Do you ever wake up craving (a) a holiday to France; or (b) cheese? I frequently do both and now I've found a solution which doesn't require an aeroplane ticket. Instead, head to the leafy Canberra suburb of Ainslie where you'll uncover an amazing secret tucked into a cosy corner of the suburban shops. Just look for the sign which says Briezh Café and Creperie adorned with the triskele, three interlocked spirals symbolic of the Brittany region of France. Spot those and you've found it.
The minute you step inside Breizh, you'll be transported to a brilliant bit of Brittany right here in Canberra. You'll be greeted by a cosy coastal vibe with light wood, stone walls and gentle wall art. You'll feel the buzz of a well loved local cafe where the owners take the time to mingle and joke with customers whether you're there for the first time or the fiftieth. And you'll smell baking bread, coffee and cheese - put simply, this place is like a warm French embrace wrapping you up and welcoming you to stay awhile.
Charcuterie to accompany the raclette at Breizh Cafe and Creperie
The specialties at Breizh are a showcase of Brittany's best - crepes, gallettes and even kouign-amann but the reason I am visiting is a treat from the alps - raclette. If you've not heard of it, its a wheel of cheese grilled to a caramelised crunch on top but oozy below. Just when there is the perfect balance of crust and ooze, a layer is scraped off onto potatoes seasoned with salt and pepper. The traditional accompaniment is charcuterie and cornichons but Breizh also offers a vegetarian option. We take the recommendation to add both green salad and fresh baguette. As the cheese smokes and bubbles, it draws a crowd: this is food as theatre with chef Bruno explaining the history of the dish and the fact that the type of cheese, the cooking process and the slicing are all called raclette.
As our first plates are handed over covered in golden goodness, we're told he'll be back as many times as we like to provide more cheese. Apparently, the average person dips in three or four time. Hardly any stop at the first serve, Bruno tells us with a chuckle. The combination of the potatoes, meat and vinegar laden cornichons is absolutely indulgent and perfect for the crisp early spring weather. Even better in winter, I imagine, and I vow to come back on the coldest of Canberra days and find out. We end up having three serves of raclette but decline the fourth in favour of dessert.
Its only midday but the pastries are disappearing fast, a sure sign that they're delicious and in demand. We choose a pear and cider tart and some berry-filled doughnuts. And of course, crepes are the signature dish so we order a simple sugar and butter crepe too. Cider is the traditional accompaniment and it also shines in the tart which is laced with spices and tastes like heaven.
It's rare that you find a restaurant where every bite from first to last is perfection but Breizh managed not only that but also provided warm service and a welcoming atmosphere. In fact, its so good you'll likely already be planning your next visit before you step back outside and leave Brittany behind 'til next time.