I know it's a chain but the girls and I love Alain Coumont's Le Pain Quotidien so much that we ate there twice in one day on Noy's birthday weekend.
I usually have the cheeseboard, as indeed I did last Saturday. It hits the spot with an oozing blue, a pungent camembert, a hard, crumbly red and a creamy goats cheese. Served with a few dark grapes, some baguette, fruit and nut bread, wheat bread and butter. I love it, so simple, I have no idea what the cheeses are but they are consistently good.
Also great are the platters, meat, fish, veggie, mezze, they all look appealing. The fish platter with salmon pate, crab, prawns (let the side down as they lacked any flavour) and smoked salmon is perfect for grazing over the course of a long leisurely lunch. Noy enjoyed the Italian version, with tapenade, pesto, roasted veggies, artichoke, mozzarella and prosciutto. Nibs was happy with her tomato and mozzarella salad, the salads all look seriously good, generous portions and a huge selection to choose from.
Billed as a communal dining venue, at the Soho branch there is an enormous long wooden table running through the centre of the dining room as well as smaller tables seating 2's, 3's and 4's along the outer walls. I like the relaxed feel to the place and I like the prices. I'm not sure about the tartines, open sandwiches, never tried them, probably never will but there's a whole section of the menu devoted to them, and a daily special.
After a mooch around the shops we returned for some tea and cake, a pot or earl and a bakewell tart for me. An excellent crunchy pastry tart with a wickedly sweet and almondy centre, you can't go wrong with anything almond flavoured as far as I'm concerned.
Nibs went for the lemon tart and the birthday girl had cream tea. A monster scone with fluffy whipped cream and a selection of jams.
With a glass of prosecco lunch came to £20 a head with service. There's a lengthy breakfast menu available until 12:30 daily and more substantial dishes on the dinner menu from 5pm. It seems like there's a lot going on here with a befuddling combo of guises - cafe/boulangerie/pâtisserie/deli - but that's precisely what we like about it, particularly on those indecisive days where you can't pinpoint exactly what you all fancy.
Le Pain Quotidien
18 Great Marlborough Street