Parterre French Cafe/Furniture Store in Woollhara
Dear readers, if I mention that a Parisian and Provencal inspired store with a stunning walled Parisian courtyard garden cafe exists in the heart of Sydney’s suburb of Woollahra you’re going to have to believe me. If you’re not a frequent visitor to Woollahra than you really must make the time, especially if you’re a lover of all things French, since parts of Woollahra, Bellevue Hill and Double Bay close by are areas that might as well be straight out of le sud de la France. For this reason, it’s no wonder that the area is sprinkled ever so slightly with French décor and food stores, cafes and restaurants that fit right in to the surrounds where old oak trees line the streets and where the houses have that skip a heart beat European and French appeal. Parterre is one of those quintessential French/European furniture stores that simply belong to the Woollahra scene and has been a go to store for interior designers and lovers of French Provincial and Parisian furniture and décor for just over 30 years expanding into outdoor French antique furniture for the past 12 years. Parterre has featured in Vogue Living a number of times which isn’t surprising due to the perfectly decorated interiors where the majority of stunning French antique pieces, sourced from the best antique and flea markets in France, grace every space of the equally stunning 150 year old sandstone heritage listed building. Parterre’s serene, idyllic and walled courtyard with its rustic stone steps and pavers was the display area for the stores antique outdoor garden furniture and perfectly pruned topiary trees. Owner Richard Haigh, felt the store and space was under utilised and wanted to expand the French retail experience by merging style with food. As a result, Parterre outdoor café was born and has become a popular spot for locals and not so local Francophiles to get their Parisian courtyard café fix.
The beautiful sand stone façade of Parterre’s 150 year old building, is a perfect and befitting space to display stunning pieces of imported and specially sourced French furniture and every room inside is part of an overall vignette that offers a window into Provencale living and design. Step into Parterre’s jardin courtyard and cafe, located to the back of the store, and you are immediately transported to Provence or even to those hidden courtyards of Paris where you are greeted by shady trees, topiaries, a pretty lemon tree in a cast iron pot, whimsical antique garden furniture utilised by the café and arranged into lovely seating areas for patrons. Magnificent mirrors and antique finds are arranged superbly throughout the whole of the courtyard and a grand, whitewashed glasshouse, imported from Belgium, complete with farmhouse table and crystal chandelier adds that je ne sais quoi to the already jaw drop gorgeous French inspired space. The café’s open plan kitchen is centered in the heart of the jardin where the in house pastry chef Pierre Labancz and head chef Gaurav Karki and kitchen hands are busy at work preparing dishes and the barista can be seen making coffee by the open end counter where baskets of organic bread are displayed in baskets tempting patrons to purchase and to take home. A lovely, rustic display of the cafés sweet pastries and cakes are arranged prettily on an antique cake cart and where a glorious apple tarte tatin is the star of the show and caramelised to perfection.
As my dear friends and I are escorted to our lovely white washed wrought iron table in a quiet nook in the lower courtyard area, I am once again somewhere in Saint Remy de Provence or a romantic courtyard café in Paris hidden from the hustle and bustle of the city. A waiter with a very lovely manner and equally lovely French accent offers us the Parterre café all day breakfast and lunch menu and some table water. As I make myself comfortable on the antique garden chair I notice a stunning mirror right above and to the side of our table and the beautiful surrounds are more than one Francophile alone can handle with the outdoor decor and furniture so gorgeously arranged to the tops of vintage trees visible from above and the grand facades of the neighbouring houses all around. From our table, we have a direct view to the inside of the store where we can see some of the amazing furniture displays and are treated to the aroma of heavenly peony French scented candles, displayed on a vintage silver tray, by the doorway that enticingly made its way into the courtyard. Our friendly waiter returns with our Allpress coffees and French Earl Grey tea and our specially requested plate of their delicious organic breads to sample with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. He then takes our order and dashes off and up the uneven stone steps that lead to the upper courtyard. While we wait for our lunch order I think to myself how adorable this place is and realise how ever many times we return it will never look exactly the same as the furniture displayed and utilised by the café is for sale and will come and go and the garden arrangement will always be new and exciting which is a nice touch indeed.
Parterre’s menu is simple yet wholesome with some French items that are nice to have on a breakfast or lunch menu. What makes the menu more exciting is that the bread is organic and made on premises and Parterre’s organic sough dough and the activated charcoal and quinoa toast will make any bread enthusiast yelp with joy. Everything on the menu is assembled and well thought out and whipped together artfully and deliciously in the kitchen where the in house pastry chef and chef work hard to produce beautiful yet relaxed courtyard café dishes. The menu features all day breakfast and lunch where every item is temptingly tasty which makes it truly difficult to decide what to order. Parterre’s bircher muesli $16 is made with the added touch of oats soaked overnight in cream and grated apple which is then topped with organic yoghurt and poached seasonal fruit. Eggs on toast is elevated to whole new level with their Free Range poached eggs and organic sourdough item $14 where you can add fresh tomato, Bulgarian feta, ricotta, avocado or ham for an additional $4. The Avocado on toast item is also made more exciting and tasty by serving the avocado on activated charcoal and quinoa toast with heirloom tomato and feta for $19. The Breakfast Bowl item is a delicious combination of brown rice, smoked salmon, spinach and seasonal vegetables with preserved lemon dressing and herbs $24.
The items I gravitated to most were of course the more French inspired like the Tarragon Chicken with smoked eggplant $24, the Root Vegetable with goats cheese and truffle oil dish $24 – that I noticed being served nearby and looked superb. I however, could not resist the Croque Monsieur with a twist dish $22 which is a delicious arrangement of honey roasted leg ham on toast with Dijon mustard, béchamel, gruyere cheese, egg (for an additional $3) and served with a garden salad. My friends opted for the avocado on toast with all the toppings which was perfectly assembled and very tasty indeed. The menu changes slightly from time to time and seasonally so I won’t mention all the other items as you really must come by and check it out but make sure you grab some croissants, baguettes and that amazing activated charcoal bread when you walk in as it will sell out by the time you finish your late breakfast or lunch. Also, take home or order a slice of Parterre’s sensational apple tarte a tin for a slice and taste of something Provencale.
It’s not always a possibility, however much desirable, to spend a year in Provence or even a week in Paris but it is possible to escape for even an hour or two to experience that part of France here in Sydney that we all dream to visit more often. Parterre in the heart of Woollahra is one those places that once you discover and experience it you will want to return to time and again and hope that will never close down but always be there as a place to escape from reality for a while. While Paris seduces the visitor with her monumental grandeur and magnificence, Provence has captivated the heart and imagination of countless travelers and visitors including Van Gough, the Impressionists, famous authors and film makers for its lavender and sunflower fields and cobblestoned charming medieval villages and relaxed lifestyle. Parterre with its picture perfect furniture and décor store and courtyard café will transport you to Paris and Provence without traveling there and is a little treasure and like a garden may it blossom, grow and delight all who come to visit. As the wonderful Peter Moyle once said, “Why not make a daily pleasure a daily necessity”and on that note visit Parterre’s garden café and make it your soul place and you might just leave with a vintage ocassional chair, a stunning armour or some very French plush cushions and of course a bag filled with some of the tastiest bread and pastries in town. Dear readers, are you entranced by Parterre store/café inspired by France?
33 Ocean Street Woollahra T: 02 9363 5874