White chocolate cheesecake with fermented strawberries at 12-MicronCredit: Ryan Linnegar
You are, no doubt, familiar with the concept of a nightcap. But what of a night-cake – a dessert taken as a digestif with none of the hangover? A prospective dearth of late night drinking options in Sydney could mean that nougat is primed to become the new negroni, and one venue in particular seems perfectly placed to capitalise on the city’s seemingly unending appetite for sweet.

“Dining habits are changing all the time and it’s not uncommon for people to try different things in a night,” says Darren Purchese, the pastry chef best known for his work at the Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio in Melbourne, while accounting for the sudden preponderance of dedicated dessert bar style dining in a city gone mad for cult-worthy desserts. “Start the night somewhere for cocktails and nibbles, move to a restaurant for sharing plates and then move again to a dessert bar.

“Customers are more educated than ever about their food and they expect dessert to be something other than just a sweet afterthought to a meal. A wedge of tart or a slice is nice but customers want a dessert that is well thought out. They expect desserts to be as inventive and delicious as the savoury side – and even more so in some cases. I aim to deliver this at 12-Micron.”

Another Purchese dish, Roast White Chocolate, features banana, coffee, passionfruit and avocado
Credit: Ryan Linnegar

12-Micron, opened earlier this month at The Streets of Barangaroo, is the striking new restaurant-within-a-restaurant concept from Purchese and Executive Chef Justin Wise (The Press Club, The Point Albert Park). As a collective, the restaurant bills itself as a celebration of local produce across multiple drinking and dining experiences, but perhaps most notable amongst its many features is the 64-seater dessert bar that is open till late and serves the most popular flavour combinations from Purchese’s outpost in Melbourne “broken down then rebuilt as plated desserts for Sydney”.

As a standalone concept, Purchese says it wasn’t essential that his dessert menu match Wise’s savoury offering but more importantly that they shared a synergy in using high quality ingredients sourced, where possible, from Australia. That aside, traditional dining rules don’t apply. Starting and finishing with dessert is encouraged (especially by Purchese), particularly if that means kicking things off with a Gin & Tonic that won’t give you a hangover.

Below, the chef breaks down one of his singular desserts for GRAZIA.

Purchese’s ‘Gin & Tonic’ features a jelly made from Four Pillars Gin, lemon and lime curds, frozen cucumber and lime parfait, juniper and white chocolate mousse, fizzy white chocolate shavings and a lemon marshmallowCredit: Ryan Linnegar

“All of the desserts are highlights in their own way but the Gin & Tonic is a real showstopper. It’s a dessert that is a stand-alone winner but also perfect at the start of a series of sweet dishes. It has contrasts in colour, technique, temperature and flavour and lifts the palette like a real gin and tonic. A white chocolate mousse is perfumed with juniper and sprayed in green velvet chocolate. A perfectly balanced gin and tonic is sweetened and set as a clear jelly. The real lift comes from the fizzy white chocolate shards that emulate the effervescence of this classic cocktail.

“I have a Gin & Tonic Tart on the menu back at Burch & Purchese in Melbourne, which is a very popular item. I wanted to recreate this in a plated dessert format to give the diner a lift and a taste of something unexpected. I am not a huge fan of sugary or over-sweet desserts and this is fresh, light and a little bit naughty.

“The dessert served at 12-Micron is a lot different to the tart served in Melbourne and featured in my book Lamingtons & Lemon Tart – it is more complicated and I think that’s the point of dining out. You can make the tart at home but not everything you experience in a restaurant should be replicated as you may lose some of the magic of a restaurant experience.”

12-Micron is open for lunch and dinner, bar drinks and snacks, and dessert until late, seven days a week. You can find out more information here.

Tile and cover image: Ryan Linnegar/Courtesy of 12-Micron