Milse Dessert Bar
Milse Patisserie: an all dessert restaurant, featuring a seven course dessert menu in the evening, headed by pastry chef Brian Campbell.
The concept for Milse Patisserie sounds like the grown up version of a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory based childhood fantasy: an all dessert restaurant - featuring a seven course dessert menu - headed by pastry chef Brian Campbell. The promotional pictures of the desserts draw on your curiosity like Alice into the rabbit hole, especially one dessert which features what looks like egg yolks but which is possibly gelato?
Milse is around the corner of the Britomart Pavilion buildings with only a small sign to indicate that it is there at all; a black wooden lattice cloaks the contents of the restaurant in mystery. You enter into a narrow corridor where the desserts are laid out in low cabinet; sushi bar style. The many different colours of macaroons stacked against each other looks amazing. In the fridge is a curiosity: a cake with a giant chocolate dome on top, like a massive chocolate truffle. The French lavender and the olive oil flavoured chocolates also sound interesting.
The corridor opens out onto the tiny dining area next to an open kitchen. A wooden lattice structure curves over the dining tables, creating a friendly looking cavern. The atmosphere is somehow mysterious and homely all at once and the décor is a smart looking combination of back and wood, with black plates, and matt black carved-looking teapots. The waitress was very helpful, indoctrinating us into the secret language of the pastry chef (French) by explaining the difference between entremet (full sized cakes), gateaux (single serving sized cakes) and verrines (layered ingredients in a glass).
The Gateau of Valrhona chocolate (a French chocolate), Armagnac (a French brandy) and salted caramel was amazing. It transitioned from a chocolate mousse-like outer layer, to a layered cake on the inside, with something harder at the bottom which tasted a bit like hokey-pokey or caramel. Above the layered cake was a pocket of liquid salted caramel and on the top was a filled chocolate containing the Armagnac. There was a lot to take in on a small scale and this would be a good one to try in full size if you are planning on buying a whole cake. The lemon, blueberry and thyme gateau works better on the smaller scale because you can more easily get a little of each flavour all in bite.
The weather has taken a turn, and it's a bit cold for me to sample some of the frozen dishes though the gelato sticks look tempting. Hopefully they introduce some warm dishes for the oncoming winter. They do have a range of hot chocolates; we tried the cinnamon and the salted caramel. The flavours are subtle enhancements to the chocolate which has the meld of the dark, bitter, warm and sweet notes of good chocolate. After a busy few weeks since opening the chefs looked a bit tired which I suppose is the downside of an open kitchen. One of the chefs was doing something interesting with a giant piping bag while I was there. The place smelt amazing and at one point I saw the chefs discussing in hushed voices mysterious recipes out of a 3B5 notebook.
The intimate dining experience means you could comfortably dine here alone, which is quite rare, most restaurants being concerned with packing in as many people as possible. It seems the food from the spectacular looking promo pictures are only served at night from the Degustation menu, which has three, five and seven course options. I have heard reports that the restaurant is very busy at night and doesn't take reservations. Even the food on a la carte menu far surpasses anything available dessert-wise in the rest of the Auckland Restaurant scene. Milse also makes the desserts for the Ortolana restaurant - which is just around the corner - if you want to enjoy these creations but can't hack the idea of a wholly dessert based meal.