Set your alarms Dear Reader! Franca’s lockdown Boulangerie bake sale is on to help get us through Sydney's 2021 lockdown. But you'll have to get in early to join the queue to nab one of their fantastic pastries or sandwiches!
It's a chilly winter's morning in the middle of the Sydney's 2021 lockdown. Yet at Franca, there's a long queue, even at 7am when the small open-air bake sale at Franca commences. Located on the landing outside Franca's entrance, there are squares to mark where people can stand and people check in dutifully while wearing masks. Come 9:30am everything will be gone.
This is the second year that they've pivoted to the Boulangerie. Franca's Executive Chef José Saulog says, "Like most places, we started the Boulangerie because of COVID-19. It was a fantastic way to utilise and showcase the talents of our pastry team and keep the buzz of Franca in the air." This year however is different, "The biggest difference I think is Jobkeeper. Last year, with Jobkeeper we were able to do take away and Boulangerie with 11 chefs on the roster doing about 12-15 hours a week. This year without Jobkeeper we have stood down 95% of our total staff. It’s grim both ways but I have no reason to complain on our end as our doors are still currently open and I’m very appreciative of that.. I hope it ends sooner than later as we don’t know how long we can sustain this. It’s all still very daunting but I try to stay positive and look ahead at what can be in the future. Optimism is key!" says José.
There a range of cakes and pastries both sweet and savoury as well as sandwiches. The fastest seller is the chicken and leek pie followed by the Quiche Lorraine and Chocolate Tart. I buy half a dozen things for myself and friends. The sausage roll may be one of the most expensive takeaway sausage rolls you will buy per cm but it is fantastic with a pork and fennel filling and flakey, buttery pastry. It's so flavoursome it doesn't need its usual accompaniment of sauce with its perfectly seasoned filling. The pie is delicious with plenty of meat but could be a bit more saucy inside.
The Portuguese custard tart is wonderful as are the chive and cheddar scones which are fluffy and cheesy - just heat both in the oven for a few minutes to take the chill edge off them or eat them warm walking to your car.
The sweets are by head pastry chef Travin De Hoedt and his team. The salted caramel and chocolate tart is as beautiful as it is tasty. The salted caramel is silky smooth as is the Valrhona Manjari chocolate ganache swirl topping and there gold leaf at the top just to make it a bit more special.
The carrot cake is full of aromatic spices, pretty edible flowers and a fluffy cream cheese. The secret to Travin’s carrot cake is the soaking the sultanas in single origin Ceylon Tea for for 48 hours to plump them up.
I bought two sandwiches for lunch and the first is a smoked chicken and brie baguette on a crisp Pioik baguette which is wonderful with a generous amount of melty brie that soaks through into the bread.
Last but not least, when you set your alarm, pray that you nab one of Franca's porchetta rolls. They're filled with chopped porchetta and salsa verde with wonderful crackling pieces on Pioik Ciabatta. I didn't even share this with Mr NQN. The porchetta is a labour of love and is made from a whole pork belly rubbed with a paste of parsley, garlic, eschallot, chilli, extra virgin olive oil and chardonnay vinegar. The skin is salted overnight and cooked at 240C in the oven for 30 minutes then for 1hour at 160C. The pairing with herby salsa verde is judicious and helps to break up and balance the delicious fattiness of the porchetta.
And that's why I guess people get up so early!
So tell me Dear Reader, would you queue early to get pastries? Does this lockdown feel different from last year's?
All of this food was independently paid for.
Shop 2/81 Macleay St, Potts Point NSW 2011
Franca Boulangerie is open on Saturdays during lockdown from 7am until sold out