A jaunty French song plays in the background as Breizh café’s owner, Bruno, crouches next to his Raclette grill. He is waiting for the perfect moment to take the half-wheel of Raclette cheese out from under the heat.
It is a fine art.
“The cheese has to be close enough the heat to both melt and to caramelise,” Bruno explains.
“If it is too close to the heat, it will burn and caramelize too quickly but it won’t have time to melt. If it is too far away, it just melts, but it doesn’t caramelise. With Raclette, you’ve got two textures and two flavours. You’ve got the caramelised crust on the top and melted oozing cheese underneath.”
As the heady, ripe fragrance of bubbling Raclette cheese drifts enticingly though the crêperie, the people at the next table express regret at not ordering this dish.
The perfect moment has arrived. Bruno scrapes a liberal amount of the toasted crust and the golden lava beneath onto a waiting plate of boiled and seasoned potatoes.
The theatre of the process is nearly as wonderful as the taste of the Raclette served French-style alongside a plate of charcuterie. This winter dish comes from the Swiss side of France.
Bruno knew Canberrans would love it.
“We thought we would do it because no one else was doing it in Canberra. We are still the only place that does crêpe and galettes in Canberra, so why don’t we also do Raclette? We announced it on the Facebook page in early January and within 48 hours we had received 4,500 likes!”
The crêperie goes through more than 50 kilos of Raclette cheese a month.
Tucked away in leafy Ainslie, Breizh has been quietly turning out authentic Breton cuisine for six years.
‘’We had this idea a long time ago, but we were not ready. The kids were young. We thought, ‘in the meantime, someone else will have the idea of doing a crêperie’. After all those years, no one did. Then we were finally ready. The kids grew up.”
Owners, Bruno and Bronwyn bring decades of food industry experience and prestige to Breizh. Bruno has worked for many years in top end, fine dining establishments in both France and Canberra. He specialised in complex and delicate dishes. Bronwyn had two restaurants in Canberra before pausing her food journey to raise the kids.
On the cusp of embarking on a new food journey together, Bruno and Bronwyn knew it was time to create simple, tasty food.
They had an established concept ready to go: Breizh. A café and crêperie. The word ‘Breizh’ means ‘Brittany’ in the Britannic language.
And Breizh certainly transports the diner to Brittany. From the music to the grey stones set into the walls just like an ancient Breton cottage. Bronwyn’s nostalgic watercolour paintings of the 18 months she spent in Vannes on the coast of Brittany with Bruno and their boys hang over the entrance.
Oversized, barrel-shaped light fixtures add to the rustic ambience.
The menu is authentically French. The baguettes, croissant, even the butter. You can come here to taste arguably the most decadent pastry in the world, ‘kouign-amann’, a Breton specialty. Pair it with Breizh’s luxurious and spicy hot chocolate. Most of the wines and ciders are French.
Don’t come to Breizh hoping to order your favourite brunch or breakfast dish. Breizh does not do burgers, nor Vegemite on toast, and there is DEFINITELY no tomato sauce.
Bruno recommends that first-time visitors order a galette or crêpe. He mentions the points of difference between the two.
“A crêpe is sweet and made with regular flour. A galette is a savoury version of a crêpe and is made with buckwheat flour.”
The crêperie is thriving in Ainslie. Every person that has come through the door this busy morning knows Bruno and Bronwyn. They greet each other fondly and chat.
Bruno says that, despite their continuing success and growing reputation, they have no plan to expand Breizh.
“We are more interested in the conviviality and the connection with our customers. We have so many regulars. That’s what we love the most.
“We feel that every business needs to renew itself. We need to bring something new and different to our customers. This year it has been Raclette. We are already talking about next year.”
Having occasionally popped into Breizh just so their superb baguette and butter can transport me to France, I cannot wait to see what they will do next year.
Breizh is located at 2/15 Edgar Street in Ainslie.
They are open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm from Wednesday to Saturday, and from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm on Sundays.