From Brittany to West Broadway La Crêperie Ker Breizh delivers French flavours wrapped in traditional thin pancakes
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/07/2022 (242 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Swap the steady flow of traffic on Sherbrook Street for the cool blue waters of the Bay of Biscay and La Crêperie Ker Breizh is a convincing replica of a seaside café in Brittany, France.
Recreating a sense of home was the main goal for husband-and-wife owners Yvonnick Le Lorec and Ketty Pichaud.
“(Ker) is a space where you have conviviality, like a sharing space,” Le Lorec says, translating the restaurant’s name. “And Breizh is Brittany, so it’s the Home Sweet Home of Brittany.”
Ker Breizh is the new kid on this particular block of Sherbrook between Portage Avenue and Broadway, but the couple’s brand of sweet and savoury French crêpes has been rolling around Winnipeg since 2018.
They have a kiosk on the Esplanade Riel and the red-roofed tent of their mobile catering business has become a staple at local farmers markets and events. Opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant was always part of the plan.
Initially, Le Lorec and Pichaud looked for a space in St. Boniface, where they’ve been embraced by the local francophone community, but cost and availability sent them into West Broadway instead — a change of scenery that complements their mission statement.
“The goal is to share our culture,” Le Lorec says. “People can travel when they come here and almost feel like they’re somewhere else.”
The 46-seat café has bistro tables, prints, books, knick-knacks and dishes imported from France. A black, white and red motif — an homage to the Briton flag — runs through the dining room and into the kitchen, where busy crêpe-makers are visible through a large bank of windows.
“It’s always nice to see how you make a crêpe,” Le Lorec says. “Whenever we perform at markets, people are always impressed.”
The walls and coffee cups are emblazoned with triskels, a tri-pointed swirling symbol connected to Brittany’s Celtic heritage. The region occupies the northwest tip of France and was once home to Celts fleeing Anglo-Saxon invaders in Britain.
Made with buckwheat flour, the savoury Ker Breizh crêpes are also a nod to history.
“This used to be like the bread of the poor Briton people,” Le Lorec says. “The buckwheat plant came from Asia around the 1600s and it was very easy to grow… with the seeds they made flour and just added water and salt, and the batter was ready.”
Most homes had fireplaces outfitted with a large flat pan for spreading crêpes. Buckwheat eventually fell from prominence thanks to government-incentivized wheat programs, but the ancient grain has been seeing a resurgence of late.
Le Lorec’s grandmother made crêpes for the family every weekend and the classically trained chef and maître d’ wanted to offer diners in his adoptive home a similarly authentic experience.
He first moved to Winnipeg in his early 20s on the heels of a woman he met during a culinary exchange program. The relationship didn’t work out, but he got a job at Kristina’s on Corydon and stayed for several years before returning to France, where he met Pichaud.
The pair came back to Winnipeg together briefly, but were forced home again due to a work-permit mixup.
While in Brittany, they opened a successful American-style coffee shop and ran the seasonal business for seven years. Winnipeg, however, remained in the back of their minds.
“We got a little bored,” Le Lorec says. “That’s when we saw the opportunity of a crêperie and French pastry shop, because it’s not (something that exists in Winnipeg).”
The menu at Ker Breizh’s new location (110-267 Sherbrook St.) is expanded slightly from its market offerings, with breakfast and appetizer items beyond new sweet and savoury crêpe varieties — such as La Fermière, a substantial crêpe filled with local pork, hash browns, cheese and house-made Dijon mustard, or the Caramel au Beurre Salée, made with salted caramel and a scoop of vanilla ice cream from Fête.
Pichaud also has the opportunity to stretch her pastry-making skills. A business management graduate who has trained with prominent French bakers, she’s excited to get back to her roots.
“As a kid… I was very into (making pastries) as soon as I could crack an egg,” she says, adding that she would bake treats with her mom and grandma every Sunday growing up.
Pichaud is now using their recipes in the restaurant for things like gâteau au chocolat, mousse and madeleines. It feels good to be sharing family traditions with the public, even if her mother was wary of the idea.
“My mom said, ‘It’s nice, but are you doing it the right way?’” Pichaud recalls with a laugh. “So yeah, I want to do it the right way because I have all these memories with my grandmother and I want to keep that — and it’s good for people to know that it’s something I was doing as a kid.”
La Crêperie Ker Breizh is open Tuesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visit kerbreizhcrepe.ca for more information.
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.