When one of my Korean classmates told me, or I might have heard it elsewhere, about the opening of Paris Baguette in Singapore, I thought to check it out. It is located on the second level of Wisma Atria, where Ding Tai Fung used to sit, and directly below Starbucks. I am not a huge fan of the bakery that hails from Korea, no surprises that it is not from Paris, but since there are more of such bakeries sprouting up on our shores and I am a big bread fan, it easily went onto my “Places to check out” list. Decided to choose this place over Paul for a meet-up with my friend one Saturday noon, because I had been to Paul once and experienced service that left much to be desired, although overall in terms of ambience perhaps Paul might have been a better choice.
I googled for reviews of this place, and read just one, which was really well-written with all the right details. Frankly, after reading it, I thought again if I should give this place a miss but I really couldn’t let it go without trying at least once, so I went ahead anyway.
The neon-lit signage is pretty hard to miss, and is definitely one of those bakeries that I always spot when I am in Seoul, in fact, I just visited a couple of them in August while on a business trip but I only went to the bakery for take-away bread so I don’t know if they actually had any nice/decent cafe service. With most Korean cafes and bakeries, they also take an interest in making things look nice and pretty, much like how the Japanese do it, but differently, in some ways I can’t really put my finger on.
Like the review (by bookjunkie) I read mentioned, there was no table service, which is a pity because it made some patrons confused when they try to walk into the cafe and find a seat, thinking there should be table service because of a stand near the front which displayed the menu. The cafe is pretty open, so maybe that makes it hard to offer table service without people just walking in from the back and occupying an empty table, but hopefully this can be changed or improved in future! So after we found a table that was just vacated, which also came with plush sofa seats thankfully, we waited for someone to come by to clear and clean the table. It took a few minutes but since it was Saturday noon, and the cafe was relatively crowded, we were ok to wait that few minutes.
We also got the cafe staff to bring us a menu, which already seemed like it had seen much better days, even though the cafe only opened in August. My friend decided what she wanted so I went off to take a walk around the counter that occupied the centre of the cafe, and chose a raisin roll. Their bread and cake display counters looked really good, although I had not taken any pictures, or maybe I am just a sucker for getting overly-excited when I see rows after rows of glazed buns sitting pretty in a display case illuminated by bright spot lights. I got my roll, and went back to my seat to wait for the food and coffee.
The raisin roll was quite good, although it tended to flake quite a bit while I was cutting into it, but like most raisin rolls that are fluffy, they tend to be flaky to a certain extent, much like how croissants are. I don’t know if between the raisin roll I had at Tiong Bahru bakery and here, which is better. Argh I need to start remembering the good and bad of the food I’ve had!
The brunch that my friend ordered took quite long to be served, so in the meantime she also went to check out the display and came back with a cake. It looks like Japanese strawberry shortcake, and it tastes really good, creamy and light, thanks to the layers of chiffon under the creamy exterior. However, it was wrapped on the sides with a plastic cover that was a bitch to remove. We almost destroyed the soft cake while wrestling with it, even though there was supposedly this tab from which you could peel off the cover but it didn’t work.
And coffee! All these cafes these days are intensifying the competition when it comes to latte art, although so far I think the best and most innovative that I have seen goes to Robert Timms, but my friend went to Chock Full of Beans and they have interesting designs too! But that’s secondary to how the actual coffee is. I ordered a latte while my friend opted for the Cappucino, which she found to be really bitter even after a whole packet of sugar. I don’t mind bitter coffee, and without the sugar, my latte was still alright, slightly above average as compared to the generic coffee chains around, but of course nowhere compared to the likes of what 40 Hands offers. This is still a bitterness that I can accept, not like some bitterness associated with burnt coffee beans, so I think it is still ok.
Finally, the brunch, Omelette with a Difference, arrived. It was actually cheese omelette served with some salad and potato wedges, which was a rather large portion in fact, that my friend was unable to finish everything in its entirety even though she liked it. However, for $17 we found this to be priced a tad high, like how many other thought too. Coffee costs about $6 for a cup, not cheap but still acceptable, and I think the pastries are probably the most reasonably-priced. The raisin roll I had was about $2+, not unlike everywhere else selling pastries.
We didn’t try the tea, because it was $13 each and we found that to be quite excessive. Maybe I will still return in future for the pastries, or just for takeaways. The cafe doesn’t appeal to me that much, probably because they are still quite new and taking time to settle in properly? Most of the staff were in the counter trying to serve customers, with some running outside once in a while to clear the tables. But the tray that I was given to carry my raisin roll (on a plate) and cutlery had a place mat that was not replaced, i.e. dirty, so that is another point that I hope they will improve on, or if these papers are too expensive they can consider doing without it entirely. It is ok to have a nice wooden tray without any paper lining it.
Just as a comparison, I think Paul Bakery, with its table service and significantly larger floor area, is able to provide a better environment for patrons to sit and chat, relatively comfortably and with a certain degree of privacy. But service-wise, I can’t fault Paris Baguette because their staff, mostly Koreans, are really polite even though they may struggle a little with their English. I wonder how long it will be before these Koreans get replaced by locals, just like how it happened with Tom & Tom, a cafe from Korea that started out with Koreans manning the store, but not anymore, based on my last visit to one of their remaining outlets in Tanjong Pagar.