So, when Greg Plowes gives me a food or drink recommendation, I don’t fark around. Greg was a waiter at Tetsuya’s, one of Sydney’s best restaurants, and ascended the ranks to become chief sommelier, and is now part of David Thompson’s Pan-Pacific empire (stretching from Perth to Bangkok). So, when he indicated where to find the best croissant in Paris, I hopped on my Vélib and went!
However, on a Saturday morning, the particular branch he’d described (at 134 rue de Turenne) was closed, but luckily, a second branch is open just around the corner at 59 rue de Saintonge. Phew.
I was greeted at the door with a seal of approval:
Best Croissant (Concours du Meilleur Croissant au beurre AOC Charantes-Poitou) 2nd place in 2013.
And what did I find? Tucked into the corner of the pastry shop, with an espresso from a machine, and I couldn’t resist getting a pain au chocolat at the same time… I seemed to have gotten the last of the croissants. Someone who came after me left empty-handed. Neither were warm, which made me think that room temperature in Paris in February is cooler than anytime in Sydney.
The first bite: an extreme crunch, the outer layer is so crisp, it’s like a small pane of glass giving way to a thinner layer of density (where the outer leaves combine) before you get to a chewy almost squeaky texture of the buttery pastry inside. It was an extraordinary experience eating this, unlike one I’ve had before! The pain au chocolat had a more expansive, airy feel, the larger rectangular shape hiding more pockets of air, a soft cushion of pastry that allowed the hiding place for the chocolate. Also delicious.
Of course, now I’m on a mission. There are lots of blog posts up about best croissants in Paris, but really, I’ve got to try these for myself… One of the blogs recommended Erik Kayser, a popular high-end baker who has shops all over Paris; they seem to be known also for their baguettes. I’d have to say though, having tried their croissants more than once, they just seem regular to me. Tasty, of course, but not particularly crisp, or with an interesting texture (The one pictured, I sneakily ate along with a chocolate concoction at the Lindt cafe).
Staying at an AirBNB in Montmartre means that, for some reason, there are many of the famous and recommended bakeries nearby, both in the 18th, and just across the boulevard in the 9th. On a sunny Saturday morning, I went in search of Sébastian Gaudard at 22 Rue des Martyrs, 75009 Paris, France. The shop looks wonderfully old-fashioned and high end. Unlike the branch near the Pyramides, this one had nowhere to sit, so we had to do take-away…
We ordered two croissants, and well, first of all, they look beautiful. Shiny. There is a sweetness from a sugar glaze, but also salt. A very crisp pastry and a complex chewiness inside. It tasted to me high quality, and special indeed. But wait, there’s more. I have seen chouquettes, the tiny chou pastries covered in rock sugar, but never tried one and these looked too good to pass up. I asked for two; the server started putting together a bag of a dozen (the minimum order) and there I was thinking: it’s Paris, there goes 10 euros. But it was only 3 euros… and man, these are perfect, light, crispy bits of air, pastry and sugar. Yum.
Now, if you’re name is Sadaharu Aoki, it’s hard to go wrong in my books (branches all over Paris, the one I go to is close to Segur where I work: (25 rue Pérignon 75015 Paris). This is one of my favourite patisseries in Paris: the Japanese flavours matched with ridiculously rich French pastries makes me squeal with delight. So, I couldn’t resist trying a matcha-flavoured croissant. As something to try, why not? It’s probably the least expensive item in the shop, and I thought it tasted just fine (though having bought it at the end of the day, and transported it home, I’m not sure this was the right technique compared to getting one from a bakery at the start of the day). Cutting it open… is a fabulous effect, you have to admit, though closing my eyes, it was hard to discern a matcha (green tea, if you didn’t know already) flavour.