296 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7JH
Let’s start from a maison de qualité. Trust me, this place does not try to be fancy. It’s just good. Paul is like life should be: warm and embracing.
I have tried different Paul’s stores, but this one is my favourite. Step into the shop and take a couple of seconds to marvel at the colours behind the counter. From the red of the strawberries, the yellow of the lemon tarts to the green and pink of fresh ham and salads. Raise your head, the staff will always be smiling at you.
Take a seat in one of the café’s corners, possibly the one next to the window on the left. And observe.
At Paul’s, you can allow life to slow down for few minutes, take a deep breath, allow the custard of the strawberry tart to melt on your tongue, and look outside the window…everybody else rushing around. But not you this time.
Paul summarises the best qualities of French small cafes. Fragrant smell of fresh croissants in the morning, soft pasties and nice, hand made bread. It is elegant but not pretentious, the sounds and smells never intrusive. I choose to open my blog with Paul because it is suitable for every mood: should you need some time alone, should you be willing to recall nice memories with an old friend, should you need to concentrate on your next job application, Paul is always the right place to be.
Choose according to the time of the day:
For a filling breakfast: a croque forestier
This is a very nice and not particularly light toast filled with emmental and mushrooms and topped with grated melted cheese. The smooth, soft emmental inside balances the crispiness of the cheese on the outside. The mushrooms are a delicate kick.
Strongly advised if you have a log day ahead around London.
For a light lunch: a salmon tart
Spinach and salmon match beautifully in this small and delicate tart. The pastry is crunchy but light. Strongly advised for a quick but rich lunch.
For a nice afternoon tea: a strawberry tart
Personally, I do believe this is Paul’s flagship. If you are from the south of Europe, it comes a time – maybe rarely in London – when you need to feel home. If you are English, it comes a time when you want to feel in some old café, in old Europe, far away from London bubbling city. This is your emergency exit. Have a strawberry tart at Paul, close your eyes and travel to some small Italian or French ally, in Florence or Paris. It is a convenient return ticket that won’t disappoint you.