“ Baker, restaurant, delicatessen, The Daily Bread is something that the inhabitants of ten countries can now be grateful for. „
I originally discovered this chain whilst in Aix-en-Provence, and wasn't particularly impressed. Its easy enough to find great bread and pastries when you're in the south of France! However, when I found out there were several branches in London, I was intrigued. First, I went to the one on great marlborough street, which was nice, but I now regularly go to the one next to the Royal Festival hall, which has a much cosier downstairs bit . The rustic decor is charming, though nothing like the quaint little cafes and patisseries in rural Belgium and France. The menu has a lovely selection of breads, tartines (basically bread with various toppings/spreads), cakes, pastries and hot meals. Today their soup of the day was courgette and mushroom (£3.95 for a large 'cup'), which was lovely, and served with some yummy sourdough bread and real french butter. The evening meals can be a bit pricey, starting at £17, but the quality of the food and atmosphere (from around 5pm the entire rastaurant is lit by candles) make it worth the money.
The staff tend to be friendly, but not very attentive. It can take a very long time to get the bill, which can be frustrating if you're in a hurry, but it's also nice not to be rushed, as I often like to sit in there for a couple of hours and read a book whilst sipping their delicious hot chocolate (quite expensive at almost £4, but not terrible for several hours of warmth and shelter in a lovely setting).
My first experience of Le Pain Quotidien was long before I realised it was a chain, working off the muscle aches of a long overnight train journey with an early breakfast in a beautiful harbourside café in Marseille.
LPQ is a Belgian chain that is expanding at some speed into the UK, with a strong concept of pastries and breads that can be enjoyed on rough hewn country style tables. Most branches feature at least one long communal table large groups, couples and individuals to mingle and co-habit. Interestingly many branches share the theme of spaces under brick arches... Marseille's is in an old warehouse, London St. Pancras has one with similar brick alcoves and now the one adjacent to the London South Bank Centre has also occupied some arches.
First off, the good bits: the basket of bread for sharing is one of my favourite breakfasts. LPQ produce dozens of their own jams and spreads which you will find at your table. The fresh varieties of bread plus these spreads (myrtille, vanilla, sugar etc etc etc) plus a bowl of the superb black coffee is the best way to start the day.
All that aside, expansion has come at a price. The service at the London South Bank branch was horrendous when we last went. Disinterested teenage staff who not only checked their mobiles at regular intervals, but who did it in full view of customers. The produce remains good, but the service in these newest stores needs focus.