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pain Poilâne

I don’t think about this so much anymore, but one of the reasons I moved to Paris is that I could, whenever I wanted to, go to Poilâne and buy myself a nice chunk of pain Poilâne. Just like that. Although I’m from San Francisco where there are quite a number of excellent bread bakeries, there’s something special about the bread at Poilâne – it has a certain flavor, just the right tang of sourdough, dark and husky but with an agreeable légèreté that makes it the perfect bread for sandwiches, to accompany cheese, or as I prefer it, as morning toast with little puddles of salted butter collecting in the irregular holes and a thin layer of bitter chestnut honey drizzled all over it.

Pain Poilâne

A week after I moved to Paris, a friend and I were invited to lunch with Monsieur Poilâne and his wife. Both were lovely people and Monsieur Poilâne was animated and still excited about the bakery he’d owned seemingly forever, which was (and still is) considered the best bread in the world. (I’ve never met a bread baker who didn’t use Monsieur Poilâne’s pain au levain as a reference point for excellence.) He took out a piece of paper and a pen, and wrote down a list of places that he wanted to take me, which I thought was odd – yet rather generous – since the man had just met me.

Poilâne bread

The following week, he and his wife passed away in an accident, which collectively stunned to food world, but the bakery is now run by his daughter Apollonia, who has done a little modernizing, while keeping the esprit of the bakery perfectly intact. It’s a tough call to try to preserve what makes a business special in Paris while at the same time making some updates. There’s a careful balance in Paris: You don’t want to lose what makes a place special, but on the other hand, things change (whether we want them, or not) and sometimes one needs to breathe a bit of fresh air into a place and nudge it forward.

Poilâne rye bread

One of the reasons Poilâne was – and still is – such a great place is not just because they make terrific bread, but because of the staff. If you go into the busy main shop on the rue du Cherche-Midi, the staff is invariably friendly and accommodating. And when it’s time to go, the woman working behind the payment counter will offer you a little butter cookie from a baker’s basket, called a punition (punishment). Tip: The true fans pick the darkest ones and on the shelf where the bags are sold, there are always a few bags filled with what look to be practically burnt shortbread cookies. I like mine dark, but a few shades lighter.

Poilâne punitionsPoilâne apple tarts
pain Poilânediet tartine at Poilâne

Interestingly, the price for this spectacular bread is still some of the most reasonable anywhere and a quarter of a loaf costs less than two euros and is enough to last me two-to-four days. (I’m always surprised when they weigh it and tell me the price, and I think, “Could that really be all that it costs?”) The bread lasts at least a week and gets better as it sits; the sourdough flavor gets deeper, and while it loses some of its springiness, it’s a perfect foil for a swipe of crunchy peanut butter or a chunk of Comté cheese.

Many cafés in Paris offers two versions of the croque-monsieur, one made on standard white bread, the other, with pain Poilâne. Aside from saving maybe a bit of pocket change, I’m not sure why anyone would choose the white bread, when they could be eating a warm ham and cheese sandwich on wood-fired Poilâne bread.

Poilâne bakeryPoilâne green salads
sardine tartine at PoilânePoilâne apple tarts

But there’s no choice of bread at their café, they just have the good stuff at the tartine bar just next to the bakery, which is open early for a morning bowl of café au lait with toast…through later in the day, shoppers and regulars who work nearby to mingle on the iron stools, eating the various tartines (open-faced sandwiches) that go in and out of the blazing-hot broilers all afternoon long.

making tartines at Poilâne

When it does get crowded at lunchtime, it’s not uncommon to have the fellow at the door offer you a glass of wine if you’ve been cooling your heels a little too long. It’s one of the few places in Paris I’ve ever been offered such a gesture, and that’s completely indicative of the kind of care they give to guests. In all the years I’ve been going to their shops, I’ve never had anyone wait on me who wasn’t friendly and efficient, and personally proud of what they were serving forth.

buttered Poilâne breadPoilâne bread tartine
PoilânePoilâne with Saint Marcellin

Unlike other places that discourage guests from looking around, perhaps snapping a quick picture, or hiding what they do, at Poilâne it’s possible to go see the enormous wood-fired oven downstairs (although arrangements now need to be made in advance, since the bread bakers were having trouble getting all their daily loaves baked off with us bystanders poking around down there) and you’re welcome to buy one slice of bread, or a whole loaf, sans problème.

