Saturday, June 14, 2008
Le Pain Quotidien, Surry Hills
Sadly, I'm not one of those bright, perky people who gets all hopped up about leaving the house at 6AM to "make the most of the morning". I'm a sleepaholic, so am always pushing my luck being bedsnug for as long as possible. The only thing that can break me out of this pillowy trance is the lure of a bakery.
Le Pain Quotidien in Surry Hills is handy in this regard, because it's equidistant between Will's workplace and mine and also has a good display of early-morning pastries worth eyeing. Even though the Hazelnut Flute ($2.50) is a dental struggle and there's a moment where your teeth might get ripped off trying to bite off this crusty treat, it is a wonderfully chewy reward. Studded through with hazelnuts, the flute has a surprisingly sweet note to it - so it feels like a win-win buy, where you pay for something that seems pat-on-back healthy for you yet it has all the tastebud fun of something more sugary (without any of the stickiness or guilt).
Once, our visit coincided with the cameo appearance of Coconut Macaroons ($3) on the sample plate and boy did we clear half that batch at a shamefully speedy rate. The lovely toasted-coconut texture meant our in-grained politeness was so roundly demolished by our uncontainable greed. Sample plates are a great example of how quickly manners can deteriorate.
Speaking of publically-disagreeable things we've done in the name of Le Petit Quotidien, I also once choreographed a dance to go with my purchase of their Pain Au Chocolat ($3). The routine wouldn't last a round of any of those TV dance shows, but is an easy number where you embarassingly move your arms up and down like a skier, to the unending chant "Pain-Au-Chocolat! Pain-Au-Chocolat!". Only good sweets can make you lose your dignity at such an early hour in the day.
We were more well-behaved when we went in for a proper breakfast. Besides the earlybird pastries you'd expect (and the fact you can raid their bread basket if you feel like a grainy start to the day), the choices are simple and to the point, rather than a neverending, choice-stunning list. Will had the Ham and Gruyere Organic Omelette ($13.50) and I decided on the Parmesan and Pesto Organic Omelette ($13.50). Both are served on two crusty slices of organic bread which is a wonderful, stomach-filling bonus - omelettes on their own are a bit lightweight because you're already hungry again only hours after dusting them off (and they're not exactly the cheapest menu option either). So, I'm a big fan of this development - it makes heaps of sense too, given you get eggs on toast usually, so why aren't omelettes often dished up with some sourdough loaf?
Importantly, the omelettes hold their own - mine is laced with a salty, basil-heavy hit of pesto and Will also approves of his combo (and his latte too). Not that we're moony-eyed about everything at this Belgian organic bakery chain - Will once bought the Organic Granola Parfait to dig into at work and was sorely disappointed. Not only was it untasty, the small serving size was dwarfed by its large pricetag ($10).
The other day, Grace and I tried out their lunch menu. It's a good roomy place to go for that time of day, plus the service is pretty speedy and efficient so you can be back at work before your hour is up. Grace had their Quiche Lorraine which came served with this architectural salad involving levitating cucumber. (Seriously, check out the pic at the top of this post, the slices do look like they've outsmarted gravity). She also had a satisfying Soy Flat White ($3.80), which was "creamy and nutty, as soy should be".
I had the Bean Hummus with Avocado and Tahini Tartine ($10.95), an open-faced sandwich sporting a freestanding bouquet of radishes, capsicum, tomato and more. It was a saintly, clean-tasting meal. The bean hummus was more like a subtle pate, a well-behaved counterpart to the common attention-seeking, garlicky, tahini-tart, chickpea variety. I'd prefer savoury unruliness to such restraint, but it still wasn't bad. It just tasted healthy in that good-on-you kind of way. I guess I had to save my kicks for dessert.
I wasn't brave enough yet to try their Pistachio Tart or Chocolate Mousse Dome ($6.50), so I went for the safe option: Bande Aux Fruits (Apple Tart) ($3.50), which tastes exactly like you'd expect apple slices baked on flaky pastry would.
I already have some dishes already pegged for my next visit to Le Pain Quotidien: the Ricotta and Dried Fig with Honey Tartine ($10.95) and Japanese Salad ($9.95). Oh and thankfully, LPQ is also open for certain nights for dinner, so I don't have to kick off the doona covers at some ungodly hour just to grab any of their treats. They might need to keep an eye on their sample plate (and Coconut Macaroon supply) though.
Le Pain Quotidien, Corner Fitzroy and Bourke Streets, Surry Hills (02) 9360 8460, www.lepainquotidien.com
There's also a smaller branch at 54 Norton Street, Leichhardt (02) 9564 0099