“Maison means house and Clement is me,” explains Clement Labaere, owner and chef of the Central Market Arcade’s newest addition, Maison Clement. “In France, we use maison in front of your name when we want to show people that family matters and it’s a family business.”
“You have to feel comfortable, like you’re at home,” he continues. “That’s why we bring classic French, homemade food, like my mum did it or my grandma.”
As with any good family business, Maison Clement has its own dinner-table origin story. “My mum always tells the story of Christmas day [when] my dad was stuffing a chicken,” Clement recalls. “As a kid, you think it’s gross but then when we tried it that night it was delicious and I realised the magic.”
From that moment on, Clement set out on a gastronomic path. A run at hospitality school saw his love of the kitchen grow deeper. From there he went on to chef school for four years and pastry school for two, before earning his culinary stripes in Michelin-starred La Belle Siska.
Following seasonal stints on the Alps and French coastline, a decision to learn English saw Clement UK-bound. Ready to head west across the Channel, a serendipitous phone call from Aux Fine Bouche’s Richard Le Denuff would see Clement bring his refined abilities down under instead.
You might recognise his handiwork from the Brighton locale, or later the coveted cabinets of Cliché. Now, Clement returns to his family routes, working with his wife, Rosie, and a team of French expats.
What once bore the markings of a dingy snack bar, now stands a pocket of French homeliness on the fringe of the Central Markets. The resulting space is simple yet evidently considered.
Beyond the existing curved ceiling, Clement says he “brings the French”, and he’s right. French advertisements line the walls alongside other relics from Clement’s home country, including a 1904 Parisian menu.
“The idea was to bring what I miss about France,” he explains.
For Clement, this means cakes and a lot of them. Crafted with his customers in mind, weekly specials “keep things interesting…I don’t just want to offer lemon meringue or custard tarts, I want to keep evolving,” he says.
The pastry selection, while concise, delivers. Croissants, pain au chocolat and sultana pain aux raisin are made using a single dough, which on Saturdays stretches to include a weekend-exclusive Lemon Meringue Croissant.
Where breakfast is concerned, nostalgia reigns. Derived from Clement’s memories of his own mother and grandmother’s cooking, he presents classic French fare with hints of Australian influence throughout. Faced with a demographic transfixed by eggs for breakfast and decidedly different produce, Clement “bring[s] French technique to the Australian way of eating.” The resulting kitchen is stocked with New Zealand butter and French and Belgium chocolate alongside the freshest fruit and veg from neighbouring traders.
This unique fusion approach culminates in the Oeufs Vert. Crafted with the local palate in mind, two sous vide eggs are lathered in pea puree and paired with smoked salmon.
Alternatively, the Croquet Monsieur captures Clement’s dedication to replicating his favourite meals from home. Tasked with doing his grandma’s recipe justice, he admits “it was really hard to make it taste like France.” The solution? House made pain de mie, a white bread not found in Australia but baked fresh on site each morning.
Catering to the Market’s devoted Friday night swell, Maison Clement offers evening service once a week. “We couldn’t offer a breakfast menu on a Friday night, that doesn’t really work,” says Clement.
Instead the expansive morning offering is replaced by a tight one page menu based on French classics. Expect authentic fare with all the trimmings including, charcuterie, racelette, escargot, nicoise salad and, of course, Clement’s signature house croquet monsieur.
WHERE? Shop 16, Central Market Arcade, Adelaide
WHEN? Monday – Thursday: 07.30 – 16.30 / Friday: 07.30 – 21.00 / Saturday: 08.00 – 15.00
COME HERE FOR: French fare adapted to the Australian market
EXPECT TO SPEND: $-$$
OF NOTE: Friday evening dinner service
Photography by Ben Neale.