Why is it so hard to get good bread in Hong Kong? The supermarket varieties here are loaded with refined flour and sugar and anything more artisanal costs an arm and a leg. The situation has improved slightly with Gerard Dubois’ Passion and certain online bakeries operating across town, but there’s nothing like walking into a bakery and encountering the smell of freshly baked bread.
Apparently that was the same frustration encountered by Le Pain Quotidien’s (LPQ) founder, Alain Coumont, when he moved to Brussels as a young chef. Not able to find bread that lived up to his childhood ideal, he opened the first LPQ in 1990. The rustic bakery quickly expanded into the United States in 1997. Now there are over 200 branches throughout more than 17 countries and the first outpost in Hong Kong is now open at the newly minted The Avenue complex in Wan Chai.
So could LPQ be the solution to the gaping hole in Hong Kong’s bread market? The premises certainly are pretty – all tiled walls, hardwood floors and floor-to-ceiling wooden shelves holding artisanal merchandise. You can’t help but like the décor, but knowing that the chain has been at this more than 200 times, then interiors ought to be something they have down to a fault. Further in the dining room is a communal table – that supposedly started the trend and is a fixture at every LPQ – which leads to the charming and large open terrace facing Johnston Road.
We’re eager to get into the breads and order a small organic baker’s basket ($88) and we’re instantly disappointed. For the price of three baguettes at a supermarket bakery, we get five measly slices which include walnut bread and sour dough. The slices are hard and cold with the crumbly consistency of bread that has been sitting around all day and dried out. Luckily the avocado tartine ($88) fares better. Smothered with mashed avocado and garnished with chia seeds and a dash of cumin, we’re glad the bread has been toasted and it’s not bad. For something satisfying we pick the meatballs a la liegeoise ($168), the flavours are full-bodied and we love the side of fries to mop up the sauce.
We would come back to LPQ just to sit at the terrace to people watch. We’re sorely disappointed in the bread, but the vibe and solid offerings are enough to warrant a return visit, hopefully in good weather and with a few friends.
|Venue name:||Le Pain Quotidien||Contact:|
Lee Tung Avenue
200 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai