On any given morning, Mademoiselle Colette isn’t hard to find: Just follow the line that snakes out of the quaint patisserie’s doors every day—or simply let your nose guide you toward the sweet smell of freshly baked croissant.

Located in the heart of downtown Menlo Park, Mademoiselle Colette brings French authenticity to the Peninsula in the form of beautifully baked pastries, a range of elegant desserts, and a traditional French brunch and lunch menu. Led by Debora Ferrand, an Atherton resident by way of Brazil then France, the cafe’s pastries have inspired looks of awe and feelings of joy since its opening in 2015 and have remained so popular over the years that they sell out most days.

Once you get a glance at the elegant pastry case that runs down the length of the cafe, you’ll understand why. It’s hard to choose just one or two of the dozen or so varieties of confections Mademoiselle Colette neatly displays on a rotating basis—from tartlets and brioche to eclairs and cheesecake—simply because of how ornately decorated and visually enticing they all look.

I stopped in on a Sunday morning close to 10am, and a line was already forming out the door. Popular items like Colette’s classic butter croissant were close to sold out, so I opted to cover all my bases by ordering staples, like the plain and almond croissants ($3.75, $5) as well as a morning citrus roll ($4.75) and a raspberry and vanilla tarte aux sucre ($4.75). The croissants were both as big as my outstretched hand—large enough to appease any American’s standard for size—but baked so expertly that even the French could be fooled. Beautifully crisp and flakey on the outside, the croissant was melt-in-your-mouth airy and light. The almond croissant was a standout, however, and was loaded with a flavorful almond paste that was rich but not overwhelmingly sweet.

The morning citrus roll had similar laminated pastry layers as the croissants, but contained equal bits of soft, candied citrus peel and raisins in its center. Crispy on the outside, the center was chewy but not underbaked. The raspberry and vanilla tarte was small but jam-packed with flavor, each bite containing fresh raspberries. The velvety vanilla base tasted creamier than it did sweet, but complemented the fresh fruit nicely.

Two of the more elaborate pastries offered were the merveilleux and French lemon tart ($8.50 each), both of which are Mademoiselle Colette specialties that came highly recommended by the staff. Merveilleux, which means “wonderful” in French, is truly just that: a melange of dark chocolate mousse and hard meringue is encased in a perfectly even, spherical orb of hardened chocolate, making for one of the most decadent and visually attractive desserts I’ve ever had. The lemon tart was adorned just as elegantly, topped with marshmallowy French meringue and filled with tangy lemon custard that balanced out the meringue’s candy-like sweetness.

In addition to the range of sweets on display, Mademoiselle Colette offers a full lunch menu Monday through Saturday that includes a range of French or French-inspired salads, sandwiches and soups. A special Sunday brunch menu offers eggs benedict and eggs florentine, french toast with housemade brioche, croissant sandwiches, and the classic croque madame and monsieur. I decided on Colette’s special ($14) which came with two perfectly poached eggs, braised asparagus spears and a generous amount of hollandaise sauce, and was served on a thick slice of focaccia-like bread. While I’m not usually a fan of hollandaise, Colette’s was an exception: It was flavorful but not overwhelmingly saucy or goopy and absorbed into the bread nicely.

It’s important to note that everything at Mademoiselle Colette is made from organic, local and seasonal ingredients, apart from the butter used in their confections—that’s flown in all the way from France. Internationally sourced butter could be a reason why Colette’s handcrafted pastries are pricier than most, but they’re well worth their cost when you consider the technique and craft that goes into each croissant.

Mademoiselle Colette
Patisserie, $$
816 Santa Cruz Ave, Menlo Park