Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Lindt Cafe, Melbourne

Well, it started and ended with this picture... the chocolate eclair that looked like it had been licked.

I've walked past the Lindt Cafe -Melbourne CBD - a few times and marveled each time at the queue of people waiting to get in. Personally I'd rather give my money to passionate, artisan pastry chefs, than multinational companies but I guess I am in the minority.

As a professional food browser (self declared, to PDCs frustration) I took it upon myself to try and work out what all the fuss was about.
On my first visit, I noticed that of the few products that were actually on display, cakes were mostly at restaurant prices ($12-$15) without the extra love and attention you would see a pastry chef put into a plated dessert
ie you get a slice of a cake made in a large commercial slab, for the same price as an individually crafted resraurant dessert.
There was chocolates that had mostly been made in your standard moulds and some interesting sounding ice creams that seemed well priced. Macarons or as they describe them 'Delice' were missing from the display.

I tweeted at the time suggesting that the long queue was reflective of a Max Brenner style frenzy.

A month passes and again I am window shopping at the Lindt Cafe, yet this time there are quite a selection of products on display. The catch is that many of them look not quite right, in my honest opinion.
There's the licked eclair, broken and very poorly filled macarons, cakes with finger prints in the ganache and dried cracked cream. In short the offer was unacceptably poor and yet again, people are queuing like sheep to get into the place.
I don't get it.

I again tweet my findings and am humbled by the many stunned reactions to the products. It's not just a personal food nerd fussiness that's saying that it's not good enough, many people are surprised at the lack of quality. So it's with this fire in my boutique-sweets-loving belly, I email Lindt customer service in Sydney to see if they have anything to say about my identifed 'quality control issues', and as I was expecting there is no attention to detail on the customer service department either as nobody has returned my email.

Oh well, I guess I already knew were I stood with Lindt Cafe, I knew it wasn't for me but I thought they might like our feedback. I guess they are too busy serving crappy products to silly people who are willing to queue for them because they think it's the hot place.
More fool them for paying $6 for the eclair that everyone said "Eww" to.


  1. Spot on, Jack. I'd say the primary audience of the Lindt Café is *exactly* the same crowd that embraced Max Brenner and then Koko Black. Sweet tooth. A touch of "location"-glamour. Not particularly discerning as long as it seems somewhat luxurious. Naturally, that's not everyone who goes to these places, but with ludicrous prices and little care for the product, it's still the less critical punters who have to be the main focus.

  2. Hey Duncan

    Funny enough the Lindt 'delices' that I saw today were uglier than your maca-wrongs. They made me sad, just knowing how good they could/should be.


  3. I will stick to Lindt blocks. Like you, I had to try it out myself. See what the fuss is all about and blogged about it awhile ago. The cake was a tad too dry and it cost $10. I am sure we can find something better at half the price. Over-rated. Over priced.

  4. There are two things working in favour the Lindt cafe. Firstly, it's the power of the brand. Lindt is that slightly more posh, slightly more expensive, not for the kids chocolate that anyone can find in the local supermarket. Even with the pricing at the cafe, it makes sense for them to price their goods higher because it plays to the crowds expectation of enjoying something "that little bit special". Secondly, it's the power of the crowd. If there are a lot of people queueing up to get in somewhere, it must be good, right? Okay, we might laugh at the crowds at the Lindt cafe, but what about that old theory that you can always find a good ethnic restaurant by the number of ethnic people dining in it?

    You're right in that the Lindt Cafe is nothing more than a corporate exercise, devoid of the love and attention of artisan producers. In some ways, it can be seen as simply a more upmarket Michels Patisserie.

  5. I Like the chocolate blocks. I went to a PR night at Lindt and the cakes were okay but certainly not worth a detour or the money. Nice to see there are other people who share my views on Koko Black and Max Brenner. I've bought ganaches from both and been dissapointed, really dissapointed.

  6. I work opposite the Lindt cafe and watched people swarm over the place for weeks. I am a fussy non-dairy eating person so nothing really tempted (except the blocks bought cheaply at the supermarket). Koko Black doesn't do it for me either.

    My favourite chocolate shop/cafe in Australia remains Adora in Sydney. Family run, lovely hand crafted chocolates and assorted goodies. Great dark (dairy-free) choc choices. A chocolate of your choice comes free with your coffee - great little PR trick that one.

  7. Since all my friends were raving about it and one was working at a competitor and wanted to suss out the competition, the both of us went down to Lindt, about a month after opening.

    First off, the service was abhorrent. We stood at the front of the queue waiting to be seating nigh onto 10 minutes and considered walking out when unable to catch the attention of any waiter. Just as we were about to walk out, a lady behind us tapped me on the shoulder and asked if we had been attended to at all, and when we said no, was shocked. She then marched over to the nearest waiter and sternly told him off, saying even if they were full, we should at least have been greeted. LOL. Go her!

    Finally seated, I opted for the cake of the day with coffee, which I passed to my friend. And some strawberry mousse-thingy I can't remember the name of. That was alright. The opera cake of the day tasted and stale and dry as if it had been made two days ago and left uncovered. Which may be why it was the cake of the day. The cappuccino was bubbly in a disturbing manner reminiscent of a witches cauldron and so bad my friend (behind a napkin) spat out his mouthful.

    Lindt is NOT GOOD. WHY it continues to attract such a huge crowd is beyond me. Well, perhaps the same reason so many bad restaurants still survive in the city. Pure volume of customers? People from other countries with bad chocolate? Chocolate in Malaysia is made with palm oil, as our milk supplies are very limited and are not very nice. Which made me very happy to eat even supermarket blocks of chocolate when I first arrived in Australia.

  8. I went a few weeks ago to try the macarons (it's not pompous enough they renamed them 'Delice')
    My boyfriend, who discovered real macarons when we were in Paris, was disgusted by the fact 90% had broken/cracked shells. Hmm..when an amateur can tell, I think there's a huge problem.

  9. I went to the Lindt Cafe in Sydney recently - as there is so little else to do in the Sydney CBD if you wish to while away an afternoon - where are the Mr Tulk's, Sally's Kitchen, Pushkas etc in Sydney's CBD?

    It was a very (even by my low expectations) disappointing experience. Everything was overpriced and generic - there is greater satisfaction in buying Lindt chocolate on special at Woolies than in sitting cheek by jowl in the glorified canteen setting that is the Lindt 'speciality' Cafe.

    Much the same could be said for the Guylian Cafe on Circular Quay. Their $7 hot chocolate buys you a standard cafe hot chocolate with a few wafer thin pieces of Guylian Chocolate to dissolve in it on the side. I put one of the pieces in and all that happened was I got a deposit of semi melted but not emulsified chocolate in the bottom, so I decided I was better of eating the chocolate and abandoning the lacklustre drink.

    Give me Sugardough's amazingly thick Italian Hot Chocolate (it's like drinking hot yogo but a million times better) any day!

  10. Eww is exactly my reaction to that eclair! I wonder if, once all the hype dies down, Melbourne is too savvy for this generic type of place? Hmmm... here's hoping!

  11. Sadly, mediocrity is popular with the masses. Not just chocolate theme shops, but apparently everything - from supermarket food, to restaurants to clothing to blogs. The sheeple flock to the loudest and brightest, but not necessarily the best, and, by and large, are very content with it.

    I'm with you, as you know.

  12. Have to say I don't mind the Lindt cafe (especially the one in Sydney) and think it gets a bit of a raw deal.

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