Le Pain Quotidien

by 57fulton@gmail.com
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Franchises do not have to suck

Whether we are at home or abroad, our city centers and towns are littered with franchises for everything. Normally franchise restaurants and cafes are soulless, spirit crushing places that suck the liveliness and individuality out of the place they are located. We have all had the experience of travelling to somewhere to find it overwhelmed with international franchises. At that point, you might as well have stayed home because there is no space for the spirit of a place or its people to shine through.

But I have been going to this breakfast place in Covent Garden that has a great feel. There is alot of outdoor seating on the cobblestones of the courtyard, but inside it’s a quirky space with tables fit-in here and there according to the allowances of the ancient building. The staff were personable and had that je ne sais quoi where they appear to “give a damn”. This what I always look for everywhere. In restaurants, in cafes, in shops, in artisan crafts, in tools, in furniture, in hotels … I am always looking for an authenticity that show that the maker had pride in themselves, their work and the thing they are creating.

This place has that feel. Only later did I learn they were a franchise ( or multi-branched big business which is the same thing in my book ). The food was simple, but thoughtful and made to order. The breads and croissant have that special quality that you only find in artisan bakeries.

At home, in America, we have so many franchises that purport to be “artisanal” (think Panera or Au Bon Pain), but their products have that “factory feel”. The texture is not right. The flavor is lacking. The crust is too-thick or non-existent.

real bread baked onsite
real bread baked onsite
nicely cooked eggs and toast
breads and croissant

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