Alain Coumont learned the art of baking by his grandfather’s side, watching him bake bread every Sunday. By the time he was a young chef working in Brussels, he was still uninspired by the breads on offer in his home city. And so the Le Pain Quotidien story begins.
Now with more than 175 stores worldwide – scattered across Europe, the USA, Asia, the Middle East, and even Central and South America – Le Pain Quotidien has earned a reputation in the international food world as purveyors of fine artisan bread.
In Sydney, the Double Bay eatery extended its trading into a dinner service last summer, offering more than just freshly-baked boulangerie treats inside its rustic French farmhouse-style restaurant.
Le Pain Quotidien’s chefs throughout the world – including Double Bay head chef, Vincent Girardin – adapt Coumont’s recipes, immortalised in the official Le Pain Quotidien cookbook.
“It was a natural evolution,” says Girardin of the new chapter in the boulangerie’s story.
“I get calls all the time from the guys in New York about new crockpot dishes, but I’ve had to adapt these to Sydney’s more health-conscious market.”
At the Double Bay eatery, choose from a booth seat or the communal table while you ponder Giardin’s seasonal blackboard menu. Featuring locally sourced organic produce where possible (all of Le Pain Quotidien’s breads are made by hand using organic flour too), expect to see a soup de jour, tartines a-plenty, and classic French dishes such as chunky Vegetable Ratatouille ($13) and 24-hour-cooked Coq au Vin ($25), alongside less classic ones like the Mediterranean Lamb Cocotte ($29) – a local favourite, served in a cast iron pot.
Each of the dishes have ample sauce for you to enjoy that essential task of mopping up with a basket of Le Pain’s signature artisan slices. (Beware of filling up to soon on the beautiful handmade slices before the mains arrive!)
Fusing French cooking elements with transnational ingredients (harissa and minted yoghurt feature here), Giardin admits to being influenced by Sydney’s multicultural palette. “I’ve also substituted butter with olive oil a lot of the time,” he says, “because locals are not very interested in such rich French food during the week.”
The portions are generous, and the restaurant is licensed (it is French, after all), with a neat selection of French and Australian varietals. And you can’t leave without sampling the house-baked sweets; the salted caramel tart and sticky date – both $6.50 – are sure to please.
Whether you’re dining with family or out with friends and after a change of setting from Knox Street’s regular haunts, Le Pain Quotidien will offer you a taste of France in a relaxed neighbourhood setting. Sydney-siders – take note: the Le Pain Quotidien dinner service will be extending into a new restaurant in The Rocks shortly too.
Le Pain Quotidien Bakery and Communal Table is located at 15 Knox St Double Bay NSW 2028. For other branches around the world, visit www.lepainquotidien.com