As of a few months ago, Patisserie Claude was the sort of independent shop that hardly existed in Manhattan anymore—especially in the West Village, where skyrocketing rents have displaced many mom-and-pop operations. While the sometimes ornery, sometimes charming Claude had able assistants, the store was in many respects a one-man show: a French pastry chef who ran a French pastry shop, in his own name, with no frills and no gimmicks—just incredible croissants and desserts (from a cramped little kitchen) that had loyal patrons lining up out the door early each morning.
So when Claude announced his retirement earlier this fall, I expected the worst: boarded-up windows or a useless martini bar. Could Patisserie Claude really go on without…well, Claude? I had my doubts. But in little more than a month, the modest storefront reopened, with Claude’s longtime protégé, Pablo, at the helm. And while I walked to breakfast with butterflies in my stomach, fingers crossed for my favorite patisserie, I need not have worried.
A blast of hot, buttery air to greet me? Check. Four little tables? Check. Line out the door before 9 a.m. on a Sunday? Check. And most importantly? Pastries as perfect, flaky, and oven-warm as ever.
Claude’s croissants were always distinctively shaped, and they’re now even more so—loosely triangular, rather than tight little crescents. But the dough is tender on the inside with a crisp, just-tough-enough shell, the corners invitingly crunchy.
The pain au chocolat, once an incredible massive, floppy puddle of chocolate and butter, are now a bit more neatly formed. That’s probably for the best. Warm from the oven, they’re still gooey and sweet, but in a slightly more modest manner.
The raisin brioche weren’t quite as perfect as I’d remembered; the edges of mine were slightly tougher than they might have been. But perhaps I’d just gotten the end of the batch. In either case, the brioche dough hit just the right note of yeasty and sweet.
And the quiche, popped back in to heat before serving, are as heart-stoppingly rich as ever.
The verdict? Pablo picked up right where Claude left off. True, there’s no longer a capricious old Frenchman greeting me with a smile, or a scowl, depending on the day. But in every other respect, it’s the same little storefront. Even the shop’s little idiosyncrasies—the funny-shaped croissants, the brick-sized pain au chocolat, the chef hiding in the back—have hardly changed a bit. Loyalists, rejoice.
Patisserie Claude 187 West 4th Street, New York NY 10014 (map) 212-255-5911