On this day in 1810, Peter Durand was granted the…
Located in Bronte Village, La Parisienne Crêperie has a history that arcs back to the 18th arrondissement in Paris, France: the restaurant’s co-owner, Mikael Colas, was born and grew up in Montmartre, the area once home to Renoir, Van Gogh and Picasso.
Colas and his wife Courtney Colas took over the restaurant from his parents in 2015 when they had decided to retire; they’ve added their personal touch and energies and have expanded the business, but there remains a charm of French ambiance in what they’ve done.
“It started with my parents, who had a restaurant in Paris. They opened this restaurant in Bronte in 1991, and it was very much a mom-and-pop restaurant with basically just the two of them working and serving limited hours during the week,” according to Colas.
Finding the location was purely accidental: a day trip down Lakeshore Road from Toronto allowed them to discover Bronte and the restaurant, which was an English tea room briefly and before that a kitchen showroom. The family moved to the town and set up shop soon after.
The menu was simple, says Colas, who came to Canada when he was a 10-years-old and grew up with the restaurant. “I helped out in my teens and then moved away to Toronto.”
He entered the finance world and took some time off to travel — that’s when he met Courtney in Australia. “We both worked in hospitality there,” he says.
The couple did some minor renovations. “Like my parents had been, Courtney and I started out as the only employees,” Colas says. They did major renovations the next year, including the kitchen, and began a more aggressive positioning of the business within the community with an updated menu and opening six days but closed in the afternoon. “Today, we’re open daily until 9 p.m. but closed Monday and Sunday nights. And, we’re up to 11 staff, including a pâtissier from Paris.”
The menu at the 30-seat restaurant is markedly different than its early days too. There’s a wider selection of ingredients and proteins and four savoury menus (brunch, weekend lunch, afternoon and dinner), a sweet menu, a bar menu, and a “street-style” take-away menu that features sweet and savoury crêpes in a cone. “Crêpes in Paris are sold in this manner, just like Toronto has hot dog stands,” says Colas.
The restaurant is a FeastON-certified restaurant, a program that recognizes businesses committed to sourcing Ontario grown and made food and drink.
“We want to be a real specialty restaurant with our crêpes,” Colas adds. That means the “crêpe froment” that they use for both their sweet and savoury crêpes.
It’s a white flour crêpe as opposed to the originally unprocessed, and inexpensive, buckwheat flour of the Brittany of generations ago. “When it made its way to Paris, they started making the crêpe with processed (and more expensive) white flour. Ironically, today, buckwheat flour is more expensive,” Colas says. (The kitchen can also prepare dairy-free and gluten-free buckwheat crêpes as requested.)
That said, the onion soup is also a specialty. “We’re known for it too,” he says. “It’s a very old traditional recipe from my great-great grandmother that has never changed. There’s a lot of herbs in it, and the trick is to caramelize the onions.”
Crêpe gratinée is a different style of the dish than you may have had. Layered and baked, it’s cooked in a ceramic dish with the ingredients and a rich bechamel sauce and cheese — it’s delicious, and it changed my mind about crêpes. “We call it French soul food,” says Colas. It’s available both at lunch and dinner.
Pommes caramel is new to the menu, with buttery caramelized Ambrosia apples, salted caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. It’s $12.50 and can easily satisfy two as a filling and rich shared dessert.
Almond Madeleines are made every Sunday. “I remember the pâtisseries in my Montmartre neighbourhood. We wanted to create the flavours that I recall,” says Colas. Enjoy a couple of them with a good cup of French-press coffee the restaurant serves; it’s a great combination.
The idea of being both “Parisienne” and local is important to the Colas. “We don’t base our success just on our local business. We have a lot of customers who visit from elsewhere and drive from pretty far to get to us. Many crêperies are like take-away sandwich shops, but we are licensed and full-service,” Colas says.
“We’re also not too traditional because we try to be unique and experiment with our cooking and do things differently,” he says. “We want you to come here for the full experience.”
La Parisienne Crêperie will be serving from its regular menu during A Taste of Oakville (January 23-February 6), as well as offering some special items for the event.[Banner image/La Parisienne Crêperie]