, but you'll want to lighten things up with some fresh fruit to cut through all that richness," he explains.
"For example, if we're doing a rice pudding like the chilled sago with green tea pudding we might want some acidity, maybe some poached stone fruit to help balance the dish."
As we run through some different elements which truly bring their dessert list together, Nicolson explains that the whole Circa team are firm believers that a dish is only as good as the raw products that go into making it. With this in mind, the team has adopted a more down to earth approach to their desserts.
"Certainly we've had the molecular theme pass through kitchens in recent years, but a lot of modern desserts are going back to basics and remembering the old favourites, like the pavlova or Eton Mess. I feel that there's this younger generation of diners who are craving a bit of nostalgia," Nicolson says.
"Our skills have definitely developed in the last ten years but the basics are always set in stone. A soufflé is always going to be a soufflé and it's always going to be made the same way. It's what we combine it with and how we execute the dish that's going to make it more exciting."