C’EST SI BON Patisserie Rose Bay
Amidst a cluster of shops and cafes at the bottom end of Dover Road in Rose Bay, you will find a quaint and unostentatious patisserie, chocolatier and petite cafe by the sweet name of C’est Si Bon. There is something immediately humble, honest and delightfully French about this patisserie with it’s simple facade and window signage where to the corner of the window a small whimsical poster of an animated French, blonde version of Betty Boop in a mini red dress and apron cheerfully holds a tiered cake crowned with a butterfly. At the front of the patisserie a majestic, serene and leafy tree provides shade to three Paris cafe tables and a cluster of wicker chairs occupied by content patrons enjoying some time out sipping coffee and indulging in appetising French patisserie. The temptingly delicious delights that peek out from the display windows are visible from the street so it’s impossible to walk past and not be seduced by the pastry and artisan chocolate on display. Alsatian owner’s and entrepreneurs, Nadia and mon mari, Laurent Schwarz, are French trained Pâtissier with thirty years of experience who work long and difficult hours making everything from scratch on premise the French traditional way. As a result C’est Si Bon has earned a wonderful reputation over the years and is well known and loved by locals and not so locals for great service and quality pastries, cakes, quiche and chocolates for almost two decades. Even though I am not a local I look forward to coming down to this part of town whenever possible and a visit to C’est Si Bon is always a must before heading down to the popular dog beach with our adorable and fluffy canine friend, Polo.
As I enter the store to make an order to enjoy outside with mon mari, Madame Nadia is sitting by a little Paris table in the corner of the store covered with note books, paper work and a ready to purchase Easter chocolate basket as she smiles and rises to greet myself and other customers. The store has an untouched, old fashioned charm with its dated decor, lighting, wooden shelving and fading wall paint and is exceptionally delightful on this particular Sunday afternoon as the colourful Easter eggs made on premise and beautifully arranged and prepared chocolate baskets command attention taking centre stage on the tops of the display counters, tables and shelves. White and dark chocolate bunnies, chicks and animated chocolate figures surrounded by multi sized chocolate eggs peek out from their transparent cellophane wrapped baskets held together by pretty ribbon and bows. The buttery, caramel and creamy aromas within the store are hypnotically delightful and take me back to the bakeries in Paris from which I had an equally challenging time walking past and leaving once inside. It’s around 2 pm which is almost closing time for C’est Si Bon on a Sunday so customers are rushing in and picking up last minute supplies of something sweet and savoury for the remainder of the weekend. The window displays are less abundant at this time while the artisan bread is almost all sold out but never the less the store still exudes that feeling of abundance and sweet generosity.
Decadent mille feuille, eclairs, lemon curd tarts and custard fruit tarts, petite and traditional sized gateaux and savoury quiche are low in number demonstrating popularity while the croissants, apple turnovers and hot cross buns compete for attention from above the cake display – their small numbers signifying a decent demand for buttery, flaky and golden edible joy. As I eagerly wait to order, Madame is serving an elegantly dressed and mannered French lady who is there on a mission as she scoops up a box filled with the last remaining petite quiche and a collection of different chocolate eggs and bunnies to take home to some lucky children. I take pleasure as they exchange a few French words and quietly smile to myself as I now am making sense of the language – all those hours spent learning and going to French classes is showing signs of some reward. Other non French speaking clients, who have waited patiently in line while taking in and selecting from the vibrant Easter displays, greet Nadia with familiarity and warmness and there is an established connection between them as Nadia immediately anticipates what items they have come for and as they exchange reassuring smiles and nods she prepares a box filled with goodies for her loyal and loving customers to take home. When it’s finally my turn to order, Madame smiles at me as I attempt to order in French and is pleased with my selection of gateaux and a family size spinach quiche which she carefully boxes for me to take home after we finish our coffee and treats. As I rejoin mon mari at our table outside Polo, our overly friendly dog, is happily sitting under the tree watching other cute dogs and people walk by and as I sit on my Paris cafe chair taking in the scenery and sunshine, I think to myself “la vie c’est tellement bon”, especially in such moments that are made even more special thanks to the magic of such French patisseries.
There is no menu as such at C’est Si Bon as it’s primarily a Patisserie and the concept here is simple – from window display to plate to mouth. If you’re not taking away from the generous selection of freshly made pastries, tarts, savoury quiche and bread on offer and you have the time to sit down for a bit and savour some pastry and beverage then it will be whatever is on offer for the day. On a sunny day there is a bit of a struggle to snag or wait for one of the three tables but for pastry and quiche this good it most certainly is worth the wait. Worst case scenario, Nadia will box your choices beautifully and make a coffee for you to take away and to enjoy by the bay just a 2 minute walk down the street and across New South Head Road. Nadia and Laurence have mastered the art of the perfect pastry that encases their marvellous savoury and sweet tarts and their creme patissiere is exceptionally delicious, decadent and desserts requiring this royal cream as a component are filled with just the necessary amount to not induce a buttery coma. The quiche Lorraine especially, is that perfect balance of eggy creaminess with a hint of saltiness provided by the speck and held together by the perfect pastry crust. My favourite sweet treats here are the mille fuille and eclairs which I imagine could be served on silver plates at opulent functions and affairs with great enthusiasm. Nadia’s credits list extends to making a delicious cup of coffee that is far better than the competition next door where soy or traditional latte tastes a touch acrid rather than milky sweet or nutty. Anything and everything you try here is made with love, passion and in the true and honest to good French tradition – all the necessary ingredients for great taste. quality and keeping returning customers happy.
The service here at C’est Si Bon is friendly, warm and unimposing. Madame Nadia serves her customers with a big, warm heart and never come here in a hurry as it can bet busy and you might have to wait your turn for a while. The pastries and cakes here are worth the wait and you will always leave with a big smile and a feeling of joy with a box filled with French delights and maybe a tasty coffee to go.
My entertaining and brilliant French teacher, Martine (from Frenchclass Paddington) cringes and demonstrates what seems to be an emotional shut down anytime she hears the phrase, “C”est Si Bon”, believing it to be the poorest expression and phrasing of the French language. The delightful song, “C’est Si Bon” made famous by Eartha Kitt, was composed by the great Henri Betti, who conjured up the song while walking under the romantic arcades of Nice in the 1940’s. Martine believes this very song to be the culprit behind the explosion of the phrase and such bad use of language throughout France and the world and as you can perhaps predict dislikes the tune. Even Emilie Claire Barlow’s fabulous, updated, jazzy version that I encouraged her to listen to sadly didn’t impress or change her mind. I, on the other hand, don’t take such a dire approach to the expression and find the phrase to be endearing and sweet just as I find C’est Si Bon patisserie to be the same. The pastries, chocolates and bread here are so tres bon you’ll keep coming back for more while singing the melody by the same name with a spring in your step and day dreaming about when you can again sink your dessert fork into the decadent vanilla custard and flaky pastry layers of their divine mille feuille. And just as the song goes…”C’est si bon, so I say it to you, like the French people do because it’s oh so good” – the pastries here are “oh so good” even the French clients who come here would certainly agree! Dear readers, are you entranced by “C’est Si Bon” serving patisserie made in the true traditions of France?