Poilâne flan

Poilâne isn’t necessarily a sweet shop, but they do make a classic flan, a Breton-inspired custard tart which is a local favorite afternoon snack in Paris. And if you have lunch or dinner at their Marais location (where even the lamps are made of sculpted bread!), if you’re lucky, they’ll have a tray of Paris-Brest from Jacques Genin, made just up the street.

paris-brest croissants

Named for a famed bicycle race between Paris and Brest, the ring of pâte à choux is meant to resemble a bike wheel and its interior gets filled with rich hazelnut-praline cream. I dug into one of these a few months back and had to stop eating for just a moment to let it sink in how good it was. I’m going to go out on a limb here – albeit a pretty solid one – and say it’s the best dessert in Paris, and just looking at the picture makes me want to stop writing at this moment and race on over there by bicycle myself.

Not quite as rich, I am also crazy for Poilâne’s apple tartlets and I insist that people who have never tried one do so, no matter how unassuming they might look. You can’t take it home because the minute it hits the paper bag it gets folded up in, the flaky crust starts leaving its buttery mark and will get over anything it touches. So just go outside and eat it right away. (You won’t get scolded for eating on the street in Paris, because everyone understands.) It looks deceptively simple and is pretty compelling evidence of how just a few ingredients – puff pastry, slices of apples, and dark cane sugar – can create a spectacular pastry without all the fuss.

Poilâne bread lamp

Nearly all the women who work in the shop have been there since I’ve been coming to Paris, and when I went to their newest location in the Marais, I recognized a saleswomen who’d been at Poilâne for twenty-six years, from their Left Bank shop where I used to bring them brownies, for some reason. (Which might seem odd considering that they were surrounded by some of the best baked goods on earth. But on the other hand, they remember me well.)

Adjacent to the dépôt de pain (bread counter) is the Marais branch of their café. And just like their Left Bank address, a lone woman is stationed behind the counter and forms a one-woman assembly line, a vision of efficient organization, feeding an entire restaurant of people without breaking a sweat.


When people criticize French service (which can be hit or miss), seeing how one person can feed an entire restaurant, or when two servers take care of a packed dining room, I laugh when I think about the layers of servers elsewhere in the world – busboys, hosts, waiters, and runners, all scrambling around, jumping over each other, to get the food to the tables. Patricia, who was making the sandwiches, calmly smeared bread with mayonnaise, then draped it with moist chicken breast slices, a few salt capers and curls of anchovies, then cut it into bites, slid it onto the plate, and off it went. Basta.

Cuisine de Bar at Poilâne

I haven’t tried the tartine for le régime (the diet), with fromage blanc, tomatoes, and diced cucumbers, but my previous favorite is the simplest they make: crisp bâtons of pain Poilâne spread with sardine paste, good olive oil drizzled over the top, and a sprinkling of chives. But she offered me a taste of the one which she said was their all-time most popular sandwich.

Poilâne apple tarts Poilâne tartine

Patricia took a small round of soft Saint-Marcellin cheese, cut it in half, and pressed it into the bread, then topped it with lacy Bayonne ham. After it had been under the hot broiler for a few minutes, she pointed to it – “When the sides of the ham curl up and get a little crispy, that’s when it’s ready. It has to be like that. Then it’s so good!” With apologies to the sardines, she was right.

Poilâne tartines

If you hit one of the two restaurants for lunch, you can order the formule, which includes a small green salad, a tartine, a bottle of water or a glass of wine, and a coffee and little cookie. It’s one of the best deals in town (currently around €14), especially considering the top-notch quality of the food. And, of course, the accommodating people, who make it happen at Poilâne.

8, rue du Cherche-Midi (6th)
Tél: 01 45 48 45 69


38, rue Debelleyme (3rd)
Tél: 01 44 61 83 39

[UPDATE: Poilâne changed the concept of their café on the rue du Cherche-Midi and is now Comptoir Poilâne, serving different menu items than what is shown in this post.)

(Two other Poilâne shops include 49, boulevard de Grenelle in Paris [15th], and in London, at 46 Elizabeth Street.)


Related Posts and Recipes

The Grainy Breads of Paris

Apollonia Poilâne Builds on Her Family’s Legacy (New York Times)

Behind the Scenes at Poilâne Bakery (Ann Mah)

Du Pain et des Idées

Punitions (Dorie Greenspan)

Bazin Bakery

A French Bread Obsession (Business Week)

Give Us This Day Our Global Bread (Fast Company)



    • pickyin@LifeIsGreat

    I’m pretty sure when I do get myself to Paris with my sourdough-affection-afflicted other half, I don’t even need to bookmark this post to remember which bakery/restaurant to visit. That flan almost made me fall off my chair.

    • Margaret

    I can’t imagine having access to food like that on a daily basis — heaven. How shocked you must have been after hearing about the Polaines. They sounded like wonderful people. I’m sure you’re thankful you got to meet them and so great their daughter has continued their work.

