It was at a dinner with Katie Friedman of Urban Lime that I heard about the opening of Victoire, a French Boulangerie, Pâtisserie, and Bistro in the newly redeveloped Speakers’ Corner building on Church Square in Cape Town. I attended the opening, as well as had breakfast at Victoire the following day.
My Parisian friend Aurélie Jullien accompanied me to the opening, her French coming in very handy in translating between English and French. Victoire is a South African collaboration between Chef William Galzin from Montpellier and Drikus Hancke from Cape Town. Drikus played rugby for Montpellier for ten years, and speaks French fluently. They were connected via a mutual friend, who knew of Drikus’ French past and of Chef William’s love for Cape Town and interest in setting up a business in our city. Chef William is the third generation chef to run the family Galzin bakery business consisting of 23 bakeries, under the Victoire, Traditionelle, and Parisienne brand names. This is its first international branch. Until January Drikus was a Melissa’s franchisee at the Tyger Valley branch, and was very lucky to have sold it before the company crashed in May.
We were welcomed by Manager Anri Elsbury, who had been a Melissa’s Area Manager. She offered us various L’Avenir wines, and we selected the Brut Rosé sparkling wine. L’Avenir is a French-owned wine estate in Stellenbosch.
We were shown around the Bakery by Chef Manon Vieilledent, who was a trainee of Chef William for two years in Millau in Montpellier. She speaks a good English, whereas Chef William barely can speak English. He was very proud that his mother had visited from France for the opening. Chef Manon translated for Chef William, and he invited us to ‘partage’, i.e. to share in their celebration. Chef William is very meticulous about the flour he uses, and in Cape Town they use a mix of flour from Montpellier and a local stoneground one. The latter supplier said that they had never before seen such interest in their flour from a pastry chef, tasting the flour! Chef William emphasised how healthy their breads are, using the French/South African flour mix. We were told that the staff of Victoire is passionate about what they do, improving themselves so that they can please their customers. We were also told that the dough for the bread is kneaded differently to our technique locally. No salt is added to the dough upfront, as it kills the yeast. They use a special cloth for the fermentation process. The right amount of steam makes the difference in the success of their breads, as does their multinational flour mix.
At the opening I chatted to Surine van Niekerk, of The Deli Coffee Co, who owns four former Melissa’s outlets, in Kloof Street, the Waterfront, Hermanus, and Somerset West. Ian Smith attended too, the co-owner of Mantra Café in Camps Bay, which formerly had a Melissa’s link. Both Surine and Ian are friends of Drikus.
Chef Manon showed us the breads of the Boulangerie, including baguettes, rye breads, and rustic breads. In display shelving we saw croissants (R22), pains au raisins (R26), croissants filled with ham and cheese, and croissants with a curry filling. Sweet Vienoisse treats included macarons, fruit tarts, eclairs, lemon meringue tarts, and more.
I loved the simplicity yet sophistication of the branding, an Eiffel Tower design by Amelia Smit of AS Design, with a cheeky squiggle. The date of 1952 is the Galzin bakery opening date, the year of my birth, reflected in one of the shop windows.
At the opening function platters of French charcuterie and cheeses, with their breads, were offered to guests, as were mini hamburgers with very crispy lightly toasted buns, red pepper quiches, Quiche Lorraine, and Croque Monsieur. Platters of sweet treats were offered, including mini chocolate eclairs, and macarons.
I returned the following day, for breakfast, and Anri was helpful in providing information about their product list, and overseeing my table, there being some service issues, such as there being no pepper or salt grinders, which she quickly borrowed from Kleinsky’s across the road, and no lemon slices for the water. Admittedly it was the first week of operation of Victoire, and it was well-filled with sit-down business, possibly catching them by surprise too.
The Victoire space is L-shaped, with one leg of the restaurant being at the open-plan see-through Pâtisserie section. The other part of the restaurant looks onto the Boulangerie, and the cooking kitchen. On cold days there is a bad draught in this section, with the door to one side being open, as is the stacking door on the other end, leading to the reception desk of the building. Other tenants of the building appear to walk through Victoire to get to their offices, which is probably good for business! Furniture is French Provençal style, with blue Bistro chairs, round tables, square tables, and one long communal table, over which a French-style chandelier hangs. When it becomes warmer, tables and chairs will be set up on the verandah outside too.
Cutlery is shiny brand new, by Nova Essence, while crockery is Nova Classic. Music is French Café style.
The invitation of Victoire is to build one’s own breakfast, with base dishes and a choice of add-on items. An all-day breakfast is offered. Before I ordered, Anri sent a plate of a mini croissant (R14), mini pain au chocolate (R16), and mini raisin bread (R14) to my table, for me to try. I loved this size of pastry.
