You learn something new every day… and in the case of the day where Mirander and I visited Dazzling Café, it was how to eat a piece of the toast the size of your face.
Giant bricks of toast filled with yet more baby cubes of toast sound like a strange carb-loaded monster from Dr Atkins’ worst nightmares, but these bread-head desserts have become a bona fide “thing” in Hong Kong, alongside the recent influx of cutesy Taiwanese cafés with queues almost as long at the restaurants’ daily bread orders.
Dazzling Café – the latest Taiwanese café import to hit Hong Kong, hot on the heels of Coffee Alley and Teawood except with a much cushier location in Tsim Sha Tsui’s The One mall – definitely delivers on the cute factor. Eggshell blue walls, chairs with bunny ears, waitresses dressed as French maids, a logo featuring lace, baby pink AND pearls… it all feels like you’ve entered a real-life doll’s house.
Dazzling Café is famous for its honey toast, the afore-mentioned breezeblock of bread filled with tiny toast offspring. Resisting the come-hither tease of the “Party In Your Mouth” variety, we opted for the more straightforward Caramel Honey; upon its arrival, a waitress actually teaches you how to dissect your golden brick and, like a dessert-themed round of Operation, use a pair of tongs to remove the baby cubes from its crispy innards. You then “butter” your tiny toasties with the array of sweets around your plate: whipped cream, vanilla ice-cream, custard and caramel syrup.
It tastes exactly as you’d expect – like toast topped with cream, ice-cream, custard and syrup – which for those with a sweet tooth, is obviously pretty damn good. I’d have happily traded the whipped cream, a dessert nemesis of mine, for more of the custard (creamy, not too sweet), ice-cream (necessary to help more toast go down), and utterly addictive candied nuts (moreish caramelised crunchiness). Somehow, the toast remains pleasingly crispy throughout and it’s all pretty yummy… if still one of the oddest ideas for a dessert I’ve ever seen.
The other current dessert du jour in Hong Kong is waffles. Near enough every restaurant, dessert specialists or otherwise, is availing themselves of a waffle iron to get in on the eggy action. That being said, I’ve yet to taste a really great one in Hong Kong so far… and Dazzling Café’s is definitely not it either.
We ordered the Classic Chocolate Waffle with an additional surcharge for the “Mochi Upgrade”, which is supposed to result in an extra chewy texture. I was envisioning gooey mochi-filled waffle ridges (rather like cheese-filled pizza crusts) but alas, I couldn’t detect any evidence of our upgrade in the waffle’s appearance, and barely any in its texture either.
Despite the lovely presentation, Mirander and I didn’t get on with this at all. We weren’t sure if it was the chocolate sauce or the chocolate waffle, but we both found it left a weirdly unpleasant, artificial taste in our mouths that meant we barely ate a third of it between us. The side serving of chocolate ice-cream was again much too small for the amount of waffle, but this was a blessing in disguise given it presented yet more of that insipid, fake chocolate taste again.
What you really need to cut through this lot is a lovely cup of cleansing hot tea… But we’re at Dazzling Café, the Club Tropicana of teas, where everything is massively fruit-infused and comes in 80s cocktail-bar colours. I opted for the fresh tropical fruit iced tea, which was rather nice on its own and not as crazy-sweet as I feared – but by the time I’d eaten enough sugar to start my own plantation, I was craving nothing more than a simple pot of Earl Grey.
Dazzling Café also has a range of pasta entrees, none of which enticed us and I can’t imagine being a main reason why anyone would visit. We did try the truffle fries though… and frankly, that’s about six words more than should be written about them. It really is all about those toast-fists – seriously, every table had one – and although I still can’t imagine what mad genius came up with the concept, I’d happily return to discover what a Party In My Mouth consists of.
As with all these new Taiwanese cafés, you’ll probably have to put up with some crazy queues on your quest to reach Dazzling toast nirvana. Mirander and I went on a weekday around 11.45am and joined a small queue to bag a table once the restaurant actually opened at 12pm; there’s ample seating, both indoors and out, so your chances of making this first sitting if you arrive early are pretty good.
The service was sweet (the waitresses are taught to speak Mandarin only, by the way) and the environment is comfortable, making it a cut above many “upstairs cafés” in Hong Kong. The waffles cost around $70, the toasts about $90… whilst losing your self-dignity as you snap 500 photos of a toast the size of your face and coo over chairs with bunny ears is entirely free-of-charge! If not quite dazzling, Dazzling Café is definitely shinier than the average Hong Kong café – and I doubt it’ll lose its lustre amongst the city’s dessert-loving masses anytime soon. You’ll never see toast in the same way again.
Dazzling Café locations in Hong Kong:
– Shop 22, L3, The ONE, 100 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2312 6099
– Shop 313-314, 3/F, Windsor House, 311 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, +852 2881 5318
Photo credit: Interior photos from InvestHK