Sunday, April 27, 2014

Croissant Crawl - King / Queen West

In the past couple of years, there has been an explosion of bakeries within a 15 min walk from my home. There is now a particular concentration of French and Italian bakeries. So on the first spring-like sunny Sunday morning, what better way to spend breakfast than a croissant crawl?

For the taste test, I picked 5 French bakeries in my neighbourhood to compare:
  • Brioche Dorée
  • Wagamama
  • Delysée
  • Clafouti
  • Nadège Patisserie
Brioche Dorée ($2.10 / croissant)
I went in Brioche Dorée thinking I would not like it; I generally doubt the quality of baked goods from a chain store.

I was greeted by an airy casual space filled with baked goods, including bread, pastries, sandwiches, quiches and flans. This immediately made me happy.

The croissant was still slightly warm when I got it. It was flaky but well structured, with a crunch on the outside when I halved it. It had good amount of butter taste, and a slightly sweet buttery after-taste. My only complaint is that the layers are not even, with a large air pocket in the middle. Maybe the dough did not get rolled properly?


Brioche Dorée croissant

Brioche Dorée croissant - Warm, good crunch, mysterious air pocket in the middle.
Brioche Dorée croissant - Warm, good crunch, mysterious air pocket in the middle.

Wagamama ($2.00 / croissant)

Wagamama has been my default go-to neighbourhood coffee shop since it opened almost 10 years ago. Their pumpkin muffin, apple crumble muffin, scones and croissant have been a staple in my breakfast.

Wagamama has a homey, relaxed decor. It is a perfect spot for a chill break to enjoy a croissant, a tea and read some newspaper the old fashioned way.

The croissant at Wagamama has a crunchy shell, and flaky layers with little air pockets evenly distributed throughout. The crust was sturdy enough that it held its shape even when I bit into it. There was a slight saltiness that helped to balance the sweet butter taste.


Wagamama croissant

Wagamama croissant - Rich, even layers.
Wagamama croissant - Rich, even layers.


Delysée ($2.75 / croissant)

Delysée is a newcomer to the King West neighbourhood. Its minimal all-white decor gives it a touch of modern upscale French elegance, echoing the delicate macarons they are famous for.

Delysée's croissant almost fell apart when I picked it up from the plate. It was limp, like it got too much steam. Once I halved the croissant, I figured out why - The inside showed some uneven layering with large air pockets in between. The butter taste was more delicate on the palette.  It reminded me of sweet egg bread.


Delysée croissant

Delysée croissant - Flimsy, sweet.
Delysée croissant - Flimsy, sweet.

Calfouti ($1.85 / croissant)

Clafouti has been a staple in the neighbourhood. It is very popular, and they often sell out of items before noon on the weekend. The decor is rustic, like a little French country shop. There are some tables for eat it, but I prefer to enjoy my Clafouti's baked goods sitting on a bench or at a picnic table in Trinity Bellwoods Park across the street.

The croissant is in a large circular shape, not the more common "bull's horn" shape.  The sweet buttery taste has a good salty balance. There was good crunch on the outer shell. The texture is more on the bready, dense side, a bit too chewy for what I want to get from a croissant. (It actually took some force to split it apart for the photo.) It was probably the most filling of all croissants of the day.


Clafouti croissant

Clafouti croissant - Bready, chewy
Clafouti croissant - Bready, chewy.


Nadège ($2.20 / croissant)

Nadège and Delysée have similar all-white modern decor. Maybe because it was more crowded at Nadèges when I arrived, it felt a bit more casual. Nadège also has the advantage of having its patio face a side street across from Trinity Bellwood Park for the soon-to-come sunny warm days.

The croissant at Nadèges had very thick "layers".  It felt like a number of layers got stuck together with large air pockets in between. The result was like eating a piece of unstructured chewy bread.  It was a disappointing end to the croissant crawl.


Nadège croissant

Nadège croissant - uneven, thick layers.
Nadège croissant - Uneven, thick layers.



Conclusion

Lucky for me (and unlucky for my waistline), my top croissant pick is just steps away from my home. The croissant at Wagamama has all the checkmarks in my croissant wish list. And being an independent bakery café with friendly owner and staff is a bonus.

Walking around a neighbourhood to taste croissant and people watch is a great way to enjoy a lazy Sunday morning.  I already have Croissant Crawl - Bayview / Mt Pleasant edition in the plan, and there are probably more other crawls to come.