    • adrian

    Now you have made me hungry. And though lunch is good here, it’s not going to satisfy me after seeing these pictures and reading about all the deliciousness.
    *sigh* I neeed to get me to Paris again soon!

    • Magda

    You’re so right about the apple tartlet David! It has the most flaky, buttery, airy and light texture and as soon as we got it, we ate it right there, on the street. And then we went back inside for one more!!
    Thanks for reminding me of its deliciousness!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I always thought they used some really fancy apples or something, but when I saw them making them, they used just regular apples (I don’t know the variety) – but they weren’t heirloom or anything like that. I guess that’s what makes them consistent. I have made the mistake of putting them in my shoulder bag and that darned butter does soak through the paper wrapping pretty quickly!

    • Danielle

    David, what was on Monsieur Poilane’s list?

    • Heidi

    It looks absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to get back to Paris so I can try it.

    • ron shapley (NYC)

    Hi Dave… I can get a wonderful Poilane here in NYC at Agata and Valentina.. Do you think there’s a secret Poilane bakery here in the states that supplies these gourmet markets or do you think it’s actually shipped in from Paris ??? Anyway, after reading you post, I’ve got to get over there today… I really craving that Poilane toast with puddles of salty butter… Thanks Dave for another magnificent piece..

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, it’s available around the world and in fact, the bakery will ship a loaf almost anywhere in the world via FedEx for a fixed price. They also just launched a delivery service in Paris, although they’ll only make one try (since they know how difficult deliveries can be..)

      A few years ago Poilâne built a series of wood-fired ovens outside of Paris, to mimic the same process at the rue Cherche-Midi location, so the bread could be available to a wider group of people, including those abroad. But as far as I know, all the bread is made in France.

    • noell

    your posts make me want to move to France and take cooking lessons!

    • margaret

    it looks like they just opened a shop in London too…

    • Tanya @ Lovely Greens

    Mmmmm…bread porn!

    • Lillian

    As a kid growing up in San Francisco, I didn’t understand people buying sourdough at the airport to bring home. Now I do. My cousin’s French husband laughed at my always stopping to buy Pain Poilane on the way to CDG before flying home. That is, until I told him how much a chunk it costs at my local market in Chicago!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Lillian: I tell people, if they possibly can, to bring a loaf home. I bought a whole one recently for about €12 and it was huge. One could cut it into pieces and freeze them.

    (Even with airlines charging for extra luggage, it might be worthwhile to lug an extra suitcase…just to bring home extra loaves of bread!)

    • Stacy

    There is NOTHING like the bread at Poilâne. I didn’t know that they have a shop in London! I try to mimic their bread in my pitiful oven but always fall short. But nothing beats the smell of bread baking and, while not Poilâne, my bread is fresh and still delicious, sliced warm and spread with butter. We can but dream, those of us who live in Malaysia.

    • Sharon Ní Chonchúir

    That Paris-Brest looks (and sounds) so amazing. How did I never taste it when I used to live around the corner from the Poilane store on Boulevard de Grenelle? (Maybe they don’t sell it in that shop or maybe they didn’t sell it then – that’s what I’m telling myself to make myself feel better anyway.)

    • Peggy

    Perfect timing. We are going to Paris on Saturday and are looking forward to eating our hearts out!

    • Claudia

    A posting that makes me want to mortgage my cat and get on a plane to Paris – skip all the sites and move in to Poilane – any of their shops will do.

    • Sherry

    I make it a point to visit Poilane every time I’m in Paris, but I don’t go for the bread, I go for the cookies, which remind me somehow of my late grandmother’s cookies that I adored. I laughed when I read about preferring the darker ones…I always choose a bag with the more well done cookies as I prefer the taste of those, and always pick a darker one out of the little basket at the caisse. The apple tart is another must for me..a friend turned me on to them and they’re wonderful. Now my mouth is watering and I’m wishing that I were in Paris right NOW!

    • debbie in toronto

    I was surprised you could buy the bread at Monoprix…we are lucky here in Toronto…Holt Renfrew flies it in every day….

    those pictures are killer today…my stomach is growling.

    • Catherine

    First tried the bread at Rue du Cherche-Midi over 11 years ago. I saw a line outside and thought I would join it. Then I went next door to the Cuisine de Bar and had lunch. I took the bread home to where I was staying with a friend, who despite having lived in Paris for at least 4 years hadn’t heard of it. I can now buy my fix in London. The Elizabeth Street branch thankfully supplies lots of supermarkets including Waitrose. Poilane does make gorgeous toast, and grilled cheese sandwiches as well.

    • susie

    This post made me want to hurry back to Paris for a tartine…my absolute favorite lunchtime treat when I am there. You are so right about friendly service, cordial greetings, and superb food. Ah that we could get Polaine bread in the small towns in Arizona!

