Tuesday, June 14, 2011

PAUL Bakery

My friends tire of me being so optimistic and sunshiney. They say they like reading my "bad" reviews better than my glowing reviews. Despite this odd encouragement from my friends, I don't take much pleasure in ripping a restaurant a new one, especially when the restaurant is a new one. With that in mind, I'll refrain from calling PAUL Bakery the crappiest breakfast experience we've had since 14K, and just say that they need improvement.

PAUL is a bakery mega-chain (over 450 locations) originating in France in 1889. They bake bread and pastries in their giant ovens each day.

The space, located at the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue is cute and inviting, and helps to fill the void of restaurants located right near the National Mall. We were excited about PAUL's arrival in the neighborhood because it opens at 8 a.m. on weekends, and breakfast is a really difficult thing to find downtown (outside of hotels).

Our anticipation turned to disappointment as we arrived just before 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday and realized they were out of nearly every pastry on the menu. We were told it would be 30 minutes before they had more. I made the mistake of looking at the menu before looking at the display case and had picked out nearly a half dozen options on the pastry list that looked enticing. PAUL was out of every single one of them. No regular croissants at prime time on a weekend? Not even one pain au chocolat? Boooooooo. I don't want a ham and cheese sandwich for brunch.

We settled on two of the only pastries they had in stock: an apple pastry and almond croissant. B described the apple pastry as "fine," but was more excited by his fresh-squeezed orange juice than his pastry.

The almond croissant was flat as a pancake and had absolutely no flake to it. It was soggy and sad. The flavor was great, but if you'd blindfolded me and asked me what I was eating, I would've guessed it was bread pudding.

Having fallen in love with the macarons at Laduree during our Paris weekender in February, I had to try one at PAUL. This jumbo-version failed to live up to the high standard set by Laduree and its large size threw the texture off. Instead of light-as-clouds, it was dense-as-door knobs.

Hoping that we just hit PAUL on a bad day, I asked the cashier why they were out of most menu items at 10:30 a.m. She told me that they had been slammed with visitors the day before and it affected their baking schedule. Does that mean they bake the pastries the day before? Maybe that explains my soggy croissant? Either way, someone please give us a reason to go back to PAUL. It saddens me to think that there is a bakery in the neighborhood that's open early but isn't worth the effort it takes to walk there. To live up to my unicorns and sunshine reputation: at least the orange juice was good!

Second Thoughts from B

What a beautiful bakery. PAUL evokes all of the charm of Paris, but unfortunately, none of the flavors. You know those pastries you get at hotel breakfasts, conventions, and business meetings? On this particular morning, they could have come from PAUL. (To be clear, we're talking the Marriott pastries not the Motel 6 pastries wrapped in plastic that have enough preservatives to survive Armageddon).

While in grad school, I shared lab space with a proud Frenchman named Arnaud. Our days in lab overlapped with a time in our nation's history when "Freedom Fries" seemed like a good idea to people. Needless to say, Arnaud took a lot of good natured grief. His standard response was, "You're just jealous."

And as was the case about many things, Arnaud was right. France has a lot to be jealous about. Unfortunately for the citizens of DC, we've got one of the lesser exports in PAUL Bakery. It reminds me of that other French contribution to our city... the roads. They look pretty but don't work out as planned. C'est la vie.
PAUL Bakery Cafe on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They had only been open one month. I would give them another try. We've had great food there and the coffee beats SB.