With Christmas and its array of desserts just a few days away, we thought it would be nice to feature something which wasn't a Christmas tart, cake or pudding. There are better ways to end the big Christmas dinner. It seemed like a good time to talk about the delights of Vaniye French Patisserie.
Sonia Haumonte is not one of those people who came to food late in life. As a child growing up in Thailand, her parents always had restaurants and she has been obsessed with all things food since then. As a teen, she lived in New Zealand but eventually succumbed to the seduction of living in Europe and it was there she fell in love with French desserts.
"I still remember seeing my first French cake shop and my eyes nearly bulging out of my head. It was all just so beautiful. I enrolled myself in a patisserie course as a personal challenge, and it's been my life since," says Sonia. Serendipitously, she fell in love with a Frenchman, who was as obsessed as she. That one year in Europe turned into seven years as a pastry chef in Paris.
Laurent and Sonia eventually decided to move to New Zealand for a quieter life and soon realised there was a gap in the market for this high-end product.
"We decided to share our passion and started selling cakes at markets. Those first four weeks were awful! Masterchef hadn't started yet and many people hadn't seen a macaron before, let alone a St Honore. We couldn't even get people to try our cakes and I would almost be in tears by the end of the morning." recalls Sonia.
But slowly it changed. Expats and travelled market-goers started sampling the pastries and it went from there - so much so that now Vaniye now have their own premises in Parnell.
I have no words for their individual cakes. They are magnificent in every way. Detailed, beautiful and beyond delicious. Sonia and her staff make everything from scratch (including pureeing fruits for macarons) and they use only the best ingredients, including Valrhona chocolate.
They have a standard range but also dabble in new exotic flavours like matcha green tea, toasted yellow bean and seasonal specials like rhubarb.
My standout picks would have to be the Midnight Gunaja, a dark 70 per cent chocolate tart, and the rhubarb almond-pistachio frangipane cake. The rhubarb is perfectly poached in Tahitian vanilla. But I wouldn't want to miss out the "Pomme" with its caramelised apples atop a creamy vanilla brulee and walnut dacquoise either.
Everything is made with attention to presentation but also meticulous flavour-balancing. Care is taken with mousse-based chocolate creations using a "half-ganache, half-mousse" consistency so you are left satisfied but not overwhelmed by richness. In short the Vaniye pair are patisserie perfectionists and it shows.
If you are looking for something different for your holiday parties, make sure you try this little corner of Paris in Auckland.
Where to buy
Store: 1/7 Windsor St, Parnell (closed from Dec 24 to Jan 15), Ph (09) 307 0839
Online: vaniye.com or firstname.lastname@example.org