Sometimes I pinch myself. Sometimes I can’t find the words to convince myself it’s real. Not in English anyhow!
Living here on the Northern Beaches is like a dream come true. Actually . . . it’s better than that. Because I never dreamed of a place so beautiful and livable even existing, yet alone being called home.
Growing up in provincial France, there were no beaches. Not even ones with freezing surf crashing down upon grey pebbles. Turquoise waters and soft, golden sand? Only on the covers of glossy brochures at our local travel agency.
Now that’s the view that greets me each morning through the open front of French Basket’s Dee Why café. It makes rising before dawn to bake our imported breads and pastries remarkably easier. The warm radiance of rising pastry, the aroma of anticipation for the first bite of a new day, evokes my fondest memories from France. But never did I imagine this daily reverie unfolding against such a glorious backdrop, as the sun slides over an indigo horizon to begin another day in the place they’ve rightfully named God’s Country.
Like most travellers from overseas who visit the Northern Beaches, I knew little outside the cafés and restaurants of Manly at first. Then I began to explore, gradually seeking-out less obvious gems further from the city. The rugged expanse of Long Reef headland. The quiet, ferny recesses of Narrabeen Lagoon. Rounding the final bend of Pittwater Road to reveal the creaking wharves of Church Point. Mona Vale’s ocean baths, sitting in the sea like some cleft-off island. The dense palms of Bilgola. The boutiques of Avalon, bustling on a Saturday afternoon.
It’s a place that oozes inspiration. Surfing, sailing, paddling, diving, rock fishing, cycling . . . so many reasons to indulge your body. And your tastebuds. The beaches, headlands and parks on the Northern Beaches offer an unrivalled setting for outdoor dining, whether it be a romantic picnic or a family BBQ. As I discovered these places, I began to understand what I needed to do . . .
Famous French fare like baguettes, croissants, cheese, and saucisson is synonymous with medieval villages and lush countryside. What if I could engineer the best of both worlds? Produce from France, prepared in French tradition, on the gorgeous Northern Beaches?
I was happily surprised to find the idea was unique. Yes, there are a number of excellent French restaurants on the Northern Beaches like Frenchies Brasserie at Elanora Heights and Bistro Boulevard at Avalon. But a dedicated café that sources all its baked goods from France? There was nothing like French Basket.
I had little but instinct to persuade me it would work. But in my short time on the Northern Beaches, I’d learned one important thing about its people. They are discerning. Living among such beauty has sharpened their appreciation of quality. As long as this venture upheld its values, the locals would reciprocate with loyal patronage.
There is one thing my old home has in common with my new one: community. I was raised in a small farming town, where the residents were close and caring. Although the Northern Beaches is a much bigger place, the atmosphere of community here is undeniable. Whether it be at the organic markets on Fridays at Warriewood or Saturday mornings at Curl Curl netball courts, people interact here with a shared sense of pride. I had faith that, provided we earned their trust and respect with great food and service, the Northern Beaches community would sustain us.
Et voila . . . it has!