If I had a nickel every time, someone asked me where to find the best croissant in Paris. My answer goes like this: the best croissant in Paris is simply a good one within sleep-walking distance of where you happen to be staying. Think about it, a croissant is best eaten with your breakfast beverage of choice, preferably before your eyes open properly. With its perfect mix of soft, crisp, buttery, sweet, and savory (from a judicious addition of salt), a croissant as the first mouthful is a perfect omen for the rest of your day. A croissant in the middle of the afternoon simply isn’t the same.
However, one of my satellite projects this year is working on finding “The Best Croissant in Paris”. While there are rankings in various Parisian papers/guides, not even they do exhaustive catalogs like me… so I kind of have to make this an undertaking. The gist is that I’m casually visiting boulangeries/patisseries throughout the city, sampling their work, and then taking the goodies home to do a wide shot and a cross-section of each. I intend to trot out 3 or so croissants at a time – as I’m doing today – and then present a final list at the end of my adventure. How many will be on it? Only time will tell.
Today, we’re going to delve into the croissanterie of some of the most famous places you can eat the best croissants in Paris. While these are pastry royalty, bread/viennoiseries and pastry are two completely different animals. There’s virtually no relationship between how well a shop does pastry and how killer their bread is. In fact, most shops that do both are also horrendous at both. So with that said, let’s first take a look at some of them.
Here Are Some Of The Places You Can Find The Best Croissant In Paris
Ok, maybe I fibbed when I said, “…last but not least”. This actually does come in at the bottom of the pile today. Sure, it looks billowy and classic, but its taste and texture is just a step or two above mediocre. The skin is flaky, but the flecks that dislodge themselves as larger and messier chunks than the two aforementioned masterworks. This is the kind of croissant that just covers your shirt/jacket with its detritus, as you walk down the street trying to have a bite on-the-go. The interior is pleasant enough, but it’s a wee dryer than needed to be, the “au beurre” element isn’t particularly expressive, and a big part of you is left wondering how croissants ever gained so much notoriety if they’ve historically tasted like this. The answer is that they could not have; there’s much better work out there. Score: 5
Carton’s croissant just sucked. The exterior was “boring as f***” and not flaky/crinkly at all. The buttery tones were there in texture only, so the flavor thereof was curiously absent. Even the scent of the interior was bland. The two “saving” graces were that the moisture of the piece was spot-on, and there was a wee salty kick, but that did little to make up for how insanely lackluster the overall flavor and texture were. There’s no point in eating this thing unless you’re starving and can’t walk a few more blocks to a better shop. Score: 5.5-6
Hugo & Victor
As with all the croissants I have reviewed and will review, I’ve savored H&V’s on two separate occasions – just to make sure I don’t catch a chef on an off day. In fact, I gave H&V a third shot, as my first two tastings were a little late in the morning and perhaps didn’t let me be privy to the height of freshness. So the third visit allowed me to experience a more tender and generally pleasant texture. But, honestly, and I keep searching for the best word here, the piece felt “encased”. The exterior seems almost a separate entity from the inside – not like a deliciously buttery team. The interior was the aforementioned pleasant part – yet I just wasn’t getting a lot of flavor/character from it. I wish this little one were closer to the awesomeness of H&V pastries. Score: 6
Du Pain et des Idées
I was very excited to visit Du Pain, as a number of my friends had said my life was not complete until I snagged a few of their goodies. My friend Caroline actually refuses to call it Du Pain et des Idées, feeling that it dishonors Christophe Vasseur to merely reference his shop’s moniker. After he made her fall in love with pain au chocolat, which she’d spent 27 years of Parisian life not being fond of, Monsieur Vasseur’s is now one of her favorite haunts in the city. And, yes, the pain au chocolat, as well as their Mouna (fleur d’ oranger brioche), is quite tasty.
But what about the croissant? Well, I wish I could be in love with it, but after purchases on two separate occasions, I can’t muster more than a sentiment of “pretty good”. On that second visit, Monsieur Vasseur himself proudly told me, “Cent per cent beurre! (100% butter) “, and it’s true that the buttery tones are lovely. But from the hum-drum skin to the fairly ordinary internal texture and on to the only modestly amusing notes from the farine, I just wasn’t getting the same level of excitement I had for the other work of theirs I’d sampled. Score: 6.5
I had some pretty high hopes for this croissant, given all the nice things I’d read about it. Some people also called it “The Best Croissant in Paris”. So I walked over to the shop, situated on the Île Saint-Louis, not far from Berthillon’s doors, and poked my head in. It’s a very run-of-the-mill boulangerie, and everything, including the croissants, looked pretty standard, too. But I had them wrap one up, and as I nibbled on it during my walk home, the first thing I thought to myself was, “Interesting. I didn’t know Pillsbury Crescent Rolls had such a sophisticated pedigree.”
