Friday, October 31, 2008

bakery/new in town: i recommend PAUL

No. 107, Ren Ai Rd, Sec. 4

website: (doesn't seem to be working yet)

hours: 7:30AM- 10PM


Kid friendliness: no high chairs, but some booth-ish seating

Visit reviewed: 10/7/2008

It seems like a lot can change in seven weeks. When I came back from LA in October after being gone since late August, there were new restaurants spotted everywhere. Even Eslite bookstore on Dun Hua had gone through a renovation.

That's a lot of eating to catch up on.

Some I had heard about from friends raving on Facebook, like the nicer French/Western restaurant L'Idiot (to be reviewed) on Min Sheng East Road where Tony Roma's used to be. Some maybe I just hadn't spotted before, like Lugar Home Bread Bar (to be reviewed) behind the new NY Pizza Kitchen behind the old NY Bagel (on Renai). Some were picked to meet for lunch by a friend from out of town, like the new Dun Hua branch of California Grill(to be reviewed).

And some were unmistakeably new- like the bright white capital letters on a black sign for PAUL, next to Swensen's on Ren Ai Circle where Miss Sixty's used to be.

At first glance, it's definitely different than most of the Japanese/Chinese bakeries in town, maybe an Au Bon Pain on steroids and a pretty dress. A lot of the breads here on the sweeter side, cushy and soft, or covered in pork floss. But Paul has dough delivered from France and is a popular French chain that has branches in Shanghai and Japan. Maybe that's why there's an overflowing line at lunch, where the wait can be 10-30 minutes long.

There's an attractive array of breads, baguettes and pastries that can be spotted from the window and waiters in white coats running around delivering orders. The space is not huge, but they pack in a lot of seating in the modern, classic with various antique looking chairs, tables and seating areas at dark wood tables without making it feel too crowded. The franchise details are covered, including the black and white checkered floors, baby chandeliers and windows dressed with curtains.

My first trip to Paul was for breakfast- we just walked in, sat down and ordered from the menu (where there's 4 choices of brunch type meals from NT$235-$285 which gets you various combos of breads or 1/2 sandwich, egg, fresh fruit, yogurt, salad, tea/coffee. My friend got the Rive Gauche(NT$265) which was a 1/2 Ham and Cheese Sandwich, small salad, hard boiled egg and coffee.

I thought I'd get more value by choosing ala carte from the bakery- so I got a mini chocolate pastry, an olive bread and apple tart. I'd probably only get the apple tart again.

That same day, I was in the area with a couple of girlfriends for lunch and couldn't decide on where to eat, so I asked them if they had eaten at Paul. They wanted to try it out so back I went. This time, I was surprised to discover a line of people waiting. We didn't want to wait 30 minutes, so we just got our food to go. They have a to-go set that includes a sandwich and choice of soup/drink for NT$265.

The sandwiches were good. The tuna sandwich had sliced tomatoes and wasn't overloaded with mayo, and the swiss in the ham and cheese stood out. The bread was also really good- crusty and soft at the same time. They also have smoked salmon sandwiches and proscuitto sandwiches. The chef salad was ok.

The mushroom soup wasn't too creamy and I could see the various diced mushrooms as I slurped it down.

But we were most excited about the desserts.

I remember when I first saw a PAUL was in Shanghai near XinTianDi and drooled over their selection of pastries and bought a few in a box to-go for a friend. I remember the first time I ever had a fancy fruit tart at a fancy cafe- which was my freshman year at Cal at the San Francisco shopping center. It seemed so decadent to be paying US$2-3 just for a little fruit tart with some glossed sugar on it. But I savored every bite.

Eating the raspberry tart (NT$155) and napoleon reminded me of that. It was gone too soon.

Flaky, sweet and not really big enough to share between three dessert loving girls, so it was gone in minutes. They also have chocolate and strawberry napoleons, as well as different flavored tarts and macarons.

