PAUL Bakery

Elisa:

I’m sure all of you have heard of PAUL, because as of today, there are over 436 franchised PAUL bakery café-restaurants around the world – 326 in France alone, and 127 in 24 other countries. That’s a lot, definitely more than its rival French bakery Eric Kayser. But then again, PAUL dates back all the way to 1889, while Eric Kayser started more than a century later in 1996.
Unlike Eric Kayser, PAUL is a family owned company built on the foundations of time-honored production methods that has been passed down through 5 generations. Following the death of his father, Julien Holder (3rd generation), Francis Holder took over the family bakery in Lille and expanded the business with his mother’s assistance. By 1970, he was able to purchase an abandoned industrial site at La Madeleine, in the suburbs of Lille, and transformed his bakery into an enormous one. In 1972, Francis installed a wood-fire oven that operated in full view of customers. This proved to be so popular that as the PAUL chain expanded, it was incorporated into the general layout. Today, apart from the change of livery in 1993 to the now-signature black, the layout and visual aesthetic of PAUL worldwide has not changed at all.

“French-style” bread has been a real religion to passion in our family for over 120 years (122 years to be exact).

I’ve tried PAUL at a few different locations in Paris and they were all excellent – really damn good. So I was extremely excited to hear that PAUL was opening in Singapore soon (they took months though!!!!!), a city which in my opinion is in desperate need of a true bakery (other than Maison Kayser).  But honestly, who wouldn’t be excited if PAUL was opening in their hometown?
PAUL finally opened last week, January 6 2012 if not I’m not wrong, at Takashimaya, an iconic shopping complex located in the heart of Orchard Road.
We arrived there slightly before noon, but of course, it’s never early enough for PAUL. There was already a long, long, long extremely long queue in front of the café-restaurant.  (And there was another long, not too long though, queue at the take away side) But we decided to queue up anyway. We’d wait the entire day for the fresh, warm, crispy exterior and fluffly interior bread that we got at PAUL in Paris. Nothing tastes better than fresh bread …
In the mean time, in our eagerness to have that mouth-watering moment, my mother went to the take away side and decided to get some bread, while I continue waiting in line.

Benoiton Chocolat

Benoiton Chocolat ($2.20): Wholemeal flour, chocolate drops. I’ve tried this bread in Paris before and was extremely pleased with the softness, yet a little firm, texture that it had. I particularly loved the fact that it was made with wholemeal flour, which gave that extra nuttiness and flavor to the bread. When I saw it, right in front of my eyes in Singapore, I knew I had to get it. However, this was hard, and chewy!!!!!! Definitely the opposite of what I expected.

Cranberry Brioche

Cranberry Brioche ($2.20): Brioches are meant to be buttery, light and fluffy. Am I not correct? This one was extremely buttery, but nothing light and fluffy. It was dense, and sinks right into your teeth. If you told me that this was a soft home-baked roll, the ones which you make a small little breakfast Panini with, I’d be happy with it. But a brioche? No no, this is no brioche.

Plain Sugar Brioche

Plain Sugar Brioche ($2.20): Buttery, but too dense, and too sweet. Not light and fluffy at all.
NOT a good start.
When we finally got to the front of the line about 20 minutes later and got a better view of the café-restaurant, we realized that not all the tables were filled. We asked the waiter – a French man who could speak proper English despite the accent – the rationale behind not sitting customers despite the empty seats. He said, “Kitchen problem, we don’t have enough staff. We’re settling down.” So ok, forgivable. We were seated in the next 5 minutes anyway.
Entering PAUL literally felt as if you were back in France. The black and white tile floors around the counter and rustic painted window frames gave a strong sense of French countryside style while the wooden beam ceilings, upholstered chairs and simple bug elegant chandeliers represent the fancier, urban France. Even most of the waiters were French!
PAUL has an all day dining menu, serving simple French café food such as sandwiches, soups, quiches, tarts, crepes and also pastries and cakes (which look sooooooooooo delicious). I had wanted to have their Crepe so badly, but our waiter said that it wasn’t ready, and would be ready later in the day. Hellooooooo, 12.30pm is the usual lunchtime and I think everything should be ready for the crowds by then. Yes, I was mad >(

Tartine champignons

So I settled for an Nos tartines (open sandwich) A delicious slice of freshly baked country bread topped with your favourite ingredients. A real baker’s dish served warm or cold with a seasonal side salad. Tartine champignons ($16.50): Sautéed mushrooms with garlic, shallots and parsley (served warm). The mushrooms were seasoned perfectly I would say though the bread was slightly burnt. The entire dish was not too bad, but the side salad … It was not dressed, and was entirely unnecessary.

Paillasson saumon fumé

My mother went for a Nos paillassons (potato pancakes) Our traditional potato pancake is baked to perfection in our ovens and topped with a delicious garniture. Paillasson saumon fumé ($21): Smoked salmon and plain spread. The potato pancake had a nice crisp on the outside and a soft fluffy inside. The smoked salmon was briny but slightly sweet at the same time, and the plain spread, which was actually sour cream, brought the entire dish together. Again, the side salad was totally unnecessary.

Salade fermière

French salads are always special in a way. Nos salades Wish for something refreshing? Our seasonal mixed greens are generously topped with the best ingredients. They are made to order to ensure freshness and flavor. Salade fermière ($16.90): Grilled chicken breast, grated carrot, apple, Emmental cheese, raisins, walnuts … the favorite dish of PAUL’s French customers! This was a HUGE disappointment. There was NO apple, NO cheese, NO raisins, NO walnuts, and NO DRESSING. And then there was an egg, which was not supposed to be there. And when we asked why there was no dressing at all, the waiter said, “oh you want dressing?” and then he came back with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Basically, imagine a plate full of greens and water. The chicken saved the plate – moist and juicy.

Bread Basket

My mum wanted to try their different variety of breads, so she went for the Bread Basket. Bread’s the real deal here anyway, so of course it’ll only be right to judge this place by their bread (which would have failed with the brioches). The bread basket included half a Sesame Baguette, a Plain Baguette, and 2 slices of multigrain bread. We were also given PAUL’s butter. The bread basket was the BIGGEST disappointment.  The bread was cold, hard and chewy. We literally had to use all our strength to break a piece or take a bite. Omg… The butter though, was slightly satisfactory. Like all French butters, it was sunshine-yellow and there you can definitely taste that difference as compared to the regular American butter and fancy European imports. However, it wasn’t as mellow or tangy as the French butter that I’ve tasted in places like Joël Robuchon, Ladurée and even PAUL in Paris.
They say PAUL is an everyday commitment with a simple philosophy: excellent bread depends on excellent ingredients and time-honored methods of production. Keeping these simple principles in mind, PAUL offers you a wide range (yes they have over 140 types of bread) of fresh quality bread.
HOWEVER, if you let your bread sit there, under the air condition, uncovered, and given Singapore’s humid weather, what is previously considered as bread with a thick, crispy crust with a substantial inside becomes a thick, chewy piece of cold bread that is definitely not anyone’s favorite. And that ‘everyday commitment’, ‘excellent ingredients’ and ‘time-honored methods of production’ just goes down the drain. If other restaurants, and even bakeries like Eric Kayser, can serve bread which are warm and have a crispy crust and chewy interior, why can’t PAUL live up to its standards? Remember when I said their pastries and cakes looked so good? Well, we decided to skip it after the disastrous meal we had.
It’s safe to say that the outpost here serves food that is inferior to those of their overseas counterparts. We’re definitely not getting the price that we paid. Well right now, maybe it’s just a pretty face.

PAUL Bakery
391A Orchard Road
#03-16/16A/17 Ngee Ann City Tower A
Tel: 6836 5932
http://www.paul-usa.com/ 
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This entry was posted in Breakfast/Brunch, Cafe, Dinner, French, Lunch, Quick/Easy, Vegetarian and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to PAUL Bakery

  1. Pingback: Maison Kayser | The Cinnamon Sheep

  2. Just bought the baguette, cinnamon “cupcake” and an apricot puff-tart. Really have to agree, chewy tough and gooey are the trademark of the baguette and cinnamon kuey! Very very very disappointed. It’s a disgrace actually, because even NTUC’s baguette tastes better and has better texture. Paul should buck up or ship out.

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