No, I didn’t take a trip to France. In fact, I don’t speak any french. Sure, I buy french magazines and eagerly flip through them, taking in the pictures and the fashion, but—by and large—french culture is something that I don’t really engage with. Except when I eat croissants. And then there’s the fact that I really like mushrooms. And dark chocolate, but that’s pretty much universal at this point, right?
When I was in London to hear Gabrielle Bernstein speak, I knew that I would have to sample some of the preeminent croissants of the city. Could Bristol simply be a croissant desert? Or were their problems with this french pastry indicative of the general societal disease towards butter and the french? I googled.
The first thing that came up was Poilane. I gasped, audibly and around people, of course. There’s a poilane in London? I knew I had to go. My mother, with whom I was skyping with when I made this momentous discovery, told me to get some punitons. Well, I didn’t. I went for the croissant.
It was a drizzly, grey morning as I weaved my way from my hostel in Pimlico to the Belgravia store. People were getting ready to go to work, parents were taking their kids to school. The day had that evanescent business as usual feeling that only occurs during travel. Everyone else would be doing their normal routine today, but I was breaking away from mine.
When I finally arrived at the bakery, I was immediately drawn in by the intoxiating allure of pastry. The butter! The flour! Glorious loaves of bread shone in the window. I walked in. It was all but empty for the lone employee. I paid the £1.20 for a croissant and walked out.
Now, I don’t really mind eating outside, but I was a bit bummed when I realized I would have to eat my croissant standing up on the corner with a fine mist and wind. It wasn’t the ideal conditions, a table near a window with a cappuccino would be ideal, but I was willing to make some sacrifices.
In fact, I would be willing to make a lot of sacrifices for this croissant. The buttery taste hit my tongue immediately and was perfectly off set by a distinct saltiness that was entirely more satisfying than the frequently seen powder sugar coating. The layers were fine and delicately pulled apart. Each end had a pleasing crunch.
My only gripe—and this was more a personal croissant preference complaint—was that I would have preferred a crispier outside. While the outside was brown, it had a similar texture to the interior. I like that crunch, I like when it practically breaks apart.
So, the British and the French might has a difficult history, but I wish they got along. Maybe that would mean better croissants. Because the croissant at Poilane is what I would call the ideal form of globalization. Allowing everyone to enjoy your own cultural gems.
Have you had a proper french croissant? Did it live up to any expectations?