Whatever way you plate it, PAUL is not cheap. They even have a loaf of bread that is NT$600. It feels like I'm back in Europe, wondering how everything seems so expensive. Is it worth it? Maybe for the occasional splurge on the French pastries that you won't likely find elsewhere, unless you stop by Maison Kayser.

Yesterday, I was in a hurry and thought I'd grab a tuna sandwich to go. But they seemed to have shrunk by a third, but remained the same price. Even asking the girl behind the counter didn't really help. She said they had always been that size, but I have photographic evidence otherwise. I was a bit annoyed that the sandwiches before were maybe 10 inches long, but the ones I spotted yesterday looked to be 6-7 inches long for NT$185 or so. I couldn't bear to pay that much for just a tuna sandwich so ended up getting curry noodles from the Eslite food court.

So if you're craving some sweets and can afford it, check out Paul. Otherwise, just look through the window and drool.

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Anonymous said...

I was wondering why the name "Paul's" was familiar, and then you reminded me that it's the place opposite Starbucks in XinTianDi in SH. I agree that their stuff looks great, although I'm not really sure that Taipei is ready for those kinds of prices.

I'm not sure what's going on for Halloween, although I'm sure there's something happening at the very Western-friendly places like Carnegie's or the Brass Monkey. Halloween doesn't seem to be such a big deal here, although maybe among the younger generation. Any big plans?

joanh said...

caffeinenicotine: yeah.. actually I think there is a section of Taipei will pay premium-- I go by that area all the time, and it has stayed crowded with a wait to my surprise.

no big plans for Halloween.. Wanted to see if there's anything worth going to. :)

Anonymous said...

Well, i confirm that Paul is expensive. In France and in Taïwan.
I know that i will never buy something at Paul in Paris (where i live) because it's expensive and not really good. I hope in Taïwan, they did an effort on the quality! :)

Simon, from Paris.

Anonymous said...

Just got back from BarCode and was amazed at the sheer number of la mei running around in Halloween costumes. I almost forgot how fun Taipei could be.

Sera said...

wow some of the pastries look exactly like the ones i get at paris baguette (a korean bakery chain). coincidence? or perhaps baked goods can't vary too much.

the soups and sandwiches look so good tho.

theres one paul bakery i've been to in taipei. but i'm not sure if its a smaller branch which shares the same origin. it was much smaller and only had cakes.

best cakes ive had in taiwan but i never went back because it was so out of the way.

joanh said...

simon: yeah.. i only heard recently that it's a chain in France. is it more expensive than other bakeries there, or are things just more expensive in general in France?

caffeinenicotine: hahah.. yeah. i bet they were all scantily clad

sera: yeah, i'm pretty sure it's not the same Paul. plus if both bakeries (Paris Baguette and Paul) model their pastries after classic french desserts, then they probably would look the same.

orangesoda said...

I haven't got a chance to eat in Paul. Whenever I go, there's always a long line waiting. Once, I thought to buy some bread. It turned out that only the expensive bread ranging from 400~600 was left!

Anonymous said...

Well, Paul in France is REALLY more expensive than other bakeries. For us, the baguette is a basis product. We all buy baguette everydays, when we come back from work(my taiwanese wife was so surprised when she saw that the first time, people waiting in the street around 19h00 to buy a french baguette after work). Paul's baguette are 30% more expensive than anywhere else and the quality is really not special. But as they have a reputaion (don't ask me why), people like to go there and pay more... "if the bread is expensive, it must be better".
For the dessert, I really don't know. I never tried. Too expensive for just a small something.

I suppose they adapt their prices to Taïwan and I hope that the quality is higher too, there is not engouh french people in Taïwan to buy baguette whaterver happens.


joanh said...

orangesoda: yeah that's why we ended up getting our stuff to go. that's crazy that all the bread was sold out!

feantir: that's definitely interesting.. people in taiwan just sometimes are followers- they see a line and assume it must be good. all crazes have it's phase- mr. donut, boba tea at Ten Ren, portuguese egg tarts, fresh bread at 3pm at XXX bakery. i've seen fights nearly break out in line. if it works in France, it'll probably work here.

