Gontran Cherrier is currently a name on many a lip in Melbourne, with the opening of his new boulangerie and café at 140 Smith street, Collingwood (03) 9416 3609. It's open 7 days a week from 7am to 6pm, however the kitchen closes at 3pm. How could I not check it out when the upcoming opening of his first official Australian store in Collingwood, and the first boulangerie in the world to double as a cafe was everywhere in the media.
I do have to confess that I've been back twice already in the last six days since its opening on Saturday the 18th of June 2016. Were I living within walking distance, I have no doubt I'd be there everyday buying his amazing squid ink baguettes to feast on.
Acccording to Gontran, it's the smell of warm hot bread that fills and satisfies his senses. Like the true Frenchman that he is, bread and cheese is what does it for him. He fell in love with flour a long time ago, especially sourdough.
High quality ingredients is a must have for his breads and aside from using local flour, his favourite flour from France, Label Rouge, sourced from Auvergne and his French Lescure butter has made the trip with him to Melbourne, so we can have the true French experience.
This is not to say, being the artisan that he is, he's not dabbling in our local flavours and produce. He's already making available the Australian flavours of lemon myrtle and pepper leaves, bush seeds and more, with a view to expand on these flavours. Perhaps just not right now as in a month he'll be jetting off to open yet another bakery in Taipei to add to his now 27 (who knows how many more to come) boulangeries around the world. That's pretty impressive when you consider his first only opened back in 2010.
It was good to see, along with all other ingredients that are locally sourced, that his free-range ham on the menu was from one of my favourites, Pacdon Park in Echuca. He's also Aussiefied his menu for the little ones, making 'cheesymite baguettes' available.
With the storefront designed by Eades & Bergman, the inside layout is fresh and spacious with built-in upholstered bench seats and single timber chairs. At least at this cafe, I don't need to fight for the comfy upholstered seats we all love, as there's more than enough to go around. There are also a few bar stools to sit on, however, in the twice I've been there, the seats have been filled with the artisan boulanger himself, his baker who trained with him for years, the project manager and the till manager, getting on with business.
There's a pink theme running through the cafe with pink wire mesh hanging overhead, pink macrame on pot plants and pink lanyards around the neck of the waiting staff. Yet, it all looks perfectly in place and suited to the vibe that is Collingwood.
On the menu you have the famous St Ali coffee, Larsen & Thompson and other teas, plucked from the finest harvests of the most prestigious estates. The natural mineral water and 100% fruit juices come from, Daylesford & Hepburn Spring, and you can even get mocktails and coconut water to complete the drinks menu.
There's a couple of meals listed for the kiddies with boiled eggs and toasted baguette soldiers and the aforementioned cheesymite baguette. There's a lot of sides and extras to choose from to design your own as well.
The lunchtime soup for the day today was a yummy carrot soup with a squid ink and regular baguette and French butter to go with it, which was wolfed down by my daughter. My friend and I had the squid ink bun with seafood mornay and cozberg from the hot sandwiches range. We should have ordered differently, but we both fell in love with the thought of that seafood mornay in a squid ink bun. It was delicious and so very melt in the mouth. Our lunch was well rounded off by some chocolate and almond croissants, French tea, a latte and hot chocolate. YUM is the word!
We didn't have the Gontran's plate, a selection of charcuterie, pickles, salad and cheese with freshly baked bread you see in the pictures. I just boldly marched up to another patron and asked if he wouldn't mind waiting a moment longer for the pleasure on his lips, so I could take a picture of his beautifully plated meal for my article. The answer is obvious.
Other lunches available are the confit ora king salmon with braised greens, beans, fried capers and smoked yoghurt; cape grim beef bourguignon, potato gratin and seasonal greens; and a warm salad of cauliflower and parmesan. There are a few gluten free and vegan options as well.
The boulangerie cabinet holds croissants with Pacdon Park free-range ham and gruyere cheese; molasses bun with roast beef, horseradish mayo, relish and lettuce; curry bun with crumbed pork, tonkatsu sauce, kewpie mayo and slaw; tartine of roast pumpkin, ajo blanco and smoked yoghurt and classic baguette with free range chicken, mayo, avocado and brie cheese.
As mentioned before, the hot sandwiches include croque monsieur, Pacdon Park free range ham, gruyere bechamel, Dijon mustard; croque madame, same as the croque monsieur but with an added egg; paprika bun with slow roasted lamb shoulder, truffled cauliflower, gruyere bechamel and spinach toastie and the seafood mornay bun I had for lunch.
On the other side where it's more bakery than cafe, the glass cabinets are filled with an array of mouth watering patisseries and a variety of breads to choose from. Make sure you check out my fave squid ink baguette.
I don't need to tell you much more about this fourth generation baker who has honed his craft in some of Paris's finest restaurants, has written many a best selling cookbook, appeared in a French version of MasterChef and hosted his own television show. You need to but google his name and a plethora of articles will be at your fingertips.
Let the food of this artisan boulanger who fell in love with Melbourne and our food culture, speak for itself. All I can say is yay, we in Melbourne got this Normandy born artisan in all of Australia first! Stay in touch on his Australian Facebook page.