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.
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.
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
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