    • Suzanne

    Never been to the Central London shop, but they do sell Poilane bread in my local Putney & Wimbledon Waitrose…not tried it as it’s pretty expensive (just under £5 for a rye loaf)

    • Joy

    Wonderful photos!

    • Liz @ Butter and Onions

    This post has successfully made me dislike my life right now as a poor college student. =) I wish there was even a decent bakery around here to get bread like that for such a good price. Maybe I’ll just have to start making my own. It won’t be Poilane, but it might be better than anything I can get at the store.

    -Liz (lisdom on twitter)

    • Steph Cruz

    My husband will know I have been reading your blog. Once again, I will ask, “Can we go to Paris?” I have my list prepared, courtesy of your posts. Poilâne is at the top. Thank you for sharing your story and your delicious description of your favorite items from their bakery. Off to the kitchen!

    • Jillian@TheHumbleGourmet

    I’ve never been to Paris, always wanted to go, and now feel it’s imperative so that I can sample all those delicious looking treats!

    • Jennifer Moragoda

    Except for its association with the Paris-Brest bike race, never quite understood what was so special about the Paris-Brest until now.What a visual delight with the coils of beautifully piped sumptuous Hazel-nut praline cream. Made my knees get weak looking at it… Great shot. Thanks for the inspiration.

    And lovely shot of the Poilane signature loaf with its understated elegance. I have always wondered how they score the cursive P so beautifully – it must take an awfully experienced hand, but even then. Is it done with a simple lame? Were you able to see the technique for this at Poilane’s? If so, please tell….

    • Lee Poteet

    When I lived in New York the little grocery up the block had bread from Paris that was flown in every day. And you know the bread in San Francisco and Sonoma County. But this post tells me that I really need to go to Paris and lose myself in Poilane.

    • Big City Eater

    Looks great. I will have to go there while we are in France this coming year.

    • Susan Gage

    I can taste those butter cookies now…thanks for reminding me

    • Michele Yates

    On your recommendation, we tried Cusine de Bar this summer and it became one of our favorite lunch stops! This is a textbook for how great, simple ingredients prepared by people who care about food can define what it means to be in Paris! Am hosting a lunch this week and you inspired me to do tartines…now if I could only get Poilane bread in Lancaster PA!

    • chloe’

    mmmm….i discovered ur blog maybe two months ago and you already have me convinced i need to pack up my bags and move across seas haha.
    I def think you should do a recipe on the rings of pâte à choix…they look so yummy!

    :) chloe’

    • Isabel

    Oh! Proper German bread in Paris! Must remember that on my next visit to Paris. Baguette is all good and fine but after a while I miss my German bread. ;-)

    • Michelle

    have you ever seen the giada at home ep where she makes lunch for apollonia poilane? lol

    • julia crookston

    oh David, what a lovely post!

    • Stephanie

    Oh, how I love the Paris-Brest!!!!! I recently moved from Paris to Bordeaux and I cannot get that lovely pastry anywhere. Wine and canneles galore down here, but pastries are not easy to find. I will be in Paris for Christmas and Paris-Brest is on my ‘to eat’ list :) Bistro Paul Bert makes them to order and they are almost as big as a bicycle wheel. Maybe I will see you there :)

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      The Paris-Brest at Bistro Paul Bert is great, although they’re HUGE!

    • Kristin

    You’re making my mouth water for a simple tartine of pain Poilane with melting salted butter and honey, my favourite.
    I have been known to traipse across Paris for their bread (with 4 friends in tow) and even to carry it across the Atlantic just so I could enjoy it for a few more days. Definitely the most amazing bread in the world! I want some now….

    • Carol McFrland

    The only thing better than Poilane bread, is Poilane bread with Pascal Beillevaire’s butter applied with a trowel!

    • Cathy

    I have been visiting Poilane for the pst 10 years each spring when I am in Paris and love their bread, I can buy a loaf on my last day and bring it home on the plane. The apple tarts are quite wonderful as are the little cookies. A true Paris delight,

    • Stephanie

    There is a great article featuring Apollonia in the latest issue of The Gentlewoman magazine, where she talks about growing up with the family business and taking over after the death of her parents. (

    • Sarah

    Poilane was our first stop in Paris when my husband and I went 4 years ago. We learned enough French to place an order and then the wonderful woman behind the counter continued on in French and my hubby got confused. Despite the language barrier, we still got two apple tarts and a few other small things to nibble and it was so delicious and much cheaper than I expected. It was the perfect start to our trip.

