140 Smith St Fitzroy, VIC 3065
|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).
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.
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.
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.