It literally tasted like enough of a notch above said crescent rolls that it seemed Boulangerie Martin might have been Pillsbury’s inspiration. A second tasting was not as Pillsbury-esque, but it was still pretty mundane. Buttery, though a wee dry. Not particularly nuanced in flavors. Pleasant enough – but not worth another visit.Score: 6.5
Le Grenier au Pain (Caulaincourt)
I expected a lot from this, given that it placed 4th in the salarié division of the annual croissant rankings here in Paris/Ile-de-France. On top of that is the fact that the shop is closed on Thursdays! This is the type of bizarre insouciant attitude that says, “We are so amazing we can be closed on one of the busiest days of the week and just not care.” It turns out that the croissant is truly not so hot. Deficient in the butter department, a wee bready, and lacking in any interesting flavor characteristics, it made yours truly sad The texture was actually reasonably solid, but that does little to make up for all else. Not quite sure how this little one has placed so high in formal rankings. Score: 6-6.5
Monsieur Maeder placed 13th on the list of best croissants for Paris. And, yeah, it was certainly not so good. I’d say 13th place was probably pretty generous. The crumble to the exterior was satisfactory – a nice medium flake. The interior was a bit too bready and lacking both in butteriness and any discernible character. Adding insult to injury was its dryness and completely misshapen form. Again, I buy four at a time, so if this was the prettiest of the bunch, imagine how ****** up the others were. My notes succinctly say, “…a notch below ‘good enough’.” Score: 6.5
The croissants from Maison Delcourt, as crafted by Guillaume Delcourt, placed high on the list of the croissant rankings. Why? I don’t know. Slightly dry, slightly bready, minus any charming flavors or tones, it was just . . . boring. Looking at the exterior, I was expecting a lot more, but I was left thoroughly unimpressed. My notes say it’s, “…fine enough for slathering [in confiture]…not that I would buy it again.” Score: 6.5
The croissant here was a bit comically puffy, and the taste of butter was decidedly muted versus more exceptional specimens I’ve come to know and love. That said, there was nothing offensive about the croissant – not that I would buy it again – but it’s a perfectly sufficient little guy. Score: 7
I must admit that I was a little shocked at the quality of this. in a good way. Expecting more of a travesty than something enjoyable, I was like, “What?!” Although it’s not up to the level of the two above, it’s a perfectly acceptable croissant with pleasant butter tones and a good internal structure that provides a more than satisfactory mouth-feel. I guess I can’t really ask for any more from a chain. Score: 7
According to Le Figaroscope, this was supposed to be one of the ultimate croissants. Not so. I found it to be pretty greasy – almost to the point that it seemed to have been deep-fried. The interior was on the edge of being too dense – but just buoyant enough to not offend me. Three saving graces keep the score relatively high on this guy – lovely butter tones, some pleasant nuances to the farine, and a more potent zip of salt than one usually gets. My notes say, “…it’s special enough…” Score: 7-7.5
Not only does Poilâne open at 7:15, which is awesome for an early riser like me, but it has an olden-timely charm that cannot be beaten. There’s no fancy cash-register, and it appears they keep hand-written paper records of every purchase that’s made. As for the croissant – it’s a notch above really good. The exterior is beautiful, though a bit bready and was flaking in big chunks with each bite. The internal texture was soft and buttery, though no salty or sweet tones to speak of here. It’s mostly how I imagine classic croissants must have been long ago. Overall, it’s a fun one to experience. Score: 7.5
This croissant topped Paris’ official rankings for the best croissant in the city (technically, one outranked it in the outlying suburbs), but I wouldn’t quite go that far in my assessment of its quality. It was definitely a little burnt on the bottom – but in such a way that it did more to add a nice little flare to the flavor than it did to detract from it.
