Invited Tasting on 14th July 2015
Written by: Mu Yao
And so, the latest of the 7 stores of PAUL have opened its doors at Marina Bay Link Mall. My previous impression was that it was another Paris Baguette Cafe of sorts — serving light sandwiches, soups, salads on top of bread/pastries. If the average Singaporean looks at this signboard above, the only terms that would be more familiar to us are "restaurant" and "patisserie" at best — what in the world is a Boulangerie? (For the uninitiated, it's basically a bakery that bakes its bread/pastries on site). Or a "Salon de Thé"? (A less formal cafe, which specialises in serving cakes and pastries along with some light meals).
|Boulangerie = bakery that bakes its bread on site.|
|Our menu for the night|
|The vive la france is strong in this one|
On the day of this invited tasting (which happened to be for the Bastille Day celebrations), PAUL really spared no effort in decorating to emphasise its French roots — reflective of its 120 year heritage as a family-run bakery producing French breads and pastries. Decorations aside, the old photos and cool grey colours make this a pleasant place to linger around for a long business lunch (just like the French!) or a nice afternoon tea (good news for all the tai-tais tired of crowded Orchard Road).
As invited guests, we were treated to a live bread-making demonstration to further emphasise that PAUL is serious about its breads. When they tell you they make bread "the traditional way", they basically want to emphasise how long it takes to make each loaf, I gather. And judging from the skillful hands of the chef here, it's serious business. I mean, I tried making pita bread (which is totally different from this, I know) from scratch with Xin Li before, and... it wasn't easy.
|Much skill. Much respect.|
|Preparing the sponge (after the yeast has rested for about 10 minutes) for kneading by throwing flour in.|
|Blogger Claire with her finished bread|
|Salade Niçoise ($19.90)|
Grilled tuna loin, eggs, olives, tomatoes and cucumbers come together for a relatively simple salad dressed in a simple vinaigrette dressing. I thought the they could have been more pieces of tuna for the price charged here, and there were some pieces that were on the dry side. Wasn't too impressed.
|Salade tofu froid ($18.90++)|
If I could recommend a salad, it'll probably be this one. The tofu was a great textural base for the medley of sweet and tarty flavours of the mango, tomato and avocados to shine through, complemented with a very robust and aromatic flavours of the roasted sesame dressing. The mango vinaigrette provided a nice sweet finish, as with the button mushrooms thrown in for a light savoury taste. A good balance of flavours shown here, albeit the slightly high price tag.
|Cabillaud royal de méditerranée ($29.90++)|
|Roulade de poulet ($23.90++)|
|Pok pok and cooked poulet. I'm sorry for the apparent sadism in this photo.|
The chicken (okay, Poulet) roulade was very good — the chicken was moist and tender, and surprisingly the bitter aftertaste of the spinach stuffing did not resurface in this one. The pumpkin puree was an excellent, smooth, sweet complement to the savoury chicken. There were also grilled potatoes, but other than filling your tummy with starch, those were nothing to write home about.
|Gratin d’aubergines et tomates au parmesan ($23.90++)|
So we now came to the final sweet finish of the night — the assorted platter of little tarts and millefeuilles on offer. Well, I didn't manage to try everything but I have to say most were quite good. Special mention goes to the millefeuilles (meaning a thousand layers in French for the uninitiated), where the densely packed layers of puff pastry and cream (I had the chocolate and vanilla) was not cloyingly sweet, which is a welcome surprise as most of the ones I had (including some notable Japanese ones which I shall not name) are often too sweet, almost artificial-tasting. There was some nice textural contrast with the slight crispness of the puff pastry, which meant that the heavy pastry cream did not wet the pastry too much.
The lemon and mixed fruit tarts were also pretty decent — even though I thought the lemon could have been more zesty and tart in this tart. The fruits were soft and sweet, melting everything down with the tart crust itself, which tasted quite rich and buttery.
Do note that these tarts were all tasting portions, the actual tarts are larger of course, about say, 8cm in diameter. The prices range from $6.80 for a lemon tart to $8.40 for a tartelette framboise (raspberries and custard cream). For millefeuilles, they range from $7.30 - $7.80.
|Would have liked to try their viennoiseries, but I was simply too full..|
PAUL has been around since 2012 and surprisingly, I've only taken notice of their mains till now, but rather I've always been aware of their pastries. My personal feeling is that the mains still need a little bit of work for the price they are commanding in Singapore's intensely competitive F&B landscape. It is no secret that with restaurants like Enoch's, Saveur and Concetto all trying their hand at affordable European dining, Singaporean diners have grown to be quite spoilt in terms of expecting their money's worth when it comes to Continental cuisine (French, Italian or otherwise). Don't get me wrong, the food here is actually pretty good, but portions could be bigger, more inventive ingredients could be used — essentially, they need to step up their value proposition to diners to sweeten the deal here.
However, when it comes to the core essence of what PAUL offers — good, decent pastries and sweet delectables — it delivers very well. The rich buttery taste of its tart crusts, the lovely breads (and oh yes the butter that was served along with it at this tasting was VERY good), and the wonderful sweets on offer are all reflective of its ongoing 120-year commitment to making quality French bread and pastries. I kid you not — tasting even the plain bread here was enough to reminisce my days travelling in France — and this really says something about its quality control here, for a chain that has expanded into 7 outlets in Singapore. You don't really get that in Singapore these days with franchises/chain stores.
And for that committment to quality, I'll be back for a nice afternoon tea of sorts here, that's for sure.
Special thanks to Eychelle, Ivy, Nick & Cyn for the invite to this tasting.
Takashimaya Shopping Centre
Ocean Financial Centre
Marina Bay Link Mall
Paragon Shopping Centre
Changi Airport Terminal 3
1) “All Day” specials in July and August to celebrate France’s National Day and SG50
2) Affordable breakfast sets from $7.50++ at Changi Airport Terminal 3
3) Special set menus at $14.90++ at Marina Bay Link Mall and Westgate Outlets