Montréal is enjoying a veritable bakery boom right now. La Bête à pain in Ahuntsic, Pâtisserie Rhubarbe in trendy Plateau, the much-awaited Patrice Demers boutique near Atwater Market, the new Régal Matinal delivery service: if you’ve been known to melt for flaky pastry, addresses new and old abound.
A few weeks ago, I took part in a macaron atelier organized by Maison Christian Faure for the food journalist association I belong to. Manning the oven, no less than the owner and chef, who has commandeered a 5-story century-old building in Old Montreal. Why Montreal and not Paris, I asked? “You can’t buy centennial buildings in Paris, much less renovate them to your taste!” he explained. Still, his new to-die-for digs must have cost Faure a pretty penny…
Let’s take a tour?
In the basement you’ll find the kitchen, impeccably maintained because Faure wants the counters and floors clean enough to eat from. No freezer in sight since everything is baked fresh everyday. The only make-ahead prep was a slab of croissant dough resting in the refrigerator, ready to fashion and slide in the oven come morning.
On the ground floor, one can find the pastry shop per say. Every week, the house offers different cakes, all too breathtakingly beautiful to eat (not!). Since Faure insists on freshness, clients must make do with the weekly selection. Who would even want to argue? You came for a Black Forest cake but end up leaving with a Paris-Brest? Run, don’t walk, it’s the best Paris Brest I’ve ever eaten, and it’s been my favourite pastry for decades, ever since I discovered it in a little bakery by the Seine while celebrating New Year in Paris, no less.
A pastry lover’s dream school
One floor above, a workshop with huge screens flanking the counters lets you admire Faure at work. A MOF or “meilleur ouvrier de France” (Best Worker in France) as they say, he wears pastry whites with the blue-white-and-blue collar reserved to the French elite. Here the chef and his team teach both basic and top-level pastry, with no compromise allowed. We were taught the delicate art of macarons, one I haven’t tried to replicate at home yet, I’m shamed to admit. Pastry and bakery classes are offered to the public, for $250 or so. You want to offer the ultimate pastry class to that special someone? A private one-day class will set you back $850. With Christmas coming up, who wouldn’t love to learn the art of making croissant or petits choux, non?
Another story up (there’s an elevator) brings you to a large, brick-walled workshop with multiple islands where both local and foreign students can learn their trade from top teachers, including other MOF recruited by Faure himself in his native France. Who better than the old guard to teach the rising generation its cherished tricks of the trade. By the way, Faure himself learned his craft all over the world, working for dignitaries like the Prince of Monaco. The house also organizes Speed Baking classes where participants are expected to go from one island to the other, following the recipe started by their classmates. The goal? Jump into the fire by stepping midway into recipes and sharing directions in order to lose all fear of pastry, which admittedly terrifies a great deal of people. Myself included, ahem. Maybe THE place to met your foodie dreamboat?
Must-try lunch spot
Finally, on the last floor, you can sit down in a cozy café with the prerequisite brick walls where, on that night, we were served multiple savoury and sweet bites. There, I ate the best foie gras au torchon of my life, and no, it’s not my first either.
As I left the building, floating on a cloud, I couldn’t help but drag my feet despite the chilly night, hoping to see For Sale signs as I dreamt of moving nearby, like tomorrow. Two huge cruise ships, docked in the Montreal harbour, blazed through the darkness. Many of their passengers, in the hundreds, would find their way to Maison Faure the next morning, seeking that perfect Continental breakfast. That I was able to resist the siren song of two chocolate macarons in my pocket testifies to how much I love my boys. Like the cruise ship passengers, they too would be breaking fast with Faure pastry come morning. There have to be some advantages to living with a food writer after all.
What you should know:
It’s possible to order pastry from the menu to be found on the Maison Faure website here. You can also just stop by to enjoy sundry sanwiches and savoury appetizers any time, for lunch or takeout.
Where: Maison Christian Faure
Address: 355 Place Royale, Montréal
Opening Hours: Every day from 8am to 7pm
Counter and boutique: 514 508-6453
Pastry School: 514 508-6452 or firstname.lastname@example.org