My French Melbourne: France beyond the cliché at Le Jolie Café
As Francophiles, we all know how it feels to search for that authentic, unpretentious French fare. And, we know how it feels to give in, admitting defeat, believing that what we are searching for exists only in France – and in the presence of our fondest daydreams. But fear not, Melburnians, for that eager search to fulfil our fix right here at home is soon to draw to a close…
While the native French community in the suburb of Pascoe Vale may be limited, resident Guy Trinquet sees it as his moment to shine. Guy, together with his wife Kathleen, have given the locals a delicious new culture shock with their little slice of Parisian heaven: the chic new Le Jolie Café.
The cosy cafe prides itself on the mélange of a menu, where classic French offerings are paired alongside more contemporary dishes, gently easing the Melburnian palate into les plats français. The couple are seen floating about, charming the local devotees who relax beside art pieces painted by the head chef himself. You can’t help but catch a whiff of their scrumptious homemade waffles from the couple’s infamous Waffle Jolie enterprise – a venture that has carried on the legacy of that peculiar ‘e’ at the end of their name.
We had the pleasure of speaking to Guy and Kathleen about their passion for French food, and discovered what it is that is making Melbourne foodies and Francophiles so ravenous.
Tell us the story behind Le Jolie Café. What inspired you to start a French cafe in Melbourne?
It’s in our genes. My grandmother was a cook in France, my sister married a pastry chef; my brother owned a catering business. I myself worked in high-end food establishments in Paris like Café de Flore in front of house, so starting a cafe with my wife Kathleen was only a matter of time. First we started a small business making Belgian Waffles, while still at our regular jobs and businesses, and eventually took the next step into starting our own cafe.
Why did you decide to move from France to Melbourne? What was the most challenging part of adapting to the Melbourne lifestyle?
I moved to Melbourne for a change. I had travelled throughout and lived in Melbourne previously so it wasn’t too challenging.
What do you love most about Melbourne?
Apart from my family – which includes my two Australian kelpies – the casual lifestyle.
And what do you miss most about France?
Being able to get in the car and drive to another country within hours.
More and more French people are moving to Melbourne. Why do you think this is happening? Do you have many French customers?
We are fairly new and people are starting to discover us. We do have a customer who is French-Australian and he is at our cafe almost every day! [As for] people moving here, I guess everyone has their own reasons. Some come for better opportunities, others because their jobs brought them here, others because of love!
What is a typical day like at Le Jolie Café?
I come before anyone else to start my prep. It’s my favourite time of day: it’s quiet; I get to think. We have a loyal base of customers. Being a neighbourhood cafe, weknow many people by their first name and people often stop by for a chat. It’s a place where people feel comfortable and can have a conversation with friends, or enjoy a meal by themselves.
On sunny weekends, our rear courtyard is packed. People enjoy sitting by the fishpond and our vertical garden there. In winter, the couch by the fireplace is definitely the favourite spot. We have a great time at the cafe – there is a lot of fun banter, we love what we do so the day goes fast. I’m the first one to arrive and also the last one to leave. I don’t mind that as I love what I do and being at the cafe. Kathleen’s background is in marketing and business, so when she isn’t here at the cafe, she’s doing all the important stuff behind the scenes.
Do you serve any specialties at your cafe? Is there something that people really seem to come back for?
Our French style hot chocolate is definitely a big hit. We have people travelling from different suburbs just for the hot chocolate. We make our own hot chocolate using three different types of chocolate that we melt down. The taste is very different from hot chocolate made from powder. It’s my own recipe and you can’t find the same hot chocolate anywhere. A customer brought her elderly mother in today, it was their second time at our cafe and she said that this is the first place in Melbourne that her mother actually requests to go to!
Our waffles are also very popular. We actually make Belgian waffles, not the French version. They are handmade using high quality ingredients. Again, it’s a recipe that I developed. I tested them with different ingredients, for example, different types of butter, vanilla and sugar until I finally [got] the result I wanted. We now have other restaurants and cafes buying waffles from us to serve at their establishments!
What are your three most popular items? What is your favourite?
Our waffles, in particular Le Jolie Waffle, the egg breakfasts – we use free range eggs from a local supplier where there are no more than 700 chickens per hectare. The eggs are collected the day before they are delivered to us weekly so they are very fresh! We run specials often, our duck [ones] are very popular.
Tell us more about your team. Is it mainly a French team or international? Why is this?
We have a mixed team though many of our suppliers are French artisan producers in Melbourne. The most important thing about our team is being able to fit in our cafe culture, engage with customers, and be able to learn!
In Melbourne, do you have a favourite boulangerie, fromagerie, cafe, patisserie, boutique…?
Before I started my own cafe, I liked picking up charcuterie and cheese from La Parisienne Pâtés and bread from Depot de Pain to make my own baguettes, then [heading] down to the banks of the Yarra River with Kathleen and my kids for a picnic. We also like making our baguettes to have with our homemade desserts and hot chocolate when we go to the drive-in cinema.Ready to get your plats français fix? You can find Le Jolie Café at 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale Tuesday-Friday 7:30am-4pm, Saturday-Sunday 8:30am-4pm and open Friday and Saturday nights from 6pm til late.
Have you visited Le Jolie Café? What was your crème de la crème? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
All images © Kathleen Alexander.