Happy Bastille Day! While it’s not our national holiday, why not use it as an excuse to pop into new French boulangerie and patisserie Chez Dre?

Right near the bustle of South Melbourne Markets and down a bluestone laneway you’ll find a little bit of pastry heaven. Chez Dre is a large space which makes good use of its slightly awkward layout and lack of natural light by splitting the seating into two areas plus an outdoor courtyard, with a busy open kitchen curving along one side. I also admired the red spray-painted stencil floor which lent the mainly concrete and brick interior a welcoming warmth.

I was hoping to sit down for lunch on my weekend visit but obviously word has got around about this place already as there was not a spare seat to be had and a line up to boot. No matter, I just ensured I worked my way down the pastry cabinet. Total bill $56!

Baguettes: The bread is made in house and is an authentic French baguette – crunchy crust, chewy centre. To leave room for sweets I only had a half-size of the smoked salmon baguette with fresh dill cream ($6.50). While I liked the bread I didn’t particularly take to the filling as it was overpowered by wet slices of  too-sweet pickles. Little cornichons or just capers would have been a better match.

Lemon tart ($7.50): Ooh la la! This is a seriously good lemon tart. A light buttery pastry with a beautiful crumb encased the vibrant yellow curd (not too tart and not too sweet). I liked that instead of swirling the whole tart with meringue there was just a single stripe of soft marshmallow which had been torched quickly on top for presentation.

Yoghurt mousse with apricot jelly ($8.50): This was a set yoghurt mousse with a neat filling of apricot jelly inside and lightly dusted with desiccated coconut. I did not like this cake but I think it just wasn’t to my taste – to me it was eating yoghurt set in to a shape and I would have preferred eating plain ol’ yoghurt.  The pistachio cake base was also quite bland. Maybe one for the non-chocolate lovers out there (though in that case I’d steer you towards the lemon tart).

Chocolate eclair ($7.50): A tube of choux pastry split with a creme patiserrie studded with nuts – an unexpected yet delightful twist on the original. The eclairs come in chocolate, vanilla and coffee.

Chocolate cassis mousse ($8.50): While the chocolate mousse encasing a rectangle of cassis jelly and sponge was delicious, the most delightful part of this dessert was the hazelnut wafer base. No picture sorry, devoured too quickly!

Macarons ($3): When I asked the waitress which macarons to choose, she told me that the passionfruit was very popular and the must-try was the salted caramel. Both of the macarons were amazingly intense in their flavouring and showed good ‘feet’ but were inconsistent in their texture. The salted caramel was perfect in terms of lightness but the passionfruit macaron was too wet and cakey in its interior. The miniature macaron on the cassis had two large air bubbles in it.

Madelaines ($2.50): Fragrant with the heady scent of honey, these delicate shell-shaped cakes would be perfect sweet treat with a cup of tea or coffee.

Croissants ($4.50): Apparently the pastry item to try at Chez Dre is the flaky pastry croissant encrusted and stuffed with almond frangipane. I had that as well as a pain au chocolat. Both croissants were excellent but still not to the gold standard of the croissants at La Tropezienne.

Chez Dre is an indulgent refuel stop after a visit to the South Melbourne Markets. One of the pastry chefs there has assured that during the week it is less packed and it is  a much more relaxed experience – oh, and I have to try the chocolate tart.

Chez Dre recently won ‘Best Bakery Cafe’ in The Age’s 2011 Good Cafe Awards. Have a look at the other award winners here.

Chez Dre, Rear of 285-287 Coventry St, South Melbourne
+61 3 9690 2688
Mon-Sun 7:30-5pm