Lune Croissanterie is something of a phenomenon in Melbourne—the closest comparison I have is to the infamous perma-line at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. It's the work of pastry chef Kate Reid, an accomplished baker whose career has taken a circuitous route to the world of high-end pastries. And it's a shop with at least one foot firmly planted in Melbourne's booming speciality coffee scene, thanks to their early days as a wholesale supplier for some of the city's finest cafes. This is a story of how great food makes great coffee even better, and vice versa.
Like many folks I know who work in hospitality, this wasn't Kate Reid's first day job. She moved to croissant-making after leaving a lucrative career in a very different industry—an Aerodynamicist for Formula One. That work wasn’t getting her the personal and professional satisfaction that she expected, she decided to move on (though still loves the science of aerodynamics). Through her work with F1, she saw a lot of the world, including France and its many delights, and became absolutely enamoured with croissants (in particular, the difficult task of making them well).
In Paris, she so taken by the revered boulangerie Du Pain et des Idées (which Ms. Reid describes as “one of the most perfect bakeries in the world”), that she decided to contact the owner and was lucky enough to spend some months in Paris staging (apprenticing) under Christophe Vasseur, learning the beautiful art of viennoiseries.
Ms. Reid told me that when she returned from Paris to Melbourne, she “had been completely spoilt for choice when it came to good croissants, and mornings had ritualistically become a croissant and a black coffee.“ She would go to cafes in Melbourne for coffee and a croissant, “dreaming of recreating a moment of Paris.” Nothing was up to the standards she had become accustomed to; though Melbourne's espresso bar and cafes are well-stocked with high quality donuts, canalés, macarons, and the like, the city's croissant scene was measured and found lacking compared to Paris.
Thus Lune was born. Beginning life as a wholesale business, Kate Reid built a respectable portfolio of partners across the city, including cafes like Clement Coffee Roasters, Everyday Coffee, A Little Bird Told Me, Patricia Coffee Brewers, and more. Customers across Melbourne took notice; very good pastries have an intrinsic ability to drive interest, even obsession, and when paired with fine coffee, well…it can be kismet.
The croissant-making process takes three days from start to finish. There is no shortage of butter, of course, but also a great deal of finesse required. It's a ritual, a discipline in its own right, perfected and repeated by artisan bakers across France and America and the world, and by Kate Reid in Melbourne, too. You don't get to cut corners; there is a holiness in not cutting corners.
A full-time wholesale operation eventually proved unsustainable for Lune Croissanterie. In recent months, Kate Reid has downsized her wholesale customers, and taken a a well-deserved brief holiday to where her love of pastry began–Paris. On this trip, she was reminded of how much she missed interacting with guests, and she returned to Melbourne with a clear vision for taking Lune from a wholesale business to a small retail shop. The sort of place where, Kate tells me, “customers could purchase the pastries literally straight from the oven, as they were meant to be eaten.”
With this in mind, she decided to take on a new business partner (her brother Cam, who is also a second pair of hands in the pastry kitchen) and open up the doors to her Elwood neighborhood bakery on weekends—or more appropriately, the top half of her front door. Lune has continued its wholesale presence, but it's now become an exercise in scarcity, with Lune croissants and other baked goods available just one day a week, exclusively at Patricia Coffee Brewers.
At the cafe in Elwood, they've hired a dedicated barista, and started out serving coffee from Melbourne-based Clement Coffee, before recently moving on to serve Small Batch Coffee Roasters, another well-regarded Melbourne roaster. This journalist & barista has pulled an occasional guest shift herself at Lune during the weekend pastry rush.
In addition to the traditional plain croissant (slightly bigger than those you'd find in France, to cater to the pastry-hungry Australian market), guests at the Lune bakery window can try a twice-baked almond croissant, a delicate chocolate and almond croissant, and the buttery/caramelized/salty/addictive delight that is the Kouign-Amann, from the Breton region of France. On top of these regulars, Kate also has a rotating roster of “cruffins”, which is exactly what it sounds like—a croissant made in a muffin tin—often filled and topped with seasonal ingredients. Past “cruffins” have included Pavlova, Tiramisu, lemon and kaya, apple crumble, lime and yuzu, and “Cherry Ripe”.
Lune Croissanterie remains a labor of love for Kate Reid, for which there is a huge demand. Future plans must balance a desire to maintain high quality standards with the possibility for growth. The Reid siblings have talked about setting up a satellite store someday, perhaps in Northern Europe, or maybe Asia. For now, find them in Elwood, an otherwise non-descript suburb of Melbourne. I will advise you to arrive early, and be prepared to wait in line.
Eileen P. Kenny (@EileenPK) is a Sprudge.com staff writer in Melbourne, and the author of Birds Of Unusual Vitality, speciality coffee’s premiere interview publication. Read more Eileen P. Kenny here.