I ordered an omelet, with avocado on the side, more functionally presented, compared to the presentation by Between Us, at which I had eaten earlier in the day. With the omelet I ordered a dry cappuccino, which was served with a Madeleine on the saucer, a nice French touch. It was perfectly made. The coffee comes from Alchemy Roasters in Welgemoed, Anri informed, owner Conrad being a rugby connection of Drikus. Whilst waiting for my omelet to be served, Anri told me that they use Valrhona chocolate, which is supplied by Wild Peacock, as is their fruit purée.
I also ordered a lemon, raspberry and orange smoothie, so I could not understand why they had no lemon slices, it became apparent that they buy in their ready-made juices. I also wanted to complete my French eating experience with a crepe, a fruit one with strawberries and blue berries, I was promised, but it was served with pineapple and berries instead. It was sent back to correct this error, reflecting a miscommunication between the Kitchen and front of house. I found it dry, requiring some moisture. One can order it with cream too, but this makes the dish expensive. I suggested a drizzle of honey, or of cream. The feedback about the crepes did not go down well with Chef Manon, who became defensive about the crepes, when we sat down after my meal, and I shared my feedback about the service issues with her. She did however comp the crepe, before I shared my feedback with her.
On a board near where I sat a daily special was advertised, it being a mince-stuffed red pepper, served with cous cous and a side salad on that day, at a mere R55. I photographed it as it was served to a neighbouring table, and the feedback from them about it was very good.
The Victoire menu is a functional A5 booklet, divided into Breakfast, Salads, Burgers, Platters, Crepes, and Drinks sections. Breakfast options range from the basic slice of toast (R10), plain croissant (R22), a plain omelet (R20), all very reasonable in price, to an expensive fruit and yoghurt bowl at R86. For the breakfast, a number of options can be ordered from an Extras list, at R10 for jam or cream, R15 for cheese varieties, R20 for avocado or ham, and R25 for bacon or salami.
A base Green salad costs R55, roast chicken salad R85, and a smoked salmon salad R95. A classic burger costs R70.Two persons can order platters to share: Charcuterie is available at R280, Cheese costs a whopping R295, and a Charcuterie and Cheese platter R290, weird pricing! Crepes cost R25, to which can be added jam, Nutella, whipped cream, honey, salted caramel, and seasonal fruit, the most expensive crepe with an addition costing R38. Coffee and tea options are offered, the tea selection very limited, given the vast variety available these days. Smoothies cost R35 – R38, with a variety of fruit combinations.
As it had been difficult to photograph the sweet treats in the display fridges, Chef Manon created a slate plate with a mix of their treats, including an apple crumble, chocolate eclair, fruit tart, and macaron.
The biggest highlight about attending the Victoire opening was bumping into Oscar Kotze, former owner of Beluga, Sevruga, and Blonde. I was banned from his restaurants, unknowingly, and was once escorted out of Beluga by the police, on Oscar’s instructions, from a function to which Camps Bay guest house owners had been invited, due to a Sour Service Award which I had awarded to sister restaurant Sevruga. At the Victoire launch, Oscar deduced who I was, and we kissed and made up as if we had been friends for life, not ever having met each other before! We have agreed to meet, to make up for lost time.
I was disappointed by the service hiccups at the breakfast, despite it being the first few days of operation. One would have expected a greater degree of perfection in an internationally aligned business. A concern would be a culture clash between the French and South African personalities and way of doing things. I have learnt that the French can be very direct and even abrupt in saying something, but then it is gone, and they are lovely thereafter! Fascinating to me is the sudden opening of French-style restaurants in Cape Town, with Victoire, Maison J, Swan, and soon Café Paris. I will return, to see if the service has improved.
POSTSCRIPT 8/9: After placing an order with Dorothee telephonically yesterday afternoon, Anri and Chef Manon both having left already, I was sceptical about my collection of it this morning. It was ready for me, only the mini chocolate eclairs had lost some of their chocolate, so I rejected those. Anri kindly compensated with a complimentary eclair. I had ordered a round rye bread, as in the photograph above, but sadly it did not look like this at all. I took two beautiful seeded baguettes instead, poppy seed being my favourite. I had a dry cappuccino, made perfectly from good strong coffee, and a cheese omelet, quickly served albeit in a near empty Bistro. Anri was attentive in checking that everything was to my satisfaction. Given my comment about the exorbitant cost of the Fruit Yoghurt bowl, I noticed immediately the hand-written correction of its price to R68 on the menu!
Victoire Boulangerie, Pâtisserie, and Bistro, Speakers Corner, Church Square, 37 Parliament Street, Cape Town. Tel 076 783 1340/(021) 286-2730 Facebook. Monday to Friday 6h39 – 18h30; Saturday 8h00 – 14h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein