A new patisserie seems to open in London every week selling French pastries and cakes, but it’s still rare to find a boulangerie here: bakeries that specialise in French breads. Even in France, the distinction between the two categories of shops has become blurred over the years, as most nowadays sell a bit of both. Often the two terms are used interchangeably, causing confusion all around.
A finalist in ITV’s ‘Britain’s Best Bakery’ programme earlier this year, Boulangerie Jade has two shops in Blackheath that sell both breads and pastries. They’re owned by Christophe Le Tynevez-Dobel, a Paris-trained pastry chef who’s worked in several patisseries in London. This latest branch, slightly bigger than the other two, opened in East Dulwich in November 2013.
It’s a charming, cosy café-bakery with a few tables inside, and a lovely shaded area for al fresco eating outside. There are a few quirky flourishes like cute, cheery wallpaper, an over-sized mirror and gilt-edged chairs. On a bright, sunny day, with a steady stream of locals dropping by, it had the feel of a village shop.
A counter by the entrance displays pastries, cakes, sandwiches and savouries; behind which are shelves lined with French breads, many of which are hard to find elsewhere. On our visit, these included campaillette (£1.45), a rustic baguette made from strong white flour, le rustic white (£2.60) and paysan wholemeal (£2.40) breads, and pain de campagne (£2.40), malted country loaf made from five-grain flour.
There’s also rye and wheat sourdough pain au levain (£3-£10, depending on size), and alsacien (£3.25), a wheat-free variety made from dark rye flour, oats, pine kernels and molasses. Particularly noteworthy, according to shop manager Daniel Benson, is the bestselling five-grain sourdough pain campaillou (£2.45). It’s easy to see why: it’s wonderfully crusty outside, light and airy within, deeply flavoursome, and makes delicious toast the next day, too. Numerous other varieties from different French regions are also sold – check the website for details.
Additionally, there’s a selection of viennoiserie like almond croissants, pain aux raisins and pain au chocolat. Lunchtime savouries include sausage rolls, spinach rolls, wild mushroom quiche, brioche in flavours like bacon and leek, and sandwiches made from different types of breads. Sweet treats range from meringues and macarons, to sable biscuits, palmiers, and vanilla and chocolate madeleine.
Large cakes, attractively decorated with fresh berries, are there to tempt you, such as vanilla, chantilly cream and strawberry-studded fraisier; delice aux cassis, a blackcurrant mousse with sliced roulade; and moulin rouge, a raspberry mousse with madeleine sponge. These are displayed alongside apple, lemon and chocolate tarts. Prices differ for takeaway and eating in.
Cakes in different sizes, from 6 to 14 inches, are available to order in advance via the Blackheath branch, and the recipes can be adapted to suit your tastes. These include French wedding cakes, such as the classic croquembouche. Made here from almond nougatine, profiteroles and caramel in a range of flavours, this elaborate speciality is not easy to find in London. Benson confirms, “not many people make these – they take us 4 to 8 hours to make". The cost, at £4.50 per person for a minimum of 20 people, starts at £90.
All the patisserie and cakes are freshly baked in the kitchen of the Blackheath shop, and breads and viennoiserie in an external kitchen unit, also in the area. They’re delivered to this branch daily at 7 am, an hour before it opens. Only unbleached French flour and butter are used. “We aim to give as authentic a taste as possible’, says Benson, “but concessions are made to English tastes with items like carrot cake.”
Moreover, the bakery sells French jams, honeys, confectionery, and ‘cereal flour’ (£2.90) for making bread. To minimize waste, breadcrumbs made from the day’s leftover bread are also sold. There are seasonal specialities, too, such as prettily packaged French chocolate eggs, bunnies and chicks for Easter. And chunky, dense-textured hot cross buns, with plenty of spice and fruit, are some of the best we’ve tasted this year.
Boulangerie Jade, 44 Barry Road, SE22 0HU. Tel: 020 3719 6372. http://boulangeriejade.com (website does not yet contain details of this branch, but will be updated shortly).
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