Gontran Cherrier Artisan Boulanger

The 'Let them eat croissants' neon sign is soon to be one of Melbourne's most Instagrammed.
The 'Let them eat croissants' neon sign is soon to be one of Melbourne's most Instagrammed. Photo: Luis Ascui

140 Smith St Fitzroy, VIC 3065

View map

Opening hours Daily 7am-6pm (kitchen closes 3pm)
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9419 1518

Fourth-generation French baker Gontran Cherrier​ operates a string of boulangeries around the world: three in Paris, 20-odd in Singapore, Japan and South Korea, and now one in Collingwood, his first in Australia.

Cherrier likes to give his operations a local twist, creating an intriguing blend of French tradition and local culture.

"After controlling the quality of the traditional product I try to bring something foreign – maybe lotus paste from China, miso from Japan, lemon myrtle from here. I try to catch some ideas from different places to make a bridge between two cultures," says the youthful native of Normandy (he's only 37).

Quiche lorraine topped with a fried egg.
Quiche lorraine topped with a fried egg. Photo: Luis Ascui

For Collingwood, that means a full-service cafe as well as a retail boulangerie, with an all-day breakfast menu, and a chef, Travis Welch, imported from East Brunswick cafe Pope Joan.

The menu is restrained by some local cafe standards –  no doughnut burgers and no sugar overloads ... unless you count the breakfast bread and pastry basket with French butter (Lescure). The croissants are made with imported French flour: six tonnes of it to start with. "I need a dough with enough stretch and layers. Without the good quality of flour it's difficult," Cherrier says.

House-made yoghurt is served with simple toasted muesli and poached fruit, a porridge of oats and barley gets a lick of maple butter, while the bacon-and-egg sandwich appears as free-range bacon, fried egg and sriracha​ mayo on a pitch-black squid ink-infused bun.

Pastries are made using French flour.
Pastries are made using French flour. Photo: Luis Ascui

Delicately smoky and tender salmon rillettes is served with avocado segments and a mild, almost tofu-like fresh house-made cow's milk cheese under a neat blanket of baby tatsoi​ on toasted miso rye bread. The miso-rye is an unusual bread combination that is quite delicious, the sour, sweet and umami-ferment flavours playing off each other beautifully.

There's a little quiche lorraine – retro, moi? – with a fried egg perched neatly on top. The quiche has a lovely, flaky pastry and a delicate, not-too-eggy filling, with a contrasting remoulade of celeriac, creme fraiche and lemon zest.

Thick-cut Melbourne Pantry bacon is just that – a slab that looks like it was sawn rather than cut – served simply with a fried egg, toasted white sourdough and a little copper pan of duck cassoulet with confit Burrawong Gaian​ free-range birds.

Free-range bacon, fried egg and sriracha mayonnaise in a squid ink bun.
Free-range bacon, fried egg and sriracha mayonnaise in a squid ink bun. Photo: Luis Ascui

Lunch is from a small selection of classics done with quality ingredients – Cape Grim beef in a bourguignon, confit Ora king salmon with braised greens and smoked yoghurt – or maybe a simple take on the croque-monsieur: there's none of the heart-busting blistered exterior cheese found on some local versions, just a restrained white sourdough toasted sandwich of Pacdon Park free-range ham and a gruyere bechamel (a bitey Swiss-French one) laced with a sharp dijon mustard.

For a sandwich hybrid we love the curry bun with pork tonkatsu, coleslaw and Kewpie mayo, while among the bread the montmartrois (sourdough white and quinoa flour, with a dark, hard crust and a dense, moist crumb) and the miso-rye combination stand out.

The croissant, of course, are excellent: small, dense, chewy and traditional, though the coffee – espresso brews with Sensory Lab beans – is, sensibly, Melbourne-style, not Paris.

Vibe: Paris-Melbourne match.

Pro Tip: Don't miss the lovely gianduia eclairs.

Go-to Dish: Quiche lorraine with fried egg.