I found myself sitting between a large basket filled with freshly baked baguettes with golden crusts and, on my other side, a series of trays covered in mini loaves of olive, multigrain and pain de campaign breads. I would reach for one (or all) of each if it wasn’t for the glass windows protecting them from me. Its 10am. I had breakfast hours ago but the tourists that have taken over the place were just getting started. The room was full, as was the terrace out front. Separating the two, taking over the entrance of Maison Kayser, were the goodies, large glass display cases featuring an impressive array of authentic looking pastries.The full spread ranged from tarte au citron to pain au chocolate, millefeuile to many a chocolate delight. I could smell a faint smell of freshly baked bread, as if they had just finished baking everything 30 or so minutes ago. Why haven’t they tried to bottle that smell (or maybe they have)? I’d buy it and spray my kitchen with it on weekday mornings as I toast my sad, store bought bread. The bread rolls on my right were now being put in very large brown paper bags, I suspect for delivery to local restaurants to be served with butter at lunch.
Maison Kayser is an authentic artisal French Boulangerie founded by Eric Kayser in Paris in 1996. Eric Kayser started baking officially at the age of 14 but as he came from a long line of bakers he was already baking well before that. Today he has over 100 bakeries in 20 different countries.
My hot chocolate arrived in a simple white ceramic cup and saucer accompanied by a delicious little soft cookie. The mystery cookie tasted somewhere between a sweet bread and a cannele. The hot chocolate was an uncomplicated French style hot chocolate, an easy way to start any morning, sweet enough to get you started but not too sweet as to weigh you down.
The atmosphere was a mixture of traditional/pleasant, predictable European café style with white marble tables with ornate black feet and brown bistro chairs. There were lots of modern accents too including the lights, after all we are pretty much in the middle of Columbus Circle here where everything is big, shiny and modern. That is except for Central Park, where most of these tourists have come from or are going to, which is literally across the street.
Sadly, my French bubble was burst by the family of tourists that noisily came and sat next to me, and then proceeded to make incredible demands on the poor waitress. “We want a baguette, but not too chewy, and not too crusty on the outside, and toast it please. And we don’t want the ends, just the middle. And that comes with butter right? And jam? Oh but we only want strawberry jam, and on the side please….and to drink..” They would never survive a second in France.
Order all you like because after this you have two choices. Turn right and you are at Central Park which has endless options for either active and lazy pursuits. Turn left and you can go shopping on fifth avenue, visit the Modern Art Museum or even walk all the way to Times Square.
Verdict: If you are in this neck of the woods, this is your hot chocolate/sweet spot. Enjoy! (Price: $4.90) Maison Kayser, several locations around the city but I was at 1800 Broadway, New York, USA