“When people walk in through the door, I want them to feel as though they are truly in France,” enthuses Alan Floquet, manager of Chateaubriant for over three years.
And he achieves his wish with every customer that steps inside this pavement cafe near Cheltenham Beach. So much so, that this cafe - voted best in Devonport last year, as well as having the best croissants in Auckland - continues to grow and grow as a popular destination cafe.
At the helm with Alan, is Ivan Guan. A smart, young (both Ivan and Alan are in their early 30s) chef, barista and entrepreneur who last year took over ownership of Chateaubriant, and has owned Stanley’s cafe at the Forrest Hill end of Milford for over five years. Both are ‘community cafes’, away from the main centres of Devonport and Milford and that is what appealed to Ivan. He also successfully ran Armadillo from 2015 until last year, when he decided to take on the French cafe challenge. “I’ve been involved in cafes for years and, after the success with Armadillo, I saw the chance to run not only Stanley's, but two ‘local’ cafes that I love. The team here is family to me - we work and play together and have this young, positive energy. It’s quite special.” Alan adds: “With his experience in cafes and my knowledge of French cuisine and culture, we’re the perfect fit. Because we get on so well as a team, and only employ staff who fit well with us. That creates the great energy we have in here.”
At weekends, the croissant count nudges up to several hundred per day and the coffees are like liquid gold. Importantly, however, Chateaubriant - named after the French town of the same name - has managed to strike that rare, fine balance between destination cafe and relentlessly popular spot for locals. It’s all about innovation and continually surprising with what they offer, says Alan.
“Our goal is to surprise people - even those who may have been coming here for years - and keep it innovative, exciting, new, fresh.”
Locals flock for the locally-roasted organic Chiasso coffee, expertly crafted by Ivan and his highly-skilled baristas (using organic milk). The pastry selection is dangerously good, as are the crêpes, breads, baguette sandwiches, deli cheeses and meats, rotisserie chickens, and the exquisite ready-made dinners to takeaway. Alan mentions that they sold over 80 lasagnes, for example, in the week prior to our meeting, with many other mouth-watering French dinner options also flying out the door and onto tables in the neighbourhood. And their external catering seems to be taking off in a similar way. Incredible charcuterie and cheese platters, all authentically French, of course, are adding special touches to events away from the cafe, and exquisite cakes and desserts are also a speciality. They’re big on building this side of the business even further and can tailor outside catering needs to suit requests.
Alan hails from Burgundy, ‘the French capital of wine and gastronomy’ he adds, and ran an incredible dinner experience last year using recipes from his grandmother, extraordinarily adapted by their two talented French chefs, in a stunningly decorated Chateaubriant by night. Several others have followed, each with a nod to a different region of France and each being the talk of Cheltenham for days to follow. Demand for these evenings is phenomenal and when you’ve had a glimpse at the level of effort and detail involved to create an unforgettable French dining experience, it’s easy to see why they sell out immediately. “There will be more to come this year,” Alan says in his adorable French accent and a twinkle in his eye. “We have some exciting plans! There are many great things ahead here. In some ways, this is only the beginning!”
It’s always wonderful to meet people who are living their passion; and that’s the vibe at this soulful French enclave on Vauxhall Road in Devonport. You can’t fake that passion. Chateaubriant draws people in easily, with it’s hypnotising aromas and gorgeous food. That’s the easy part. But way beyond this, Alan and Ivan are dedicated to making sure that these people are inspired to come back time and time again, because of the way this cafe evolves and delights and encourages everyone who enters to become an extended part of this fun, fine French food-loving family.
Chateaubriant, Vauxhall Road, Devonport