Parterre’s idyllic walled courtyard, with its uneven stone steps and pavers, was once a holding area for trimmed topiaries and antiques that owner Richard Haigh brought back from his regular trips to France.
“The space was underutilised. I wanted to create a retail experience where we merge style with food,” he says. “After 31 years, it’s a natural evolution. People will come here, have breakfast or lunch, pick something up from the shop.”
Parterre specialises in antique objects that Haigh sources from flea markets and dealers in Europe. It’s all one-offs: one day there might be French windows from the 19th century or a zinc farmhouse table, the next day something completely different. The cafe occupies the courtyard behind the shop. There’s heated outdoor seating and a communal table inside a glasshouse that was imported from Belgium.
Although Cafe Parterre is just a few blocks away from Woollahra’s high street, there are surprisingly few cafes. “It’s exactly what the neighbourhood needs. My clients say the cafe feels like their own special place,” says Haigh. “We were at capacity for lunch on day two.”
The menu has a small selection of breakfast items – Bircher muesli, avocado with herbs on toast, a breakfast salad with smoked salmon – and tartines (toasted sandwiches) for lunch. The croque monsieur with Dijon mustard, béchamel, gruyère and leg ham is a French classic, but of the other tartines, Haigh says, “the Australian version of French cuisine is more relaxed.” That means customers can order their chicken, celery, honey, almond tartine, or their tomato, basil, mozzarella tartine without the bread. Although with bread from Organic Bread Bar, you probably don’t want to do that.
Coffee is by Allpress, and Haigh plans to expand the menu and possibly apply for a liquor licence once he gets the hang of being both a cafe owner and antiques dealer. The shop and cafe space in this 150-year-old building meld seamlessly, probably because anything in the cafe – the plate under your tartine, the glasshouse from Belgium – is for sale. “The nice thing about that is the courtyard will never be stagnant. It’s always changing,” says Haigh.