There’s nothing wrong with Australian baking, says celebrity boulanger, Gontran Cherrier – it’s just not the way they do it à Paris. With that in mind, Cherrier has chosen Melbourne as the home of his first Australian bakery – and the 27th worldwide.
Introduced to Australia via the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Cherrier chose Collingwood for its cosmopolitan demographic. He might be (forgive the pun) buttering us up when he says: “Smith Street seems like Montmartre in Paris. It’s this area where you have many artists and many types of people. It’s really a melting pot, and my bakery is really inspired by different cultures.”
Importing Lescure butter and his favourite French flour, Cherrier intends to show Australians what a croissant tastes like in France. “In fact, flour and butter is like wine,” he explains. “Depending on who produces it, it expresses terroir. The taste in Australia or New Zealand is good. Of course I use local products, but I want to propose a French baguette with French flour and butter, and a French croissant with French flour and butter.”
His croissants are rich and somewhat cakey. The baguette has a crusty exterior and is a little chewy and resistant inside. There are Australian ingredients in the mix too; a lemon-myrtle choux pastry and a rye bread made with local red miso.
Ex-Pope Joan chef Travis Welch has designed a cafe menu – the first of its kind for a Cherrier venue – with breakfast dishes such as brûléed French toast with crème anglaise and poached rhubarb. Hearty lunches include Cape Grim beef bourguignon, potato gratin and seasonal greens, and a selection of sandwiches that range from curry bun with crumbed pork, tonkatsu sauce, Kewpie mayonnaise and slaw, to a paprika bun with slow-roasted lamb shoulder, smoked yoghurt and tabouli.
The storefront was designed by Eades & Bergman, which fit out Kong and The Meatball & Wine Bar, and makes use of pink macrame, polished concrete and a giant glowing sign that paraphrases the hapless Marie Antoinette: “Let them eat croissants…”