    • Aimee

    I’m a wee bit confused. You mention “…which is open early for a morning bowl of café au lait with toast…” I read in another of your posts that “cafe au lait” is coffee with milk served in a bowl, always at home, for breakfast.

    So is okay to ask for a cafe au lait outside the home? I will be visiting in Dec and really don’t want to order the wrong thing! Or look like an idiot when I do…

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      You would only drink a café au lait (in a bowl) in a situation that was very familial – such as at home. However it’s a bit of an affectation, and they serve café au lait in bowls. But you would never get a café au lait in a bowl served at a café – it’s a café crème, served in a coffee cup & saucer.

    • E from the mediterranean

    Wow, what a wonderful post!
    I’ve been to Paris before a few times and ate really well each time but never heard of Poilane (my last visit was in 1997).
    Going back to Paris was not high on my list of travel destinations since that last visit, but now I feel it is imperative I go back.
    Thanks so much for sharing all this with us!

    • Ann P.

    You are such a lucky man to have rubbed shoulders with Monsieur Poilane! His shop looks amazing–I can’t believe I never visited it when I was in Paris. And that Paris-Brest looks absolutely amazing! I didn’t know it was legal to put that much pastry cream in a pate choux, but oh my goodness does it look wonderful!

    • Lien

    Thanks so much David for mentioning this place. The pictures of the open-faced sandwiches and description make me sooooo hungry and miss Paris! I have to plan a trip back there soon.
    Have a wonderful holiday season!

    • Lien

    Also thanks for explaining about the name Paris-Brest :-)

    • hillary norinsky

    In my French class we read an old article with interviews of French celebs recalling a memory of their school days. Some are quite bittersweet.The photo of Lionel Poilane shows a glowingly happy man. His recollection is of being chosen by his peers as one of their favorites. Everything about the man and his memories radiated wamth and good humor. His love of life and his work shines through. What a loss! No wonder his bread tastes so wonderful, coming as it does from such a beautiful heart.

    • Amelia

    Thank you for this mouthwatering post, yet one more reason to go back to Paris. In the meantime we’ll try to duplicate those sandwiches, at least in spirit.

    • Oui, Chef

    Unlike you, I didn’t move to Paris for the Poilane, but now that I am back stateside it is certainly the thing I miss most about living there. I was there from 2001-2003 so was a bit early for the tartine shop, but I would walk to the Cherche-Midi location weekly for a demi miche. A toasted slice with some butter and mirabelle jam was my favorite way to start the day. Glad to see that Appolonia is moving things forward without losing the magic that is Poilane.

    • French Basketeer

    I’m ready for lunch after this post, make mine a Poilane tartine please; here in SoCal Bristol Farms flies in quarters of Poilane from Paris every Thursday and I keep it in the freezer to eat by the slice. Whats-it-called the Belge bakery also has their version here but it’s simply not as good as Poilane.

    • Licia

    David, this reminds me that, right after I moved from Paris 25 years ago (I used to live rue d’Assas, a short walk away from the original Poilane and the line that went around the block to buy their bread), I was so distraught at not being able to purchase it any more. There was this woman from Chicago who started flying Poilane breads into the US and sold them for something like $30 a quarter loaf. I purchased a few times, and am sure that I was not her only client… I still miss their apple pies and am so nostalgic of the little store rue du Cherche-Midi. The next best thing in the US has to be Trader Joe’s Pain Pascal, but it is pale in comparison to the original.
    Thank you for bringing back all those memories.

    • Frances Mercer

    Indeed, David! My husband and I brought several of the petit pain on the plane ride home, and surprisingly, some actually made it to our house. Haven’t made it to Cuisine de Bar yet, and that’ll be for the next Paris trip. Thanks for the post !!

    • Leslie

    didn’t have time to read through all the posts, but don’t know if you know they have just opened a bar de cusine in London…. behind Peter Jones in Sloane Square! How lucky can we get? And it is totally fabulous looking as well…

    • Gina

    Back in the ’70s my companion and I had the privilege of being invited to watch the bakers at work at the wood-fired ovens. It’s true, everybody there was so courteous — what a contrast with the way we were treated in most places in Paris!

    • Victoria

    Hi. Love this post! I am making my first trip to France in April. I am celebrating my 50th (Oh God!) with my sisters. I can’t wait to try the amazing food. Thank you for sharing your amazing experiences.

    • Brittany Rose


    • Shari

    It is so lovely to see a place that takes pride in what they do. And do so very well! Wow. And the light fixtures! I have no words, -I will just bow my head to the masters. They are truly gifted. And I am in awe of their hard work and dedication. I am so frustrated with the indifference that is shown in the quality of food and services by so many people. I’ve become afraid that people don’t know, -or care! about the difference between good food and bad. Your posts are a breath of fresh air, and a tribute to the high standards we should all strive for.