Still, a little too charred. Very light in texture – but yet not quite as much as the lightest I’d ever had from Lenôtre … and very buttery, though perhaps a little too far along and into the realm of slightly greasy, not too unlike the croissants from Le Triomphe. My notes peg it as a hybrid of the two shops I just mentioned and the croissants from Gontran Cherrier, though lacking the perfectly nuanced character he seems to imbue in his little guys. Totally worth a purchase though. Score: 7.5
The first line in my notes says, “About as good as it gets before it gets interesting…” By that, I simply mean that it lacks any special flavour distinctions, but it’s otherwise great. The perfectly crispy exterior includes an interior that’s pliant and neither too fluffy nor too dense. The buttery flavours are delightful and will definitely make you smile. If you like to enjoy your croissants with anything on them, get this. Unlike the Blé Sucré piece, this is probably the perfect croissant to smear with anything you like. Great stuff – even though, yes, it is clearly the most misshapen and physically unappealing croissant (possibly ever)! Score: 7.5-8
I’d heard many good things about Monsieur Colin’s croissant. But, walking up to the shop, I thought I’d perhaps gotten the address wrong, for it sits amid a super touristy stretch of Rue Montmartre in the 75002. I was sure I’d take a bite and taste nothing but hype. Au contraire. I was more than pleasantly surprised. The croissant was very buttery – but by no means wet or overdone – and with a fantastic skin, as you can see. My notes say it has a “nice flavor if you buy it early in the morning and eat immediately.”
Since I always bought four croissants at a time, notes from the later tasting of the day said that “…the flavor seemed to dissipate.” While the croissant lacks the refinement of the best days of Bread & Rose, Des Gateaux et du Pain, or Pierre Hermé croissants, it’s nonetheless tasty and a, “bigger, messier, more substantial chunk of awesome.” than those just mentioned, on their more middling days. Score: 8-8.5
Monsieur Hermé takes the term croissant “loosely,” to say the least; its form is completely uninspired. Yet, and it kills me to pump anything from Pierre Hermé, but it’s also quite delicious. Much like the skin of Des Gateaux’s piece, it’s ultra-tender and crinkly – a thing of beauty, really. The interior structure is a pretty significant departure from theirs in that it’s much more springy/light, making it nothing short of a textural joy. As you chew, it almost seems as if butter materializes from each bite and morsel as if to say, “You already thought I was delicious, didn’t you? Get ready for this…!” I can’t say the flavors beyond the butter are too nuanced, but there’s just enough subtle complexity to tip the rating up slightly. Score: 8-8.5
My friend kept telling me I had to get one of these. I’d resisted the idea only because I’ve heard terrible things about the owner/chef abusing employees. But between the croissant recommendation and David Lebovitz’s claiming they had the best madeleines in Paris, I knew I had to swing by. While the madeleines were a very pre-packaged, very stale letdown (note: you’re not allowed to buy fresh ones – even when they’re sitting in plain sight, and you specifically ask, in your most formal and polite French, if you may please have them), it turns out Meg was not joking about the croissants.
Crinkly skin, sublimely buttery interior, texturally marvelous… they were fantastic. Interestingly, there was a quite unmistakable taste of soft pretzels. Yes, Blé Sucré croissants taste a little like soft pretzels, and I love it. I’m going to deduct a half point because I think that would really interfere with slathering them in confiture or enjoying them anyway but au naturel, but they’re still spectacular. Score: 8.5
Des Gateaux et du Pain
The scent is fantastic. Butter, maillard “caramelization” and general wafts of deliciousness. The exterior is fantastically brittle, yet “crinkly soft”. Rather than crumbling in chunks, as so many croissants do, the piece comes undone daintily as hundreds of little flecks. The interior is wonderfully moist without being wet in the least. Fairly rich and fairly dense, it compresses on your lips and doesn’t spring back so much as it succumbs to their lightweight. Delicious, fun, and outstanding. Having both an expert pastry chef and an expert boulanger in the house pays dividends. Score: 8.5-9
Bread & Roses – The Best Croissant In Paris
As I bit in, the skin gave way with a mix of both big and small crumbling flakes – like a veritable “something for everybody” texture. Chew, chew, chew… wow! Not only is this little guy sublimely buttery, but there is a totally discernable taste of fresh cream. I’ll just say it again… wow. The internal texture is not too unlike Des Gateaux’s, in that it does succumb to the lips quite readily.
As if the combined taste and textural experience weren’t great enough already, it’s the aftertaste that makes the croissant truly epic. Smoky, creamy, warmly toned, and buttery. I didn’t want to eat or drink anything for at least 15 minutes afterward. All I wanted was for it to linger on my palate for…ever. While a repeat visit lacked the majesty of the first round, it was still an exceptional piece that beat-out DGedP on an average day. Score: 9