Visitors to this chic and understated establishment off the beaten path of the Parnell shops might well think they’ve walked straight into a high-end pâtisserie on the left bank of Paris. Shrouded in the hush of a luxury goods store but without the pretension, Pâtisserie Vaniyé is in a dreamy realm of its own when it comes to fancy cake shops.
Sonia and Laurent Haumonte brought their love of pâtisserie to New Zealand several years ago with the aim of educating kiwis about the haute-couture of desserts. Sonia trained in Paris as a pastry chef for eight years - and the results are stunning. Showcased in the central display cabinet are her precious edible sculptures, each unique and perfect and too beautiful to eat (almost). For the not so sweet-toothed Vaniyé offers a selection of pastries and filled baguettes. Laurent makes the best bread I’ve tasted outside of France with a super crusty exterior and a spongy centre – I’d gnawed off the end of the baguette before getting back to the car. The croissants ($3.90) are superb and you can tell they are made from scratch, not defrosted from a packet like some imposters in Auckland.
The real focus of my attention, however, were the gâteaux. The word might just mean ‘cake’ to the unsuspecting, but these delicate individual desserts are the crowning glory of the pâtisserie world and so much more than cake. At $8 -$9 a pop you’re thinking they had better taste good – and, mon dieu, they do. The Rhubarba is a handsome dessert - a modern take on the fraisier with vibrant layers of rhubarb (slow-cooked in vanilla and strawberry reduction) and pistachio frangipane. The millefeuille (literally ‘a thousand leaves’) is sure to impress traditionalists. However, it was the godfather of French chocolate desserts, the Grand Cru, that had me really sold. Valrhona chocolate mousse in a dark chocolate shell topped with chunks of roasted hazelnut equals nutella on steroids (in a good way).
Despite its shining salute to French traditionalism, Vaniyé is in tune with New Zealand café culture serving Kokako coffee and Harney & Son’s teas. The flat whites were rich and glossy, far superior to any crème I’ve dared order in France.
Pâtisserie Vaniyé is heavenly nostalgia for Francophiles like myself. If you want a teleport to Saint-Germain-des Prés, you know where to go.