With room left in our stomachs and schedule, Michael and I made our first visit to the Max Brenner chocolate shop in the QV building. This week winter has hit hard for us sensitive Queenslanders and we were keen to snag a seat inside and comfort ourselves with hot chocolate. Much as I love chocolate, I've been in no rush to visit Max Brenner: other chocolate lovers I'm acquainted with, both in the blogosphere and in person, have been fairly indifferent to Max Brenner's brand. And it really is a brand. The alcove of gifts is horrendously overpriced and the website is highly pretentious, in my humble opinion. Nevertheless, the eat-in options are in a comparable price range to Koko Black and other similar chocolatiers around Melbourne. The desserts (in the $7 - 13 range) looked very solidly chocolatey and more than I could handle straight after dinner.
Above is Michael's hot chocolate with orange zest in the Max Brenner patented "hug mug". The mug is a novel idea, but it didn't make up for the weakness of chocolate in Michael's eyes. There was creamy milkiness and a pleasant citrus fragrance, but not enough cocoa to go around. I ordered an even more convoluted take on the hot chocolate, the suckao ($5.50). Here the drink is deconstructed into a small jug of cool milk, a saucer of chocolate buds, and a ceramic setup reminiscent of an oil burner. The method behind this madness is that the milk and chocolate are heated over a tealight candle, with the stirrer also acting as a straw for sipping the resulting hot chocolate. I found the metal straw surprisingly agreeable and our waiter let me know that I could have as many refills of milk as I wished. (Personally I'd prefer a less cute milk jug that might hold more than 70mL of liquid, but that wasn't my most accommodating waiter's fault.) It was a fun and properly chocolatey amusement, but not superior in taste (and certainly not in serving size) than a less imaginative hot chocolate from, say, Koko Black.
My first Max Brenner experience was entirely consistent with the opinions I'd gathered of it beforehand: pleasant but, for all its gimickry, underwhelming. Fortunately, I can speak far better of the proceeding gig. Tim Rogers, a long-time idol of mine, was in fine rambling form on this Tuesday evening and it was a treat to see him in the intimate surrounds of the Bennetts Lane Jazz Club. It's a rare occasion that my dessert is outshone by a subsequent and more pleasing dish!
Address: 25-27 Red Cape Lane, Level 2, QV Square, 210 Lonsdale Street Melbourne
Ph: 9663 6000
Price: hot chocolates ~$5-10