Every suburb in Joburg has its own established foodie hotspot.
And Paul South Africa, which is a stone’s throw away from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s new restaurant, Jamie’s Italian South Africa, ticks many boxes.
From the outside, the patisserie-restaurant looks like something you would find in Europe with its cobbled-stone street and branded décor.
As you enter , you get an aromatic whiff of the freshly made breads before all attention is diverted by the colourful display at its bustling patisserie section. This is a dessert lover’s utopia. I wanted to try out the most popular dishes.
Why? I wanted to see if it merited all the fuss.
My gastronomic journey began with the raved-about Paul’s Hot Chocolate, a sinfully decadent and velvety beverage that will ruin every other hot chocolate you have after.
For my starter, I tried the Soupe á l’oignon Traditionnelle – a traditional French onion soup. However, there is nothing traditional about how it is served. This dish comes in a bread bowl, topped with melted cheese. Tucking in, you get a wonderful glob of warm soup and cheese. It has a gooeyness that makes you want to dip your spoon back into this small pond of deliciousness, over and over again. The texture of the bread cocoons the soup perfectly, without it breaking or caving in after a while.
I then tried the toasted CroqueMadame sandwich. Boy, oh boy, was I hooked at first bite! Now if you’ve ever had a hangover, this crispy ham and emmental cheese sandwich, topped with a fried egg, would be the cure you seek. It’s generously stuffed and tastes amazing.
For the health conscious, I would suggest trying something from the Nos Sandwiches section. I sampled the Pavot Poulet, which is filled with chicken, mustard mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato. The star of this dish is the freshly baked poppy seed baguette. The meal is accompanied by gourmet greens and a vinaigrette dressing.
For winter, I highly recommend either the Saucisses de Toulouse meal or the Coq au vin poultry dish. With the first dish, you will get traditionally made sausages nestled in a bed of buttery potato mash and Bordelaise sauce. The second option, which looks picture perfect – as did every meal actually – was the succulent chicken leg, braised in a rich, red wine sauce. Again the buttery mash made an appearance, this time accompanied by baby carrots and leeks.
The desserts left me frustrated. I wanted to try them all. So I feasted with my eyes and settled for the Eclair Chocolat and a Fraisier (strawberry tart). It was a sugar rush of note and I had to take home a doggy bag. But I enjoyed every morsel.
Dining here was an experience. The attention to detail, with everything carrying the Paul signature, the freshness of the meals, the wonderful textures and flavours, the ability to see your stuff being made through the glass, made it a pleasant dining experience, especially with the attentive staff tending to your needs.
For such a so-called lah-di-dah location – the food is not badly priced. And, yes, the food lived up to the hype. So that’s a solid tick!
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
In 1889, in Croix, a small town in northern France, Charlemagne Mayot and his wife owned a charming bakery. Over time, Edmond (Mayot’s son), who exuded the same passion and knowledge as his father, took over the family business with his wife, Victorine, in 1908.
They had a daughter, Suzanne, and the family secrets were passed on to her. Later, Suzanne, aside from a love for classic French food, also inherited her family’s deep affinity for artisanal baking.
When she married a baker named Julien Holder, they purchased a bakery from the Paul family and decided to keep the family name.
In 1953, Francis (Suzanne and Julien’s son) began working in his family’s established bakery.
When his father died in 1958, he inherited the bakery and opened a second one in 1963. Aside from sharing the same flair for baking as the generations before him, Francis put the business on the map with his entrepreneurship.
Today, this family business is now represented in 36 countries globally, with 670 outlets and counting. They’re renowned for their artisanal breads, fresh ingredients and trendy sweet treats.