The old adage that you should never judge a book by its cover is absolutely untrue in the case of Le Bon Melange Cafe Patisserie in Gungahlin. Set on a sunny corner with pastel coloured outdoor tables and doors bookended with elegant topiary plants, it looks like a perfect little piece of the 18th arrondissement in Paris has crash-landed in suburban Canberra and what you see is exactly what you get.
Inside, sage green subway tiles, net curtains, bold wallpaper and flowers give Le Bon Melange a cosy, classic feel but the most striking thing about the place is the bustle - at peak times it's rare to get a table (although you can book ahead via text message) and when you swing the doors open, the air is filled with the smell of baking and the sound of booming laughs, chatter and joie de vivre.
The pastry cabinets are bursting with amazing creations and unlike some Canberra cafes which seem to sacrifice freshness and flavour for something that looks photogenic, Le Bon Melange's creations are classics done well, some with a modern twist but nothing too flashy. They allow the flavour and the ingredients to speak for themselves (and in fairness, they're still absolutely gorgeous).
The all-day breakfast menu is smart - although small, it lists some French classics including decadently cheese-laden croque monsieur and croque madame, filled baguettes and the most amazing (if not so French) black forest pancakes. The menu is complemented with daily blackboard specials.
Black Forest pancakes at Le Bon Melange, Gungahlin
The croque madame literally oozes with cheese. It's stuffed with ham, mustard and béchamel then topped with a perfect runny egg - so in short, do NOT order this dish if you are anti-carb, anti-gluten or anti-dairy but it's a must-do for the most deliciously indulgent brunch or lunch.
The black forest pancakes are light and fluffy and topped with chocolate ganache, chocolate cake, cherry syrup, Morello cherries and cream. Drool! With the current Canberra trend of topping pancakes with fairy floss, meringue, ice cream cones and even flakes of gold, Le Bon Melange's pancake offering is streets ahead - a solid and classic flavour combination which, like everything else on the menu, is a great example of letting quality ingredients in smart combinations do the talking.
And if you've walked every corner of Canberra and still been left underwhelmed with the croissants on offer, wander no more - Le Bon Melange is the place to go. The buttery croissants are that elusive combination of crispy outer layer encasing a pillowy centre. Not spongy or stale like many Canberra croissants, these are the real deal. There are also almond croissants and pan au chocolat, equally delicious. There is a daily mix of jewel-like macarons, fruit tarts, mille fueille, cheesecake, eclairs and cinnamon buns, a veritable treasure trove of treats.
A suburban gem in every sense, the crowds at Le Bon Melange prove that if you bring your A-game to the 'burbs, people will find you and keep coming back.