There are few things quite so alluring as a bargain. Stores proudly proclaim to have the lowest prices. Magazines and newspapers give hefty cuts to subscribers. Extreme coupon-ing is a thing. Unfortunately, so many deals are overpriced goods disguised as cheap. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t be swayed.
A few weeks ago, I saw a cafe in Bristol offering a free croissant with every morning coffee purchase. Obviously, I was intrigued and knew immediately that I would be trying out the bargain. It was the kind of place that you wouldn’t normally give a second glance. Ground Up is a tiny slip of a store at the top of a hill, near a busy intersection. Even their awning is forgettable compared to the polished high street exteriors of nearby Pret A Manger and Caffè Nero.
Despite the awkwardly typed menu boards and decor sourced from nearby Wilkonson’s (think Target), I had a good feeling about the place as soon as I saw ‘cortado’ on the menu. A certain coffee beverage may not be a harbinger of quality, but it was the first time I saw a cortado listed on a Bristol cafe menu. The croissants weren’t quite ready when I arrived, so I took a seat by the window, watching Bristolians rush about their mornings.
The coffee wasn’t earth shattering, but it was better than expected. It had the toasty and thinly bitter notes that I grew used to in Italy, but a touch softer. The steamed milk was lightly frothy, but didn’t commit the fatal flaw of sitting stiffly on top. I wasn’t in love, but my enjoyment increased with each sip. Ground Up is a completely solid contender in the Bristol coffee scene and better than it appears to be.
The croissant came piping hot from the oven accompanied by a whole slew of croissant questions that I hadn’t previously considered. Can you have a croissant that is too flaky? Why should I want to eat a croissant warm? Can doughy ever be a positive attribute? These thoughts were at the forefront of my mind as I made a mess eating this croissant. I pulled the end off and nearly burnt my fingers in the process. Steam escaped from the inside of the pastry as it collapsed in upon itself. While the warmth heightened the buttery flavor, it stole all the beautiful textural contrasts from the croissant.
Croissants are delicious not just because they’re tributes to the miracle of butter, sugar and flour, but also because they combine so many textures together for a different experience with each bite. There are crunchy bits, flaky bits, melty bits and soft bits. Not in Ground Up’s croissant. Theirs was all warmth, dough and flake.
I realize that many people believe that croissants taste better when served warm, but let’s go against this trend. The butter flavor may be more pronounced, but a good croissant should be just as delicious when at room temperature as when warm, if not more so.
Not that I can really complain about this experience. It cost me only £1.60.
Warm pastries? Are they delicious or a disaster?