Friday, January 6, 2012

A French Fantasy in Hawthorn

Depot de Pain

Address: 616 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn, 3122

Phone: (03) 8803 7898

Open: Monday to Sunday, 7am until 6pm

“IS THAT A BOOB?” isn’t usually the first thing you say when walking into a café.

But when visiting Depot de Pain in Hawthorn, it’s exactly what you blurt out when looking at the display of treats. In French, it is a petit sien, or little breast. They don’t discriminate either: you can pick one with a pink nipple (peach, apricot and rosemary cheesecake) or a brown nipple (apple and caramel mousse cake). There is a reason behind selling edible knockers, and that reason is to support The Treasure Chest Foundation, a charity providing support for women awaiting breast reconstruction after breast cancer. 

Aside from the joy afforded to children (and potentially men) by chewing on a sugary nipple, Depot de Pain is a welcome addition to Hawthorn. If you’ve been to Europe, you will be familiar with the sleek, modern cafés and patisseries. If you haven’t, fear not, you can head to Depot de Pain and enjoy the next best thing. There is even a bike with baguettes in a basket parked out the front.

Depot de Pain is French for ‘Bread Stop,’ which means you can pick up your baguettes and sandwich loafs there for lunch. But if you know what’s good for you (or perhaps if you ignore what’s bad for you) the glass cabinet of pastries and sweets are the greatest temptation. Whether it’s a cupcake or a croissant you are after, all baked goods sold at Depot de Pain are delivered daily from its sister company, French Fantasies in South Yarra. Along with 'Jacques' at Blackrock, 'Fleur' at The Blackman Hotel in St Kilda Road, and 'Rathdowne' in Carlton, Depot de Pain in Hawthorn is the fourth of the French Fantasies outlets.

The interior is a collection of white, marble tiles and polished wood finishing. There are small square tables, a lengthy communal table, banquette seats and bar stools. Modern lights brighten up the black ceiling and there are seats beneath canvas umbrellas outside. To the right of the door is a coffee station with it’s own cash register. It’s a clever way to make sure take away drinks don’t hold up food and bread orders. A silver rack is positioned in front of the coffee area with the daily papers hanging limply over the wires.

Not that you really give a toss about the news once you spot the enchanting range of decedent desserts: tarts, mousses, eclairs, brownies, Mille Feuilles and cakes. The prized pastries are housed separately in a small cabinet under the cash register. The right-hand side of the glass display cabinet is stuffed with foot-long baguettes (you can buy half), quiches, pies, sausage rolls and pissaladiéres. 

We sampled one of the latter and were salivating at the thin, flaky pizza crust. It was an onion and anchovy pissaladiéres. The onion released an inherent sweetness, which was wonderfully subdued by the salty anchovies. The addition of black, pitted olives and the sprinkle of rosemary added to the flavours. It came served with a mixed leaf salad with an authentic French dressing.

The beef bourguignon pie also arrived with a leafy salad, as well as a side of sweet tomato relish. Light and buttery pastry encased the rich middle. Chunks of beef shredded with each bite as they surrendered to tenderness, surrounded by a meaty, vegetable-based filling.

Sticking to carnivorous tendencies, the French hot dog was also ordered. You could pick either a spicy lamb merguez or a Toulouse pork sausage. Not wanting to venture too far from a traditional hot dog, the pork sausage was chosen. Wedged between a crusty baguette and topped with Dijon mustard and grilled onion, it wasn’t huge but at $8, it was worth more than its price.

While the chocolate, hazelnut and bitter orange crepes on the specials menu tempted me, I went for the smoked salmon salad special. The dark pink salmon was house smoked and presented on a bed of fresh roquette. Interspersed throughout the leaves were juicy orange segments without a hint of rind. Slices of fennel had been pickled to take the edge off and added a delightful crunch. Horseradish cream substituted dressing and completed the dish, which was served with a warm dinner roll sprinkles with sesame seeds.


I enjoyed our meal so much I returned a couple of days later to pick up some lunch. I took away two whole baguettes: a creamy chicken and mayonnaise baguette and a country terrine baguette. I had the latter. The rich, chunky terrine went splendidly with the fluffy white bread. The sweet red cabbage, dill and pickled cucumber cut through the fattiness of the terrine while the roquette added a touch of freshness.

Customers can also choose from a soupe du jour, salads, a charcuterie platter or a fromage board. Specialties include (but are not limited to) baked gnocchi with walnuts spinach and blue cheese, and steak tartare with quail egg, watercress salad and chips. The breakfast menu offers fruit salad, bircher, crepes, omelettes, baked eggs, pastries and more. 

If you want to spoil yourself or someone else, there is a door through to a providore as well. 

The coffee is creamy, the orange juice is fresh and it’s the only local place where you can by the genuine citrus fizzy drink, Orangina. If you’re feeling a little bit French but don’t want anything fancy, Depot de Pain is the perfect place to visit. Oh and of course there are macarons to be had as well. C’est magnifique!

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