The Queanbeyan-Palerang region is home to a diverse set of distinctively unique towns and villages. To give you an insider’s look into the hidden gems the region has to offer, we’ve enlisted the help of our trusty locals who will share their stories and local loves from the towns they call home.
In the second feature of the series, Bungendore locals Christophe & Josephine Gregoire of French restaurant Le Tres Bon give us a glimpse into their world of family, food and community.
Bienvenue en Bungendore
Josephine and Christophe’s journey to setting up a French restaurant in the small country town of Bungendore is nothing short of astonishing. Although Josephine was born in the nearby city of Queanbeyan, it would take a few twists and turns of fate to lead her back to the region years later to open a restaurant of her own.
Christophe, on the other hand, grew up in a small French village between Nancy and Strasbourg in the east of France. After finishing his education in hospitality, he decided to travel, traversing through different French islands, until he finally landed in the beautiful island of New Caledonia.
As luck would have it, Josephine’s work with WHO had taken her overseas to Noumea, on the very same island, where the pair met and married.
“As crazy as it sounds, after a while we grew a little tired of the island life and wanted to start a family,” Josephine explains. “We basically had three options; stay in New Caledonia, move to France, or move to Australia,” Christophe continues.
But on this occasion the treasures of France proved to be no match to Josephine’s sales pitch of moving to Australia and fulfilling Christophe’s lifelong dream of visiting Alice Springs and Uluru. “Josephine told me, ‘Don’t worry, Alice Springs isn’t far away from Queanbeyan’, but over 20 years later, we still haven’t been!” Christophe laughs.
“We arrived in Australia in the middle of October 1999, and by November we opened our first restaurant in Manuka called Christophe’s Restaurant,” Josephine recalls. But opening their first restaurant in Australia wasn’t quite as simple as it may sound – Christophe did not speak a word of English, Josephine had no background in hospitality, and the duo was also raising a young family at the time. “It was a bit of a rock ‘n’ roll start,” Christophe chuckles.
“I still wouldn’t have it any other way,” Josephine says. “It was a beautiful place to start at and build our clientele, so that when we opened our restaurant in Bungendore in 2007, we brought all of them here with us.”
Family, food & community
Moving the business to Bungendore was by no means an easy decision for the Gregoires, who had been commuting between the home they were building in Bungendore and their restaurant in Manuka, but as the opportunity for their new location on Malbon Street came up, they took it on.
“When we moved to Bungendore, our three daughters were 3, 4 and 5 years old, and now they are all in their twenties. While living, working and raising our family in the same space wasn’t easy, we stuck true to it,” Josephine reminisces.
“Moving our business to Bungendore was a fantastic move, because the town has a similar feel to a small French village, but it’s also conveniently located next to a bigger city. The best part about it is that we get to be in direct contact with all our producers, which is very important to us. We work with our terroir, as we say in French, so everything we serve up in our restaurant from eggs, vegetables, meat and so on, comes from the people around us,” Christophe explains.
The pair applauds Bungendore as the ideal location for doing business their way – working with the local producers and keeping things seasonal. “That also allowed us to start up new concepts in 2008, such as the chestnut dinners and truffle events during the winter truffle season, which have become a core part of our operations ever since, alongside our cooking classes and food tours,” Josephine points out.
“We think using the framework of French cuisine, you can do so much in terms of bringing in the local produce and seasonality, which keeps things exciting and brings people together in a very special way,” they conclude.
When it comes to their favourite spots around town, Christophe and Josephine have plenty to say.
“Bungendore has beautiful diversity for its size,” Christophe notes, as Josephine adds, “From a food point of view, we really have it all. The vineyards aren’t far away, so you could go to a beautiful wine tasting, or there’s a whole range of cafes and restaurants to choose from if you’re after anything from a coffee right through to a more fine dining experience. There’s also the pub of course, and you even have great quality takeaway for those lazier days you just want to grab something quickly”.
“On the retail side of things, there is obviously the state-of-the-art Bungendore Wood Works Gallery which attracts people from far and wide, it’s absolutely beautiful. There is also the leather shop which has stood in the corner of Malbon and Ellendon Streets for a long time and is an amazing little hub. Just up the road on Ellendon, you also have Wild Rose Organics, which has beautiful locally sourced products. The clothing is absolutely amazing!” Josephine says.
The pair also sing the praises of Bungendore’s many galleries. “We have Xanthe and her beautiful jewellery on Gibraltar Street, and just a couple of doors down there’s the lovely Suki & Hugh Gallery, as well as the Bungendore Fine Art on Ellendon. There is lots of creativity around,” they explain.
“There’s so much variety, and the town has that beautiful authentic feel to it still. Just the idea that you can walk through Bungendore village and take your time exploring – how beautiful is that!” Josephine praises.
“In some ways, it’s a healing space,” Christophe adds, as Josephine concludes, “Bungendore is a space where you can get away from your world and enter ours, which has so much peace and calm.”