Nora is a newly opened Thai inspired bakery and café, located on Elgin Street in Carlton. Owned by couple Jean Thamthanakorn and Sari (Tong) Rojanametin who are each individually responsible for various elements here at Nora – Jean for her spectacular charcoal tarts and Sari for his magnificent homemade sourdough.
Tong is a former artist and photographer and has previously worked in the coffee industry for a few years with stints at St Ali, Seven Seeds and Traveller. Most recently he has pursued cooking and worked at The Commoner, Longrain and Mr Nice Guy. Jean is a tax accountant as well as a self-taught baker and has honed in on a skill of baking over the last few years by baking for family and friends. It was Jean’s love of baking and her inventiveness that brought above the creation of charcoal tarts.
These charcoal tarts are seriously better than cronuts and will certainly take not only Melbourne but the rest of Australia by storm – they are amazingly divine! The tarts have a distinctive black pastry shell which is achieved by the addition of small amounts of food-grade activated charcoal which is made from coconut husks. Food-grade activated charcoal is safe to ingest and has reported healthy benefits such as being a detoxifier.
The tarts are filled with a variety of flavour combinations that have taken inspiration from the couples South East Asian background. Flavours include Lemongrass & Ginger Brûlée, Coconut Pandan, Strawberries with Tamarind Cream Cheese and Kaffir-Lime Custard with Sour Cherries. Get in quick each day as Jean only makes a limited number (around 100 a day).
The menu at Nora is simple; but reads and shows the depth of experience and advanced techniques of an experienced chef. There are six dishes to choose from – Our Water + Salt, Egg, Salmon, Bacon, Rice and Nora Flakes. Don’t be fooled by the simplistic mostly one worded headings, as when you read the elements that go into making that entire dish you will be impressed. For example the Salmon has been lightly smoked and jasmine cured, and is served with coconut, nashi and nasturtium. The Our Water and Salt comes served on a cute wooden tray with house made sourdough, semi churned butter, chicken-liver parfait together with ricotta and jam. The Nora Flakes consist of puffed polenta, wild rice, quinoa and crystallised nuts – and if you have seen any pictures they have a great marketing tool which is a mini-box with NORA MORN FLAKES plastered on the front.
They also serve a great selection of teas with Small Batch coffee being pumped out of their La Marzocco machines.
The interior of Nora is light filled, airy and very modern. As you step inside you are greeted by an illuminated sign with the letters NORA lit up. The next thing that catches your eye is the shiny new La Marzocco coffee machine, together with coffee smells in the air. A point of difference at Nora is the white table topped wooden table that have ingredients displayed out in an artistic manner which entices you to go over. Over to one side is a bunch of lemongrass paired with lemons and ginger. Just above this is a whole coconut, paired together with charcoal and the coconut husk base. There are also other ingredients paired together such as eggs, chocolate and sesame. Their décor is simple and minimalistic yet captures ones attention.
Tables are wooden and low paired with stylish round stools – and can seat from two to four people – there is limited seating available outside. From most tables you can take a sneak peak into the preparation of your meals as it overlooks the main counter.
I ordered a latte to start which was full bodied, aromatic and delicious – with notes of citrus and nuttiness. The perfect pick me up and start to what would be a great meal!
I was tossing up between the SALMON and the EGG and decided to go with EGG dish. This dish comes with Egg cooked in Nora’s special way, House Chilli Dressing, Garlic, Salted Shrimps and Thai Greens. I was very interested in seeing what Eggs done Nora’s way would be like. The dish came out with the Asian Greens dominating the round, deep plate, with the Egg hidden underneath. The House Chilli Dressing, Salted Shrimps were placed sporadically around the Egg and Asian Greens. The Asian Greens were refreshing and a very distinct Thai flavour to them – I loved the variety of greens that were use, they all worked seamlessly together. The Egg itself was reminiscent of tofu – smooth and silky and easy to eat – paired with the house chilli dressing – which had the perfect level of spice – together with the saltiness of the shrimps – was really delicious. It is the type of dish that makes you keep going back for more.
A definite highlight of the dish was the freshly made sourdough bread that came served in its own cup off to the side. The bread was heavenly – soft and fluffy on the inside, crunchy and texture on the outside with just the right amount of saltiness. It was that that great that I later asked how they made this bread – if only I was that skilful!
You cannot leave Nora without trying their signature charcoal tarts. I was worried as I knew that only a certain number was made; and I had arrived about an hour and a half before closing time. However I was in luck, they still two flavours left and I opted for the Kaffir-Lime and Sour Cherry Charcoal tart.
When it comes out to you it is covered with the silver dish that it would have been baked in to create the element of suspense and surprise. The unveiling of the charcoal tart builds up anticipation and delight. Once uncovered, the brilliant blackness of the tart is revealed along with bits of crumble and pistachio that surrounds the main black beauty. Once you delve into the tart you are greeted with the distinct Thai flavours (Kaffir Lime in this case) paired perfectly with a western element (Sour Cherries). The tart filling is gooey, smooth and velvety all at the same time. What makes these tarts especially amazing is the charcoal casing itself – it is flaky, crisp and soft – it literally melts in your mouth and you really could find yourself eating tart after tart after tart. The perfect addition of pistachios and crumble added texture and depth to the tarts. I cannot wait to come back and sample all the other flavour varieties.
Nora is a great new addition to the Carlton area – especially bringing Thai inspired breakfasts into the mix. Their signature charcoal tarts are (in my opinion) better than cronuts and would recommend anyone and everyone to try them – after all the charcoal used does have some health benefits! Get down to Nora now!
Rating : 4 Pandas
Menu – Refer to picture above
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Laid back and Relaxed
Standout Dish: Any of the charcoal tarts
Service: Very Friendly and Welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
156 Elgin Street, Carlton
Tel No: 9041 8644
Monday, Wednesday & Thursday: CLOSED
Tuesday: 7:00am – 3:30pm
Friday to Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm