La Croix (or ‘The Cross’) is a French homewares store/café brought to you by Glenda Hampton-Kalyk and Sydney gardener Annie Wilkes, who used to run Woollahra’s Parterre Garden. Stepping through the glass doors is like stepping into a lavish other world from the ornate chandelier and gilt mirrors to the mosaic stone feature wall – yes, no expense has been spared to put you right there in St Michel. A gallery-style front café opens into a retail store, which spills out onto a larger eating area, dotted with yet more French bric-à-brac, most of which you can buy. Tres French.
The punters here are a diverse lot, from Eastern Suburbs ladies-who-lunch to hip young locals sitting at marble tabletops enjoying some people-watching care of the Fitzroy Gardens shop frontage. It could all be a little intimidating – in keeping with that Frenchified theme – if it weren’t for La Croix’s helpful, friendly staff. These young and amicable chaps breathe some much-needed warmth into La Croix’s refined ambience. The food helps too.
If starting the day with buttery pastry, cheese and Champagne sounds appealing, then friend, you have come to the right place. The menu, written in French and thankfully translated, offers a sophisticated selection of tarts, tartines, pâté and a few salads.
It's a lactard's worst nightmare here. There’s twice-baked cheese soufflé served with toast, tartine of poached organic eggs and gruyere, or eggs en cocotte – baked with thyme, cream and topped with cheese. Not that any self-respecting cheese-o-phile would dare complain.
The Bloody Mary will make you feel better about that dairy cow you just sucked dry, or if you’re after something more sobering, freshly pressed orange juice should do the trick. The coffee is a house-blend – sweet, creamy and true to a French cafe crème. For lunch, you can’t go past the tartines – open-faced sandwiches with fancy fillings like cured salmon, crème fraîche, fennel and salmon roe (tartine de saumon). Or try flaked cod, mashed potato, rocket and white anchovies (tartine de brandade).
We suggest walking off your main meal with some retail therapy in the adjoining room before sitting down to dessert. The pièce de résistance is undoubtedly the tarte tatin. And of course, there’s always cheese.