Festival des Pains de Monsieur Habhab, 75020

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Just ten minutes from the hustle and bustle of the busy city, there lies a relatively unknown quarter of Paris and it feels like you have stepped into another world.

We talk about Saint Germain and the Marais having a neighbourhood feel… but unless you’ve lived there for the last twenty years, chances are that you’re seeing a neighbourhood that’s wearing a full face of make-up for her visitors.

Stand outside the Eglise Notre Dame de la Croix on a Wednesday around midday and you’ll see a true neighbourhood. It’s in the 20th arrondissement; situated near Belleville (known for its large Chinese community) and Ménilmontant (where the number of lively nightlife spots has exploded in recent times) but it is neither one nor the other.

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The church was finished in 1880 and – fun fact – it is the third longest church in Paris!

The streets are largely pedestrianised and as such, you’ll have to dodge the kids zooming around on their trottinettes. Wednesday is a particularly good day to stop by because the schools typically finish at midday and so you’ll see many families going about their daily business.

It is very much a residential area. It doesn’t boast the same gastronomic richness as the more central arrondissements but you won’t starve here either. For lunch, I’d suggest fashionable Italian restaurant Dilia (who offer a midday menu of entrée-plat-dessert for 18€) and then in the evening the local dive bar Demain, C’est Loin.

Around this particular square, there are a couple of smaller cafés – perfect for watching the world go by. On a warmer day, you can escape the crowds by winding your way up to the beautiful terraced Parc de Belleville or alternatively, finding a shady spot in the Père Lachaise cemetery.

I generally don’t find boulangeries labelled Festival des Pains or Banette particularly noteworthy, although I admit they can make decent local options. Personally, I believe that if you’re going to make the effort to go to a special bakery, make it an independent one.

That being said, the sheer number of people pushing open the door of this particular boulangerie piqued my interest. It was still fairly early in the day and I hadn’t had anything to eat yet.

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It is common knowledge that I have a chronic weakness for a good croissant. Just check out this tag “Croissant Competition” to see the scale of my addiction!

Once again I proved that curiosity and hunger are a wicked combination. A minute later, I have a croissant au beurre – this boulangerie still makes margarine croissants so it’s important to make the distinction – a pain au chocolat and a baguette de tradition, for good measure

It’s quite possibly the most phallic looking croissant I’ve come across so far. And even though I’m sure no one else was paying even the slightest bit of attention to me, I still decided to tear the croissant in half, before putting it in my mouth.

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But whaddyaknow, the croissant was actually surprisingly good! It was flaky and crisp; the layers of pastry were well formed and retained their shape. Unfortunately, it didn’t unravel like yarn around a bobbin – which is a sure-fire way to make me dizzy with excitement – but it was cooked evenly throughout and had a good flavour.

In short, this neighbourhood is a fun, multi-cultural, vibrant area to wander around. It could not be further off the typical tourist track… and now you know that you won’t go hungry!


Essential Information

Address: 5 rue Julien Lacroix, 75020
Telephone: 01 43 58 65 18
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 7am til 1.30pm and 4pm until 8pm. Closed Monday.

Au 140, 75020

One of the criteria I set for the croissant competition in 2011 was that the croissant had to be the first thing I ate that day. I believe occasion plays a massive part in the enjoyment of any sensory experience – and appetite is a crucial factor. Two identical croissants would taste very different if one were eaten on a full stomach and the other when ravenous with hunger.

For that reason, this morning I jumped out of bed, pulled on some jeans and a shirt, and didn’t even stop to browse at the flea market I was so impatient to jump on a vélib, thereby considerably speeding up the obtaining-breakfast-process. However, now I wish I’d had a glass of orange juice or something before I left the house for the extra energy. Last night I planned which boulangerie I’d try out for today’s instalment and yes it had crossed my mind that there may be a slight incline to get there…. however, it turned out that what I had to cycle up was no small hill and, man, I was so tempted to pop in somewhere else for some breakfast first!

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(You’ll hopefully be pleased to know that I had enough will-power to hold out!)

The boulangerie “Au 140” is located on 140 rue de Belleville in the 20th. I’d already heard good things about the place (from David Lebovitz) and topped with the knowledge that they’d won Paris’ best baguette competition in 2001 and (I believe) they’d also come second in Paris’ best croissant competition in 2006, I had high hopes.

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[2011] Croissant Competition #3:

Lots of care – almost an unreasonable level – was taken in getting my croissant au beurre fresh from the kitchen. There’s no hanging around on the counter getting more stale by the minute for the little pastry. No siree. The boulanger himself was lurking at the pass between the kitchen and the shop front and supervising every operation with hawk-like watchfulness.

The wrapping paper was very artfully twisted by someone who has obviously had plenty of practice in wrapping croissants. The croissant itself was a little bit floppy but I have to say, it was the perfect deep yellow/gold colour and it smelt gorgeous!

However, I’m a little bit sorry to say that it’s not the best croissant I’ve found in Paris. It was actually (and I don’t say this often) too buttery.

It was so buttery in fact, that I was having trouble gripping my handlebars and holding the brakes on my vélib as I was freewheeling down the hill on my way back.

Still, I would definitely recommend this boulangerie-patisserie. Take the métro to Jourdain, then take a vélib down the hill (and enjoy the great views of la Tour Eiffel as you go.) Alternatively, this place is worth remembering as a stop-off before a picnic on the Parc des Buttes Chaumont.


Essential Information

Address: 140 Rue de Belleville, 75020
Telephone: 01 46 36 92 47
WebsiteAu 140
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 7am-8pm. Sunday 7am-7pm. Closed Monday.