They say life is what happens while you're making other plans.
Tonight I was planning to leave work early, come home, make my ratatouille bake for dinner, and finish the WTSIM#20 round-up.
However, what happened while I was making these plans, was that I got stuck in an elevator at work for 45 minutes between 6 and 7 pm. What I learned from this little unplanned detour was that: a) astonishingly, I won't go hysterical and hyperventilate if left in a steel box dangling over the abyss on my own for 45 minutes; b) I have some very lovely colleagues; c) our elevators are large enough to do a decent yoga warrior pose; and d) elevator technicians who come and open the lift doors and rescue you should be paid only fractionally less than, say, heart surgeons. Bless their cotton socks.
So – let's talk about Le Pain Quotodien instead. The first time I visited one, I did not even know it was part of a chain. We spent a weekend in Lille and this place came highly recommended for breakfast, so off we went. The pain au chocolat was flakily excellent, but my abiding memory of that lovely breakfast was the hot chocolate. It didn't come in a mug, it came in what looked like a soup bowl. No handles – you just wrapped your hands around the steaming, fragrant chocolate and raised it to your lips. Heaven. We liked it so much, we went back for brunch the next day, when I had a platter of very good cheeses and breads.
With these happy memories of the place, I was understandably thrilled when they started opening branches in London. The company's philosophy is appealing – they aim to provide hgh quality, affordable organic food in a rustic and relaxed setting. The stores I have been in all feel like dining in your French aunt's country kitchen And I have subsequently learned that all the furniture in their stores is made from reclaimed or reused sources, which is a nice touch. Their produce is organic, fair-trade and fully traceable – but if you think it's all worthiness and no taste, think again. The daytime menu is packed with delicious options like granola parfait, five or more types of sourdough bread, organic muffins, tartines and soups. The nighttime menu features such classics as confit de canard, tarte tatin and Belgian waffles. It's the perfect place for a relaxed breakfast, a lazy lunch, or an informal dinner.
No surprises, then, that this is the location I chose to meet up with the lovely Robyn from Lick Your Own Bowl when she was in town over the summer. Robyn is another South African expat blogging about food, and despite only having chatted via e-mail before, we hit it off like old friends. She is as lovely, warm and talented as her blog suggests! This time round I chose an organic apple muffin with my espresso, while Robyn had to try their spelt bread. To the amusement of all those seated around us, and without skipping a beat in the conversation, we both hauled out our cameras and started photographing our food. The joys of dining with like-minded folk!
All too soon, Robyn had to head off to her next engagement, and I had to head off to lunch at a friend's place, but our lovely meal together had most certainly sealed our friendship.
And if you're tempted to try Le Pain Quotidien, the good news is that there are now a number of branches all over London, including one in Bread Street (ha ha ha!) close to my office – hurrah! Trust me – there are few things more likely to cheer you up this winter than a steaming bowl of hot chocolate clasped securely in both hands and a good friend across the table.