Patisserie Paul, Port Baku, Baku. www.paul-international.com Tel: 01464 0770
Some 10 years ago, I travelled to Beirut which, at the time, was at peace. I was completely charmed by this beautiful city on the Eastern Mediterranean which deservedly merits its byline as ‘The Paris of the East’. Indeed, it is elegant, vibrant and chic! The food is probably some of the best I have ever eaten and it was consistently good wherever we went. The Beyrutis are hospitable, interesting, well educated, cosmopolitan and unfailingly well dressed. I fondly remember mellow evenings strolling along the Corniche, shopping in the many boutiques and café hopping. Here, I came across the French Patisserie Paul for the first time and, quite simply, I thought I had gone to heaven! Then, back in London several branches also popped up and it became my go to destination for birthday cakes and sweet treats. Imagine my delight when Patisserie/Bakery Paul recently opened in Baku. I hotfooted it there for lunch to see how it compares.
First impressions count and the minute you enter the premises you are assailed by delicious bakery smells and total cake nirvana. Not surprisingly, the place is clearly popular; it was packed to the gills! It’s well laid out in a typical French Café style and staff were numerous and well presented in patisseur’s whites. Not only that but they were attentive, smiley and helpful too. Far from just catering to the sweet tooth, the well organised menu also offers plenty of savoury options, including a good selection of enticing sounding salads, sandwiches and soups to suit those who may not want to go for a substantial main course. I chose the Salade Panachee with mixed leaves, palmetto, asparagus spears, cherry tomatoes and half an avocado but there were plenty of other tempting options. The salad was fresh and crunchy with some lovely contrasting textures and the vinaigrette was a proper and tasty French dressing. The crusty warm sesame and poppyseed rolls with fresh butter pats on the table were an added bonus. I was touched by the fact that our server made sure that the table setting was just so, swept away crumbs and debris and laid out the plates attractively. It’s often these little details that make you feel treasured as a customer.
Having been ‘good girls’ and eaten our savoury course, it was now time to get naughty and indulge! Oh, but the choice! Fruit tarts galore, little financiers, eclairs of all descriptions including cream and fruit filled ones, mini lemon pies, millefeuille, colourful macaroons, the list of temptations here is endless! I opted for a classic strawberry tartlet, filled to the brim with juicy fresh strawberries on a bed of vanilla cream in a crispy delicious pastry base which certainly did not disappoint. Yes please, more please! We paid AZN 15 per head for salad, mineral water, tartlet and coffee. On the way out, I picked up some freshly baked olive bread to take home.
Paul was founded in Northern France in 1889 and has remained in family hands ever since. Nowadays, it operates 453 shops in 24 countries but it still has the feel of an extra special neighbourhood bakery. Food, service and ambience get full marks from me!