Yesterday - stupid, boiling hot, itchy, midweek European public holiday when I had UK deadlines - was greatly redeemed by discovering a cake shop I did not know existed, and which was - gasp - open. I can't pretend it's new, because apparently it's been open 7 months, but yay. WELCOME, Nicolas.
(Hmm, now I wish I had had the foresight to do this in the manner of a dweeby fanboy unboxing video, but I was too busy filling my face with cake)
God knows, we need you, cake guy. There are very few good bakeries in Brussels. I am sorry Brussels, but you know what I say is true. There is the Saint Aulaye (run by French people). There is Charli (run by a French person). There is Fabrice Collignon, who I believe may actually even be Belgian. There is Wittamer, I suppose, but who wants to pay eleventy thousand euros for a microscopic mousse even if it is by royal appointment*?
(Gloriously, whilst trying to link to Wittamer, I discovered they did an Olympic range of cakes. AMAZING. I especially like the lightning bolt "Eclair Olympique". I am sure Monsieur Bolt eats a heap of passionfruit pastry)
Ditto, Pierre Marcolini. You are truly excellent at chocolate, M. Marcolini, and also slightly frightening so I do not want to get on the wrong side of you, and your vanilla eclairs are ze bombe. However. You are only one man, swimming against a tide of stodgy wrongness. Also, you are amazingly dear. Please don't hurt me.
Whilst Belgium does loads of food things very, very right, there are some bakery things that Belgium does very badly indeed. Baguettes, for one. The supermarket ones are better than bakery ones, which is a sad state of affairs. Flan, (the French set custard tart) too, which comes in Belgium with a brown, spongy, leathery skin of wrongness on top and a floury, dense texture reminiscent of those sachets of chalk they give you when you have an upset stomach. Croissants. Brrrrr. Belgian croissants are an abomination, and do not tell me to try your couques au beurre, because they are even worse. Also, that thing you call a 'bolus', that charred ball of raisin studded wrongness that looks like an internal organ? WHY. What has the honest pain au raisin, with its soft, yielding, custardy centre ever done to you, Belgium? Do not try and fob me off with your "couque suisse", that is just a dry, angry danish pastry, with all the fun removed. It would probably make good loft insulation.
It's not that everything is bad. Some of the bread is very good, and Pain Quotidien does some ok bits and pieces, but WHERE IS THE CAKE? I am waiting to be proved wrong. I am dying to be proved wrong. Send me to some good bakeries, please.
Anyway, Nicolas Audard.
The dog was not particularly impressed by the Fraisier. He is a harsh judge of patisserie.
I thought it was slightly too sweet, but basically pretty good. It is supposed to have poppyseed syrup, but that was subtle to the point of wholly elusive. That top layer was a bit too gelatinous for my liking, as if it might develop consciousness in the manner of Bob from Monsters v Aliens and ingurgitate me before I had the chance to kill it with a fork.
Then there was this lurid green number. The dog looks ever more pained at this one. I think it offends his aesthetic sensibilities, he is more of a classicist in matters pastry-related. Possibly it was because he had stolen and eaten a chausson aux pommes and was feeling bilious.
It is called "Mr Smith". I don't know why a cake should need an assumed name as if it were checking into a hotel with a person who was not its wife, but there we have it. "Mr Smith", is a sort of apple mousse, with a cassis-violet centre. The cassis centre was excellently, lip-smackingly tart and there was no trace of the violet because the cassis had stamped all over it, laughing cruelly. The apple tasted a bit like synthetic apple sweeties. Not a total win then, but I ate it in approximately four seconds, so I can hardly get snotty about the 'balance' or whatever. Look, here is a hideously graphic picture of it all demolished and bleeding, OH GOD NO I CAN'T LOOK.
Ha. That is so unappealing. Try and Instagram THAT. Listen, it was hot, ok?
Drawing a veil over this green slimy carnage, most excitingly of all, they do petits choux which are quite the thing at the moment, and very much the new macaron.
Also, they call them Choux de Bruxelles which is amusing (because it means Brussels sprouts). Approved. This one is raspberry and violet.
It had a nice moussey texture but it didn't taste of much. There were a couple of caramel ones too. There aren't anymore, because I had the last one for breakfast, having hidden it in the crisper basket in the fridge to protect it from marauding infants. They didn't taste of much either, and I think they are slightly too big, really, but hey, choux buns hit Brussels, I am not going to split hairs, do you know how long it took us to get bagels? DECADES, my friends. I had to learn to make my own and everything.
I will return, to buy more cakes, and place my face into them. I advise you, with caution, to do the same. Now I must go and lie in the dark and clutch my stomach for a while.
Nicolas Audard, 93 Rue Americaine, (0) 2544 0985