We stumbled across the chain Le Pain Quotidien while looking for a place to lunch in New York. I know, ironic – we visited the US from Europe and ended up eating in a European chain. Founded in Belgium in 1990, the chain has around 150 outlets worldwide today. Although the name means “Daily Bread” in English, this is certainly not the chain’s only asset, as we would soon go on to find out.
Our first experience was with the drinks. We were thirsty after a busy morning in Manhattan, so we jumped at the drinks menu, resulting in an organic freshly squeezed orange juice and a still apple cider heading for our table speedily (note: service seems variable – we experienced very good service on our lunchtime visit but much slower service the following day at breakfast). Refreshing and authentic, they made us really feel like we were onto a good thing here – and we weren’t wrong.
For the mains, I went for one of their specials – a vegan chilli, which was packed full of a variety of beans, juicy tomatoes, and just enough chilli to give you a much-needed lunchtime kick without taking out all of your tastebuds. A cheese and charcuterie plate on the other side of the table also got good reviews. The power of the beans also meant I had little space for dessert (shame, as I really could have gone for their apricot crumble). Coffee was among the best we had in New York but was a trifle expensive.
The expensive coffee doesn’t detract, though, from the friendliness of the servers and the rustic decor of the restaurant, which specialises in traditional wooden tables (which are often shared between different groups of customers), homey lighting, and warm colours that are reminiscent of a farmhouse setting. Locations are clean, and the elegant and provinical are effortlessly combined through the addition of soft classical music in the background and the chain’s clear appreciation for high-quality ingredients and seasonal produce.
At breakfast the following day we found the food equally inviting and delicious: 2 glasses of the same orange juice as before, one croissant, one pain au chocolat (or “chocolate croissant” as the Americans erroneously like to call them…!), 1 pain au raisin and 1 blueberry muffin proved an excellent breakfast for two. At $21.06 for all of that, the price was right too, although as mentioned, service was slower in the morning. While we didn’t get a chance to sample the bread, we’d certainly like to, and will probably be able to soon thanks to there being a branch just round the corner from Keeper’s workplace (he’s been jetsetting all over the place recently – his adventures can be found chronicled here – and hasn’t had a chance to visit it).
In short, we found the food to be good and honest – unusual for a chain of this size, which spans 18 countries. Affordable, accessible, and putting out delicious high quality food, it ensures that customers return. Bravo!
Branches can be found in Australia, Belgium, France, India, Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, the Middle East, the Netherlands, Qatar, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. See the above link for your nearest locations.