I have been to Cassis Paris in the Gardens Centre many times, and often had a sit-down quiche at the tables and chairs just outside the shop there.   The sit-down service there has been disappointing, not matching the wonderful products they serve in their Patisserie and Boulangerie.  The owner Patrick Moreau now owns three Cassis Paris outlets, and has just added a good Salon de Thé to his Newlands branch, bringing Paris to Newlands, and matching the quality of his wonderful breads and pastries, with some service deficiencies.

Moreau was born in Brittany, but grew up in Paris.  He met his South African wife on a cruise ship, where both were working, and they worked in Bangkok before Moreau had the yearning to start his own business.  A holiday back ‘home’ in South Africa in 2007 led him to identify a gap in the market for an upmarket French-style patisserie and boulangerie.  He opened in the Gardens Centre, well located next door to Raith Gourmet, three years ago, and in Newlands eighteen months ago.  The Salon and the outlet in Constantia Village were opened in December.  His products inside the display cabinets at the 15 on Orange hotel have been removed.  The business is so successful that Moreau is at his Montague Gardens factory, overseeing the production of the pastries and breads, during the week.  Over weekends he circulates between his outlets.   He told me that Somerset West and Mouille Point are on his wishlist for future outlets.

I was impressed to see Patrick hands-on behind the counter of his Newlands branch, in which the patisserie counter was filled with the most beautiful selection of pastries.   A smaller counter deeper in the shop sells a selection of breads, croissants and brioche.

The Salon de Thé is a smallish space, with white tables and chairs set inside as well as outside, with branded Cassis Paris umbrellas protecting the outside tables against the heat.  My table was wobbly, but the waiter quickly fixed this problem. The colour scheme at Cassis Paris is a most definite purple, and the bench attached to the wall inside the restaurant is purple.  Cutlery is by Fortis, and is obviously shiny new, offered with a purple paper serviette. The menu cover is purple, as is the apron the staff wear over a black shirt and black pants.  The menu is extensive, and is neatly presented in plastic sleeves.   It focuses on the products which Cassis makes, presented in the French style.   French style chanson music was switched on after about an hour of my arrival, and was well matched to the theme.

I love that the Salon serves an all day breakfast, even if their breakfast dishes differ from our usual South African taste.   I had the Cocotte Cassis, served as a one-pot (in a purple Le Creuset mini-pot) breakfast with potato croquettes, tomato, eggs and bacon (R38), served with toast.  It consisted mostly of potato.  Other Light Meals are muesli, yoghurt and fruit (R35); the Le Classique two-egg and bacon breakfasts costs R30; Pain Perdu (French Toast) costs R 22; a Cocotte Paris consists of crème fraîche, camembert, Toulouse sausage, bacon, spinach, onions, croûtons and egg (R45).   The La Complète is a savoury pancake containing Gypsey ham and egg, and costs R40; salads range in price from R 32 – R50; lovely quiches  (spinach and feta, and ham and cheese) cost R26; a Provençale tart costs R28, and sandwiches R25 – R33.  The Viennoisseries section lists about fifteen pastries which are available from the patisserie.  Brioche, croissants, pain au chocolate and apple turnovers can also be ordered.   A full page of the menu is dedicated to twenty-five “Sweets”, including chocolate eclairs (R16) and their popular Concerto (chocolate mousse and chocolate biscuit) costing R26.   My dessert choice was a Tiramisu (R28), served in a plastic cup that looked shabby in that it had a crack in it.  Its content was excellent however, drier than we are used to locally, with not much creaminess.  Imported French teas Mariage Frères are available at R24.   If one would like wine with one’s meal, one can buy it next door at Wine Concepts.

Initially the waiter serving me was attentive, and fetched and carried what I requested, but once I had finished eating, he left me stranded, and I had to ask another waitress to bring a dessert and Illy cappuccino (R14).   Moreau’s wife came to take over the service, and apologised, explaining that my waiter had to take over the coffee-making as the person designated to do this had to have a lunch break!   If one takes any pastries away, they are neatly packed in a purple Cassis Paris box, with branding in gold and a golden board on which the pastry is presented.  The bill says thank you in English and French.

Cassis Paris has a fantastic opportunity to win business from the nearby Melissa’s, which is attracting greater dissatisfaction from its long-standing customers.  However, it needs to improve its service, as this is Melissa’s weakness too.   There is only a service door connecting the shop and the Salon, which could mean that Cassis Paris staff may neglect the clients in the sitdown Salon de Thé.  I walked past Melissa’s to get to my car, and Melissa’s was half full, showing that it had lost some custom to Cassis on that day.  Moreau will have to check on his branches – I was in the Constantia branch yesterday, and was served by a chewing gum chewing staff member, an absolute no-no in the hospitality industry.  Cassis Paris has an opportunity to serve teas and coffees from its Constantia branch on a reduced scale, served with its great pastries, given the poor coffees served by the close-by The Village Beanery.

POSTSCRIPT 3/6/12: Cassis Salon de thé has just opened in Gardens’ Centre, with a superb menu and excellent service.  It is located on the upstairs level, and not next to its shop.  The Vol au vent is excellent value at R48.  All pastries stocked in the shop can be ordered to eat or take-away at the restaurant, but at a surcharge. Opening hours are Monday – Friday 7h30 – 19h00; Saturday 7h30 – 17h30; Sunday 7h30 – 14h30.

Cassis Paris Salon de Thé,  Newlands Village, corner Kildare and Main Road, Newlands.  Tel (021) 671-1305.  French Oven Head Office Tel (021) 552-1305.  www.cassis.co.za. (The website contains a listing of every product sold in the stores, with a description and a good quality photograph of each.  The website does not list the new Constantia store, nor the Salon de Thé).   Monday – Friday 8h00 – 18h00, Saturday 8h00 – 16h00, Sunday 8h00 – 14h00.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage