Le Pain Quotidien Marylebone
72 – 75 Marylebone High Street London, W1U 5JW
www.lepainquotidien.co.uk/020 3657 6949
‘Give us our daily bread’-that phrase has so much resonance in our culture with its linking of the spiritual with that alchemic confluence of flour, yeast, water and heat. Le Pain Quotidien’s Belgian founder Alain Coumont was trying to bring back the magic of his childhood when he opened the first Le Pain Quotidien Brussels in 1990 and by some other kind of magic I have been invited to review the Marylebone outpost. Coumont was searching for the flavours, aromas and feel of his grandmother’s kitchen; the hot chocolate, the loaves, soups, tartines and pastries, and it seems that lots of us have bought into his vision of roughly-hewn wooden tables and signature organic loaves made with a wild yeast levain starter, as there are now 200 Le Pain Quotidien locations throughout the world with outlets all through Europe and the USA and as far afield as Argentina, India, Kuwait, Mexico, Australia and Japan.It is the levain natural yeast starter that gives the loaves their character, with a long fermentation period allowing the gluten to soften into more digestible amino acids and giving a higher mineral and vitamin content and lower carbohydrate content than standard loaves. It is a comparable process to the creation of the Poilâne loaf, reckoned to be the world’s best, and for me the LPQ version is less dense and has less of a sourdough tang than the Parisian Poilâne.So for me the real question is can a group such a Le Pain Quotidien sustain the integrity of Alain Coumont’s original vision across 200 outlets? A glass of summery homemade Raspberry Lemonade (£3.20) and a serviceable glass of Picpoul de Pinet (£5.50) helped my 14 year old son and I to navigate the menu myriad of options; there are breads and pastries, eggs, breakfast and brunch options, delicious sounding toasted tartines, assiettes of cheese and charcuterie, hot dishes and sides-but we were there for an early supper before a classical concert and my son is growing at a rate of an inch a week and needed something substantial.I chose the impeccably fresh and well-composed Tuna Nicoise (£10.95)-mixed leaves,organic egg, olives, cucumber, radish, basil and mustard vinaigrette. It was a little underdressed for me but oil and vinegar was quickly proffered which sorted out my need for extra lubrication.My son described his British Steak and West Country Ale Stew (£14.40) as being hearty and full of flavour-it was made with Devon Stout- and he particularly loved the creamy mashed potato.Tarte Tatin (£4.90) was nicely caramelised with thick slices of apple and a crisp base.Warm Belgian Waffle with organic chocolate sauce (£4.95) was destroyed by my son in a couple of seconds and he pronounced it to be very satisfying.
I like Le Pain Quotidien-It’s an all-day place that I use a lot. It’s perfect for a coffee and pastry, a light lunch or a casual supper. I’m sure if Alain Coumont’s grandmère was around she would approve!