When my college dorm mate, Lucy, heard I was coming to Melbourne, the first thing she said was: “I’m taking you to my favorite croissant place.” I was less than enthused by the proposition because, really, when your first introduction to this flaky pastry is through a popular doughnut chain, you have no expectations about croissants. I mean, zero. Nothing.
I now beg Lucy’s forgiveness because I couldn’t be more wrong. The croissants at Luna Croissanterie are worth raving about. To quote that old doughnuts commercial, “C’est si bon, people say that in France, when you eat true croissants…”
The Croissanterie was unexpected. It’s a huge warehouse, with industrial-looking high ceilings and warm brick walls. There are no tables or chairs, only a few cement benches attached to the walls, with some stone squares serving as tables. There is a slab of table where staff can take your order, a coffee bar, and a workspace enclosed in glass where you can see the bakers at work: laying the dough flat, measuring it precisely with rulers before cutting it, then rolling and folding the dough into those crescent shapes. The whole process is mesmerizing, the bakers moving in a slow dance that they have memorized: layer, fold, measure, cut, roll. Repeat.
From the menu on the wall, we decided to get the kouign amman, a traditional croissant, the pain au chocolat, a lemon curd cruffin (combination of croissant and muffin) and because I was really curious how they would use what to me is a typically local Pinoy ingredient, the seasonal coconut pandan croissant.
To order you have to go up to the staff and point out which bread you would like and how many. The croissants, all lined up in a row, are visual indicators on what is currently available. There was a collective groan when the staff removed the almond croissant from the table as they had run out.
We were lucky to grab a recently vacated bench by the exit. From where we sat, we had the most interesting view of people coming in and out to get their croissant fix. It was like people-watching at a train station, except that you are more comfortable and very happy with your hot chocolate and warm croissants.
We tasted the traditional croissant (AUD$5.50) first – bare bones, the flaky pastry at its most basic. It was shiny with glaze and looked unassuming but when I cut into it, the beauty of the honeycomb created by air pockets was revealed. The croissant was crispy on the outside and flaky in the mouth. I was almost afraid to use my phone to take a photo because my fingers felt greasy from holding the croissant. I solved the problem by licking my fingers.
The kouign amman (AUD$6.00), with its thin layers molded into a spiral was slightly more dense and chewy. The caramelized sugar crust made a pleasant crunching sound as I bit into it. It was not too sweet and it went perfectly with my hot chocolate.
We attacked the pain au chocolate (AUD$6.00) next. For me, the measure of anything baked with chocolate is the quality and the quantity of the chocolate used. At first, I was a bit disappointed about the paucity of the dark chocolate, but I quickly realized as the chocolate melted in my mouth that that hint of chocolate just made me crave for more of the pillowy pastry; any more, and the chocolate would have overpowered the buttery flavor of the croissant.
I was not so excited about the lemon curd cruffin (AUD$7.00) as even with the candied lemon zest on top, it did not look very pretty. But when I halved it and the lemon curd oozed out it became a thing of beauty. The cruffin is dense and tangy, but not sour enough for me.
And finally, the piece de resistance – the coconut pandan croissant (AUD$9.50). Looking at it, I wondered if they got our order wrong because at first glance, it looked like it was topped with flaked almonds. I broke off a flake and my eyes opened wide when I realized it was dessicated coconut meat. I marveled at its construction even as I bit into it. The coconut flake was crispy and chewy and evoked images of home. I smiled with nostalgia as I tasted the pandan ganache even as my friends laughed out loud when they tasted the coconut frangipane. I joined in their amusement as we all agreed that the pastry tasted like pan de coco, albeit wrapped in buttery and flaky pastry.
My visit to Lune was quite an experience as I got to see the creation process to the consumption. It made me respect the work that went into the making of the perfect croissant. Never will I look at croissant the same way again. Like the French say, this one is really c’est si bon.
119 Rose St, Fitzroy