    • tifany

    what’s a ‘classic flan’? we see a pic of flan w/ no caramel? “Poilâne isn’t necessarily a sweet shop, but they do make a classic flan, a Breton-inspired custard tart which is a local favorite afternoon snack in Paris.” Thx for the blog!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Flan in France is a derivation of the Breton far, which is a solid custard baked tart – which sometimes is baked in a crust. I don’t know why they call it that but perhaps far means custard in Breton (I don’t speak Breton!) so it’s different than what is a Spanish or Mexican flan, served with caramel sauce.

      In French, a caramel-sauced unmolded custard is called crème renversée, or “reversed” cream, or crème caramel.

    • Margie

    Some people dream of gold or diamonds, I dream of having a loaf of this bread.

    • Annika

    Wonderful post – thank you!

    • Anne

    Oh you’re killing me. What I wouldn’t give at this moment for a toasted bit of Poilane rye studded with currants, or just the regular miche!

    • Paula

    Just returned home from Paris two days ago. We had the Paris Brest at Jacques Genin, and I must say that I agree with you on that one. It was spectacular, and the best pastry this trip. Pain Poilane is wonderful, complex bread, but one must not overlook their Viennoiserie. The croissants are the best I’ve had. Am now counting the days until next year’s visit. Thanks for all the great posts. They certainly help me get through the year!

    • betty

    I saw this bread on tv and I was amazed, it looks really good and you should feel so lucky when trying this unique things!

    • John

    We went to the Poilane in the 15th a couple of years ago (it was close to where we were staying), and the bread was great. I first heard about Poilane when I was very young and checked a book out of the library called The Breads of France by Bernard Clayton, Jr. It was written in the 70’s, but I recently found it on Amazon in the US. It has a story about the author’s encounter with Mr. Poilane, and it sounds familiar to yours; maybe that was just how the man was. Anyway, it also has his pain aux noix and pain de campagne recipes in it. Both are great, and although they don’t taste quite the same as in Paris, they are a reasonable substitute for an American with limited travel funds. I make the nut bread often; it is one of my favorites.

    • kale @ tastes good to me!

    I drooled while my husband stared silently at your post. Nothing makes him miss his food culture more than thinking of la variété de pain. And as for the café, he cracks me up because every day he makes himself a latté (even with the questionable cream I mentioned on your half-and-half post.) He can’t get enough cream! Then from the moment we’re on French soil until the day we’re back home, it’s “un p’tit noir”, as if he’d never even considered pouring a milk product into his coffee. Old habits… :)

    • Janet

    It was interesting to read this post about Poilâne’s Cuisine de Bar, because it wasn’t at all like my experience there. I went when my mom was visiting me, and I think we must have done something really gauche, because, after we’d finished eating, the waiter completely ignored us. We kept trying to catch his eye to ask for the check, but he kept pointedly not looking at us. We even tried to get the attention of the woman behind the counter making the tartines, but that didn’t work, either. It was even stranger because there were at least 3 little dogs running around the seating area, and the poor waiter kept almost tripping over them.

    That being said, the tartines are absolutely delicious, and their apple tart is one of my favorites!

    • Kathy in San Jose

    It’s been 10 years since we were last in Paris. One of the first things we did was find a large pain Poilâne, which we ate our way through the entire week we were there. It was the perfect food for breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner, with just butter, or a simple bit of ham and lovely cheese.

    The Saint-Marcellin/Bayonne ham tartine looks delicious. Now I’m hungry!

    • Leslie

    re my earlier post, I meant to say that Poilane has opened Cusine de Bar in London, on the road behind Peter Jones in Sloane Square, London. They still have the bakery as well. Haven’t had the tartines, but did have a lovely coffee late in the day, and the interior is just lovely, both contemporary and somehow, romantic (all the tree paintings and prints) Poilane bread is available in the Waitrose supermarket here and other places around London. Well Bread in Los Angeles makes a fabulous loaf of bread — and lasts well (though not like Poilane.. ) if you are in LA …..

    • Kiran @

    I need to fly to Paris. Like, right now :D

    • Italian Cooking Adventures

    I wish I were in paris right now!!

    • Natasha

    I’ve never been comfortable with the rumours of Lionel’s Front National affiliation….Obviously this is neither here nor there now so long after he died, but in the 1990s I used to avoid buying Poilane in Paris. Now I have to say there is other bread I prefer in Paris, though I do love those little punitions

    • karin

    on another subject, david , you have mentioned an arrondissement in paris that has a couple of up and coming restaurants…i think the same could be said for the arrondissement if i am remembering right. can you tell me which it is? is verjus one of the places or am i confusing things.
    your loyal fan

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, it is the same arrondissement, the third. Verjus is elsewhere in the city.