Anonymous said...

Thank god! I used to love this place in Shanghai.

Roger said...

More pics of the raspberry tart please! I just finished a Thanksgiving dinner that concluded with two slices of pumpkin pie (yes I am a piggie) but here you go teasing me with one of my fav desserts.

No joke: I actually salivated.

stella bakes said...

i had their napoleon and macaroons a while back... i don't recommend their macaroons because they are tooooooo sweet (and i loveeeeee sweets!)...
their napoleons are actually not too bad, but nothing to die for..
i tried their bread too and it was actually not too bad, but i don't think it's worth waiting in line...

joanh said...

anonymous: Did they have different things in Shanghai?

roger: hahaha.. :)

dessert searching: thanks for sharing! where have you found good macarons in taipei?

Anonymous said...

Hello Guys

I am french, living in Paris.

Just to say that what Simon is saying is not true.

I am a good client and go very often to PAUL
The prices are the same than anywhere else
The reputation to be expensive is due to the beauty of the shops but I can tell you than some competitors are much more expensive
I read in the newspaper than the shop in Taiwan is a franchisee of the french brand which is also the case in Shangaï
Lucky to have such a good quality in your country

Pierre said...

Hello Hungry girl.
First, let me tell you, I love your
blog. #1 when it comes to eat in Taipei.
Then some background: I am French, living in Taipei for ten years now.
Love to eat, love to cook too.
Now, let's talk about French pastries in Taipei. Paul... tss!tss!
very expensive. Not so good... there are way better alternatives:
La boite de bijou, right behind shida university is the place I go for pastries and bread.
In the north of Taipei is le 15e
'been there a couple of times, had cakes, delicious too.
When I want a big cake for some event (my son's first birthday last week...), I go to Bruno's: he doesn't have a front store, and work in an appartment off Taida. You have to phone him before and place your order. He uses the best ingredients, and I just love to have a chat with him. It counts too...
Now, I found Paul's canneles Bordelais are good indeed. But 80 NTD for a cannele...? The sandwitches are crap. Mine are better :-) (I buy some Westphalia ham from the SOgo, cut some butter and emmental and put it into a fresh baguette. You can't beat that).
Keep up the good work girl!

Baby Madison said...

i can't wait to try a few things from PAUL. i went to the branch in xinyi! i got the apple bar tart, raspberry tart on your blog, a giant chocolate macaron and a chocolate eclair! they're sitting in my fridge for my dessert!!!!! the storefront is absolutely beautiful, i wanted one of each!!! haha.

Aki said...

I went there with a friend this afternoon (Ren Ai branch) and the napoleon did not disappoint. Fresh pastry cream with strawberries. It was very good. The croque madame was very dry and on a bread that has really hard. My friend had a crepe and later had two intestinal incidents. We later met other friends for dinner and they coincidently had had lunch at Paul's too and had the same problem... A bit disapointed... Maybe I was expecting tooo much?

小敖 said...

Paul isn't expensive, it's just that the quality is so-so. I mean, nowadays, a lot of bakeries even in France are chains, and they only heat their bread, whitout really baking them, so Paul is ok compared to others (when you see that Ladurée also freeze its macarons, everything is ok i guess).
Their cakes are ok too (for good cakes in paris, you usually pay 280 TWD a one person cake), the thing that i prefer from them is their "flan"/" coconut flan", but i don't know if they have it in Taipei, i'll check later.
However, don't compare Paul with Eric Kayser, please, because Kayser is supposed to be one of the best bakery chain in France that supplies some great & gourmet restaurants. It's a little bit as if you compared Mc Donald with homemade hamburgers... ^^" both are ok/good, but not on the same level at all.

a french girl in taipei