In a patisserie in Queensland, I was stunned to find the best lemon tart I have ever tasted. I discovered the place recently, in the quite isolated village of Cooroy, in the Noosa hinterland. It is called La maison de Provence. Something to visit when on holidays at the Sunshine Coast.
The French couple, Eric and Françoise Pernoud, who opened it in 2010, have been in Australia for more than 20 years, achieving Eric’s dream to move to Skippy’s country (the kangaroo movie he watched in his childhood). When he arrived, Eric Pernoud started as Chef patissier at the Ritz Carlton in Sydney, managing also the Korean, Hong-Kong and Singapore Palace’s patisseries.
Now, after all those years, it is not Eric’s first experience in opening a patisserie where you wouldn’t expect to find one. When he and his wife decided to start their own business, they had a bakery in Bowral close to Sydney and then in Pomona, an even more secluded village in Queensland. “You blink Blink and you’ll miss it.” And, each time, he encountered success.
Eric Pernoud comes from Annecy, a quaint medieval town close to the French ski resorts of Chambéry, where his wife comes from. They have five children, Erika, 20, the oldest, works in the kitchen, Axell, 17, and the youngest ones, triplets aged 3, who keep their mother very busy. Eric Pernoud starts his day at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and finishes at 9 pm. This hard work is at the origin of every day’s fresh baked food, which has built the good reputation of the place.
In the patisserie, Françoise displays and sells French-style homewares. The Eiffel Tower drawn on the wall, bunches of lavender and starched white embroidered tablecloths give you the perfect picture. The full French atmosphere. Here, no sausage rolls or bacon and eggs, but cassoulet and coq-au-vin. The other day, one of the French cooks working there made some classic quenelles for lunch. “Customers discovered this very typical French dish still unknown in Australia and they loved it.”
This haven is not even set on the main road. Still, it attracts people from the whole region who queue to get one of the house specialities. For instance, the not so traditional but delicate mushroom flavoured quiche. “Someone one day send the plate back complaining that I shouldn’t put mushroom in the quiche. But I explain that it softens the texture. See, Paul Bocuse adds some potatoes to his recipe!”
In the shop’s window display, there are also macarons, mille-feuille, éclairs and my favourite, the melting lemon tart. The acidity of the fruit is just tempered with an under layer of vanilla flan. “The recipe is 100 years old! It comes from my grandfather!” (See recipe)
Does he miss the French Alps? “Yes, I do. But here the lifestyle is much more relaxed than in Europe. It is a nice country for raising children.”
Adress: 9/13 Garnet Str. Cooroy 4563. Phone: 07 54720077