If you’re craving a real baguette in the British capital, this London outpost of French favourite Maison Kayser should be your first port of call
What’s the background?
Eric Kayser is a household name in France, with almost 20 shops in Paris alone. Beyond his home country he has further outposts of his baking empire across the globe, so it was long overdue when he opened his first in the UK – Maison Kayser in London – earlier this year. In the early 1990s, he was really at the forefront in championing ‘traditional’ bread. While we may take it for granted these days that we can pick up an artisanal sourdough loaf locally (or even in our supermarkets), just a couple of decades ago it was a different story. By ‘traditional’ this means paying careful attention to the wheats used, using additive-free flour and importantly using natural leavening agents to make a high-quality loaf.
When searching for a destination, one wonders whether they started with the name, fittingly located as it is on Baker Street. Just enough off Oxford Street to insulate it from the overwhelming traffic of passersby, it’s light, airy and spacious, with a professional finish that doesn’t tip into feeling like a chain. I particularly like the layout – there’s a large area to browse the vast array of breads, pastries and cakes on offer without feeling like you’re getting in others way, while there’s also a good amount of seating. The latter makes a huge difference, and as such it feels like more of a destination and a perfect spot for a casual breakfast or lunch meeting.
What’s on offer?
While bread may be Kayser’s calling card, he really does do it all. As you walk through the door the first thing you’ll see is a rack of loaves fresh from the oven in all manner of tempting variations, while the counter in front displays a wide selection of viennoiseries and pastries. If I worked nearby I would be here everyday for a baguette sandwich, and here there is a huge amount of choice, albeit kept fairly classic – think smoked salmon with chive cream or a traditional chicken with mayonnaise and tomato confit. And while cakes and patisserie might not get top billing, they receive just as much attention. There’s a large selection that changes seasonally, which again stay fairly close to French tradition. It’s the place to head if you want an unadulterated rum baba, Charlotte or fruit tart.
What to choose?
Whatever you do, don’t leave without a freshly baked baguette tucked under your arm. The signature is the monge, with its subtle nutty undertones. My personal favourites include the rustic bread, made with buckwheat and wheat flour, while if after a sweeter loaf I highly recommend the turmeric bread. There’s also a good range of gluten-free options. The pastries and brioches are also made using the natural leavening method, and I have a soft spot for the brioche aux pralines rouges, taking me back momentarily to sunny days visiting bakeries in Lyon.
That doesn’t mean you should pass over the cake counter, however. I appreciate bakeries that don’t rely on gimmicky ingredients and techniques, but harness the power of simple flavours and ideas and really bring them to the fore in a refined way. You can’t go wrong with go-to items such as a strawberry tart, made with melt-in-the-mouth Breton shortbread, or classic eclair.
What’s the damage?
Maison Kayser compares fairly favourably to other bakeries with a similar pedigree. You can pick up a mini-baguette sandwich for under £5, which is a relative bargain considering you wouldn’t get much more for your money at a chain sandwich shop, but inevitably lesser quality ingredients. Most of the petit gateaux also come in at a reasonable price of around £5 or less.
Maison Kayser, 8 Baker Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 3BS; maison-kayser.com