A writer at the New York Times declared Lune Croissanterie, in Fitzroy, the home of the world’s best croissant and the Melbourne institution has now reached unprecedented levels of pastry prominence. I’ve heard rumours of these croissants: croissants so buttery you’d wish yourself bulimic just to taste them twice, croissants so flaky you wouldn’t bother inviting them anywhere. The French Government vehemently denies their existence, but I’m about to have one in my grubby little hands.
I take my place in line at the intersection of two inner-city streets. A group of girls have gathered across the road, taking photos of the fools lining up for a croissant. It was embarrassing, being stuck in this line, until moments ago a little girl pushed past on a Razor scooter and fell flat on her face. She stood up, kept going and fell over again. The tears came ¬– hers, not mine – and I whispered thank you, convinced that she’s an angel sent to make me feel like less of a dickhead. She walked away with her dad, both her nose and dreams broken, and perfect tears streamed down her angelic face. I can’t be sure, but at one point she turned back, winked and said: ‘Get that pastry, Patrice.’
I’ve never seen so many Insta-hungry croissant connoisseurs, henceforth known as cronnoisseurs, in my life. In fact, I’ve never seen so much as one until today. They’re patiently waiting for a chance to get a photo next to the Lune logo on the building’s brick exterior, while the order of the day inside is croissants, naturally, with a side of Boomerangs. These people are Boomerang-ing everything.
‘Is this a fucking joke?’ says the guy behind me, ‘why are people lining up for this, do they even serve food?’
‘It’s a croissanterie babe,’ says his partner, ‘they serve croissants.’
She’s done her research.
In the middle of the converted warehouse sits a glass cube in which a chef forms fresh, buttery treats. Tourists press their noses to the glass like children at the zoo, phones held high to capture the excitement of the morning bake. To the left, there’s a rack of official merchandise: not only does Lune make branded shirts, tote bags and socks, but people are actually buying them, buying a pair of socks branded with a croissanterie which, while it’s a fun word to say, doesn’t historically scream fashion icon.
There’s a young guy double-parked near the merchandise, with a sugar-dusted almond croissant in his left hand and a traditional butter beauty in his right. He takes a bite of each then swaps with his friend, whose fingers drip with the innards of a greasy ham and cheese number. There are, it seems, no rules in Croissant Club. It’s disgustingly beautiful.
After 20 minutes and 15 seconds of waiting, I bite into the world’s best croissant and you know what? It’s fairly good. The world’s best? It’s up there, but the 20 minute wait leaves a sour, rather than buttery, taste in the mouth and besides, I’m uncomfortable with people proclaiming something as the world’s best. It happens all the time in country towns, and while I don’t doubt that the pie shop in Kangaroo Valley, NSW, makes phenomenal pies, I’m sceptical that anyone could sample a pie from every bakery and make an informed decision on the “World’s Best Pie” without suffering a coronary. At least they’d die doing what they loved.
Maybe that’s why I’m not in sales. “Really Decent Pies, Depending on Your Taste in Pies,” isn’t the most impressive tagline. Based off no evidence other than my own observations, it seems that the less qualified someone is to proclaim something as the world’s best, the more likely they will. To definitively rank something as broad and personal as the taste of croissants, or even pies, it helps to have experienced as few as possible because unshakable conviction often depends on a lack of exposure.
There’s a bakery near my house with a sign that reads “The best croissants in the world: as voted by my cousin and two of his mates.” Though it’s certainly convincing, questions arise like a curious erection.
What authority, for example, do the two mates lend to the cousin’s original claim? And furthermore, if only one of his mates agreed, could the cousin still justify his claim? After all, the New York Times writer is just one person, how can his views stack up to a group consensus? Regardless, I’ve stopped going because I feel uncomfortable. Not so much with the hyperbole, it’s more that something smells off and that something, it would seem, is not me.
I went in a few months ago for a flaky fix and the young girl serving asked what perfume I was wearing. I didn’t know the name but I promised to let her know next time, and like most promises I make to the important women in my life, of which there aren’t many, I soon forgot about it.
The next time I saw her, it became immediately apparent that she had not, like me, forgotten about our conversation. We were two dogs at the park: me trying to go about my business as she sniffed around, subtly at first, but becoming more and more aggressive until finally, unexpectedly, her nose was in my metaphorical arsehole. I stepped back from the counter in a state of confusion and concern.
‘Your perfume,’ she said, ‘what is it? You said you’d find out.’
‘It’s called Fuel for Life,’ I said, waiting for her to hand me my literal fuel for life, the world’s best croissant. It’s a simple action, the handover, and one might say it’s key to running a successful bakery, but the more I saw her the more difficult this transaction became.
I went in one day and she was working with another girl. ‘This is the guy,’ she said to her colleague when I ordered, ‘the one who smells nice. Smell him.’
I stood still, awkward, but no more awkward than usual.
‘You’ll have to stop coming here,’ she continued, ‘you smell too good.’
‘I will if you don’t give me my croissant soon,’ I said.
I haven’t been back since.
I remember the day my family realised I needed to wear deodorant. I was 13, a good decade before I hit puberty, and we were in a hotel room in Berlin. I was wearing a Wallabies’ rugby jersey – probably had been for several days – and they were trying to locate the source of a horrific funk, which turned out to be my armpits. I had never had such a powerful tool at my disposal and they begged me to stop as I ran around the room putting everything I could find under my armpit. Nothing was safe, nothing was sacred and nothing was spared. It was, they remind me, the world’s worst smell.
I like to think I’ve come a long way since Berlin. Geographically, yes, but also when it comes to musk. I now realise that it’s nice to smell nice, but it’s not nice to be smelt no matter how nice you may smell. There’s a sandalwood cross that’s mine to bear and the weight of expectation is too heavy, which has left me, predictably, in a pastry predicament.
On the one hand, I have a local croissant that was voted the world’s best by three unverified sources, but to enjoy said croissant I must maintain a level of personal hygiene I’m not willing to commit to and feel uncomfortable seeking my food-based comfort.
On the other hand, I have the world’s best croissant as judged by a respected publication, but the consumption of a croissant, ultimately, comes down to experience rather than taste. It should be simple, it should be stress-free, and having to wait 20 minutes for a croissant consequently discounts that croissant from being the world’s best.
I guess I’m in a bit of a jam.