Le Pain Quotidien, South Bank
0207 486 6154
by Orva Easy
After my last tragic brush with a French breakfast (you may remember that heartbreaking tale) I wasn’t holding out much hope for Le Pain Quotidien. They don’t serve sausages, for a start, and they are complete strangers to bacon. My loosely stitched up heart was still tender and a buttered croissant, however fluffy, wasn’t going to help the healing process. But I had little choice, stranded on the South Bank at 9 o’clock on a Monday morning, so I pulled myself together and shuffled in.
It looks nice enough, if a bit like an All Bar One - wood panels everywhere and half of the room is presided over by a magnificent old railway arch. The outer side is completely glass, though the vista of the neighbouring Royal Festival Hall is not particularly exciting, being mainly wall, but a gap at the far end affords a small view of the river and an interesting architectural snapshot. The service was rather less visible. Eventually, someone paying pointed me out, and I was hastily given a menu.
Pastries, 450-odd different breads, blah blah blah… my heart and my stomach were sinking when – what’s this? Organic soft-boiled egg (I like the fact that they specify that. Can I have it hard-boiled? No, you bloody can’t.) with fresh bread. Yes, please.
Reader, I left in love, again. Such an egg! Rich, perfectly cooked with bright runny yolk and accompanied by carefully cut mini-soldiers in a variety of breads. The butter (white, but lightly salted) was just at the correct temperature for spreading, without sweating. My ‘side order’ of fragrant smoked salmon came covering a plate the size of my head with an enormous salad which I hadn’t asked for but presumably was introduced by way of garnish. The teapot didn’t drip. The chamomile tea was actually made from chamomile. Simple, but effective. Vive la France.