Chris Mirams and his partner (in life and business) Brittany Gillespie-Needham only opened six weeks ago but the place is humming.
Everyone knows everyone else in this town, so when the building paper went up in the windows of this tiny nook behind the iconic Art Deco Masonic Hotel, news spread like wildfire. “You’ve come a long way since your early days in the kitchen, Chris!” enthuses one customer as the trained pastry chef, who worked under Gordon Ramsay and Josh Emett at Maze in Melbourne, boxes up her order.
The counter heaves with goodies – traditional French croissants and pain au chocolate on the top, exquisite bonbons, each one glistening like a marble, underneath. “We build the bonbons from the outside in,” explains Chris. “The moulds are imported from Belgium, polished, and the chocolate shell gets the intense shine from careful tempering of cocoa butter.”
Each batch of bonbons take four days to create. You read that correctly. Four. Days. “It’s a little bit time consuming,” says Chris, the master of understatement. Then there are the cakes – layered and luscious, everything from a white chocolate petite gateaux to a baked New York cheesecake topped with poached quince. And the take-home dessert pots, the likes of vanilla pana cotta with spiced apple.
Using seasonal and local produce is important to this entrepreneurial couple. “Our 64% dark French chocolate is imported, but it’s the only thing we buy out of the region. At the moment we have a lot of citrus and persimmon coming in, but in summer we’ll have plums and local berries,” Chris says.
Hawke’s Bay born and bred, he tells of how he began his career on the pastry station at Huka Lodge, moving to Australia and then back to the Bay to work with café doyenne Jennifer Le Comte at The Picnic, a cake store in Ahuriri, where he first met Brittany – a self-confessed chocaholic brimming with ambition. So when the Masonic came calling, the pair leapt at the opportunity.
With a blended family of four wee ones between them, and a burgeoning business, it’s a juggle for the couple. “I’m full time cooking and creating. Britt is really good at selling, and great on the social media and admin,” says Chris. “I think we work together pretty well. But she wears the pants.”
The highlight for many of their loyal return customers is Mirams’ signature lush, smooth “sipping chocolate” made with Origin Earth organic milk and topped with a handmade toasted marshmallow. There’s talk of a peanut butter hot chocolate to come – Brittany thinks it would be a smash hit. Chris is more circumspect. “But she’s usually right,” he concedes.
2 Emerson Street,
Opening hours: Wednesday – Sunday,
8am – 3pm.