When I walk into Mon Poulet in Croydon, co-owner Maxime Croiset is kissing the foreheads of his two young sons. In French, mon poulet means “my chicken”, a term of endearment, so this moment doesn’t feel out of place.
“We want our customers to feel like they’ve come into our house and we’ve welcomed them into our home,” says co-owner Lauren Croiset, also Maxime’s partner. “Just having that experience of being around a familiar person in a really welcoming place.”
Maxime hung up his apron at Yarra Valley winery Yering Station, where he was head chef for three years, and Lauren left her job as a project manager for an aerospace company to open the shop mid-2019.
As expected, chooks take centre stage. Maxime brines whole free-range chickens, then stuffs them with fresh thyme, rosemary and whole garlic heads, covers the skin in butter, then cooks them on the rotisserie.
Get one whole to take home, or by the half or quarter with frites (chips) and gravy, roast vegetables or a side salad – maybe tomato and pickled shallots, or cucumber and tarragon. You can also get your rotisserie chook in a baguette with homemade rosemary mustard and gruyere cheese.
Other items draw on Maxime’s French heritage. There’s croque monsieur with ham hock and bechamel; beef brisket that’s been braised overnight; and saltbush lamb shanks with rosemary jus. You can also take dishes – including the beef bourguignon – away with you to cook at home.
“When people come here for our food and take it home, we want them to feel like they cooked it themselves, or the neighbour brought them some home-cooked food,” Maxime says.
The shop itself is simple, with cabinets displaying food and plants in mismatched pots. A miniature Eiffel Tower sits next to fresh bread from nearby Locavore Studio in Lilydale. The couple’s sons might also be playing in a corner.
Along one wall is a bench with a few stools, so you can have some house-made ham hock terrine or chicken liver parfait while you wait for your order.
And though Maxime is used to being in the kitchen instead of facing customers, the couple loves meeting people. “Whenever customers come in, we try and have a chat with them so now we know their names, their regular orders, where they live, what they do,” Lauren says. “That’s so important for us, having that [connection] with the community.”
11 Paul Street, Croydon
0481 144 540
Tue to Thu 11am–8pm
Fri & Sat 11am–8.30pm
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on February 4, 2020. Menu items may have changed since publication.