It had only opened the day before I visited PAUL, the new bakery/pâtisserie cum Parisian café in Parkway, so it was all pretty much new to the staff as well as the customers, of which there were many.
Dressed in pristine white overalls the staff looked very bakery, very fresh, just as you’d wish – and there were plenty of them attending to everyone’s desires.
And when you step inside their premises selling gorgeous French breads, cakes, pastries and savouries there is indeed much to be desired. Because they all looked so good I took my time over the display of goodies while I tried not to drool.
Front of shop is the counter, with pretty tiles behind, traditional black and white tiled flooring, and great black and white photos on the wall. Here too there are high tables and stools for perching, while beyond is the more relaxed seating/dining area, all looking very chic.
There was a constant stream of customers, all eager to try out Newbury’s newest café, but the friendly staff seemed to manage to seat everyone. Ahead of me in the queue a young guy was already taking advantage of PAUL’s takeaway Parisian breakfast deal – coffee, tea or hot chocolate, with a croissant or pain au chocolat. At just £2.95, it’s great value.
I sat on one of the high stools by the window – always my seat of preference! It was a great spot to people-watch while I enjoyed my coffee and croissant. I’d plumped for a croissant pistache. Crisp and flaky on the outside, soft and sinful on the inside, this is your traditional croissant with an added twist. And very yummy it was too. Just the million calories per bite, you understand! But my latte was a skinny one, so does one balance out the other? (Who am I trying to kid?)
So, what of PAUL? It certainly has a good track record as it is the biggest bakery in France; the first one opened in Lille in 1889 and the business is still family-owned, now in its fifth generation. Its popularity has seen it open in 29 countries, and in the UK the Newbury branch is only the second one to open outside of London.
Opening hours are long – Monday–Wednesday 8am–7pm, Thursday–Saturday 8am–9pm, Sunday 9am–6pm – giving everyone a chance to sample what’s on offer, whether it’s breakfast, brunch, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea or a post-work snack or early supper.
As well as the traditional French breakfast, also on offer will be: Oeufs á la Coque (also known as boiled eggs and soldiers); Oeufs Royale (poached eggs with smoked salmon, hollandaise sauce on delicious toasted bread); Brioche Perdue (French toast with crème anglaise – or eggy bread and gorgeous authentic custard if you want to get down to basics); and Les Criques de Gramat (potato cakes, ham, Emmental cheese and tomatoes, topped with a fried egg).
Later in the day you might try their charcuterie and cheese platters, and there is also a choice of wines – well, it wouldn’t be French without, would it?
I left with a pain de Campagne tucked under my arm for the husband and the intention of taking him with me when I next visit as I really want to try their signature French-style afternoon tea. Au revoir, PAUL, until then …