    • Katie

    Hi David! I am so enchanted by the bread at Poilane! I learned of it from one of my all time favorite bakers years ago while at culinary school. I’ve never had the opportunity to try it, but that will change soon. A fantastic little cheese shop near my family’s home in Williamsburg, VA now sells 1/4 loaves and next time I’m home, I’ll happily pay the $10 to try the infamous loaf! It won’t be nearly like trying it in Paris, but a distant second that I’m happy to settle for, for now!

    Love your blog.

    • Jenny

    The Poilane website has a wonderful recipe for apricot bread on their website — love the little drawings illustrating how to make the bread….

    • Dan

    I was surprised and even a little relieved to hear raves about the famous Poilane. My experience is the disappointed one that others may have had upon buying sliced, bagged ‘pain Poilane’ in the Carrefour or Shopi or whatever and finding it … stale, pretty much like every other sliced, bagged boule in the supermarket. I had assumed it was a good name gone bad, and stand happily corrected.


      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve bought Poilâne bread in the supermarket and found it good, but I think that perhaps some supermarkets don’t rotate their stock properly. So I would check the expiration date for sure, if I wasn’t certain.

    • Glenn

    Wow! Perhaps it’s because I’m a breadhead this is one of my favorite posts you’ve ever done. I’ve got some serious bread envy goin’ on, and here I sit on the wrong side of the pond!

    • Jenny

    Yes, this is one of my favorite posts too — mouthwatering….and it has to be my first stop in Paris next year….

    • Norine

    I think one could time it such that you could have several meals there in one day… I’d sure like to try it. Breakfast pastries followed by open faced sandwiches. Question: those sandwiches look a little messy – do you scoop them up like pizza or do you fork and knife it? In any case I am game. Sigh….

    • Sarah

    I don’t actually *read* many blogs, but I read your blog and I feel transported every time. Thanks for making reading about food so enjoyable.

    • Steve Hansen

    Got to meet Poilaine in New York. I will never forget it!

    • Chaumierelesiris

    Do those buying in London (Pimlico shop or Waitrose) think it tastes as good? It tastes good, but, somehow, never quite the same to me as in Paris. Is it the water? Or just the ineffible Parisian ambience?

    • Claudia

    My husband spent a summer in Paris while doing an etage in a very fine hotel, however he stayed with some friends who live near Blvd Grenelle and ALWAYS had the Flan Tart around, the story is that he always entered the house and went straight to the kitchen to get a slice (or maybe two) of Flan from Poliane and then he said hello, that’s how much he likes it. This summer my daughter went to Paris and visited our friends who sent my husband some cookies from Poliane in lieu of Flan, it was the most thoughtful gift.

    • Nisrine

    This is a delicious post, David! The bread in photo 3 looks especially amazing. Thank you.

    • Dolcie Myrold

    Wow, wow, wow! My favorite post so far! I loved everything about it; the gorgeous photos, the description of the butter and bread, the experience of it all. “Bread is the staff of life” for sure.

    • Always Wright

    What wonderful photos! My husband and I LOVED the bread in Paris better than any we have ever had anywhere. Can’t wait to get back (someday hopefully) and sample some more! It’s late Friday night and my mouth has been watering just reading about the delicious breads and melted salted butter! We’ll be sure to visit some of these places. Thanks for the tips!

    • Yvonne

    David, your writing is so lyrical and transportive. How do you suppose they are able to shape the apple tart dough like that? It almost looks like croissant dough. Thank you for giving me a window into Paris until I am able to go see for myself!

    • Sally

    I’m crying in my coffee right now as I read this–what I’d give for a slice of Poilane bread. How serendipitous that you met the Poilanes just before they departed this earth. There are certain iconic people who just trudge away creating something remarkable yet humble (cannot get more humble than a loaf of bread) for an entire lifetime! Just goes to show how that kind of love and care put into something can elevate the ordinary to the sublime. Very nice story, David.

    • Julesy Stoy

    Mmmmhh, this post is amazing! I am planning a trip to Paris next year and can’t wait to visit Poilane :)

    • Emy Koster

    I’m a really big fan of bread. Growing up in Holland leads to two meals a day usually consisting of bread. The dutch make pretty good bread but the best I’ve ever had was definitely in France. The next time I’m in Paris I am so going past this little bakery to try it out for myself. There’s just nothing better than a delicious slice of bread and a wonderful topping. Have a great weekend!

    • Jamie P

    Oh my goodness, the Paris Brest looks amazing. It is my favourite dessert in the world. Although, the first one I tried was from the bakery at a Carrefour. It was good nonetheless.

    • Gale Reeves

    Thank you so much for writing this post. I am returning to Paris in June, and I cannot wait (!) to visit Poilane. Per your comment, I am so excited to imagine that I might see and photograph the downstairs wood-fired oven after proper requests.

    • Isabel

    David thank you, you’ve so cheered up this glum Sunday morning in Stratford upon Avon, where I am no longer sitting with an elevated, iced and painful foot following surgery. Oh no!

    After a morning bowl of steaming cafe au lait and brisk walk (ouch!) in the wintry Parisian sunshine, I am standing in line at Cuisine de Bar, waiting for Patricia to create for me a cheese and crispy Bayonne ham tartine. Mmm…..Oh, excusez-moi monsieur, I’m next! Bon appetit! xx

    • Gregoire Michaud

    Lovely post… reminds me of fond memories!! Paris bread scene is awesome, yet I still think that the best breads are being baked outside of the capital! ;)

    • Lisa | Dust with Flour

    The Poilane attitude demonstrates how a generous spirit is returned in heaps. Thanks for this lovely post.

    • Sweet Freak

    Mmm mmm mmmm. Even though I’ve been in San Francisco for 24 hours, eating the most lovely and divine food, this post makes me wish I were in Paris right now. I love Cuisine de Bar’s tartines. And I love that you moved to Paris just for Poilane!

    • Maya

    Hi, I ate the Poliane bread in Paris and though I am not a sourdough fan, it was a wonderful quality bread. However, I read before I left for Paris that a Croque Monsieur which is my faveorite thing to eat in Paris is not good on Poliane, too crunchy or wrong flavor and I tried it and have to concur. If I am lucky enough to go back to Paris (I’m in Hawaii) I would have my croque on plain baguette aloha Maya

    • Anna

    wow. i love when you do posts like this, that just take me out of my little oregon apartment to a wonderful parisian bakery. the writing, the photos, reading it was a wonderful experience.

    • Liz

    Poliane Bread is my favorite. I love to toast it put a little olive oil and rubbing garlic on it, some tomatoes.. mmmmm. I have a weakness for carbs and especially just eating fresh Poliane Bread.

    • Bob Sickles

    A few months ago, we started getting the Poilane bread shipped to our market in New Jersey every week and it’s become like a cult favorite here! I personally take home a fresh one every Thursday. By Saturday we’re toasting it (it’s decadent with a little butter), Sunday it’s French toast, Monday we make a Panzanella salad with a good olive oil, fresh tomatoes, red onion, and basil. That usually lasts a couple days in the fridge. If there’s anything left after that, we just make some croutons or bread crumbs to store in our pantry. I don’t know how we ever lived without it.

    • Evie

    I love the bakery on rue du Cherche-Midi. In London we are lucky enough to have had a Poilane bakery on Elizabeth Street SW1 (Belgravia) for several years where they bake the bread in wood-fired ovens. They also bake small quantities of the best brioche in London, if not the world. A few weeks ago they opened a Cuisine de Bar nearby at 39 Cadogan Gardens SW3 (Chelsea) which I plan to visit next time I’m in the area.

    • Ilke

    Lovely, simple, appetizing… You are so lucky to be able to taste these beauties…It is sad about the owner and his wife. Life definitely changes in a second.

    • paule caillat

    I had the privilege of being good friends with Lionel Poilâne, and visited twice the “manufacture” in Bièvres, 30 minutes south west of Paris, where an average of 6000 “miches” daily are made in 24 wood ovens identical to the original, but newer, by three shifts of specially trained bakers. Lionel insisted that this was not a factory, no shorcuts allowed to shorten the hand made five hour process.

    As for the “front national” suspicion, it concerns the half brother Max. Visitors to Paris, make sure to buy Lionel’s bread, either at his bakeries, good cheese stores or Monoprix. Max Poilâne is distributed by Franprix, not to be confused, though the recipe is similar.

    • Lewis Wood

    Try their pain aux noir – superb

    • Tina Wong

    When I visited Paris last spring (it was my first time) and went to Poilâne twice during my week-long stay. First time, I just scouted what they had to offer and picked up a few delectable butter cookies and the second time, it was the day before my departure back to NYC.

    I actually brought back with me the entire hefty, round loaf on the plane (just like the one you’ve photographed – the first photo). My best friend looked at me like I really lost my mind when I dragged it through airport security in my carry-on. When I ate it when at home, it’s so different and unique than all the other breads in NYC, especially that thick, craggy crust.

    • Maya

    This spring was my second trip to Paris. I love the food, the bread the pastries and the whole experience of being in this iconic city. My fave experience beside food was a free concert at the Notre Dame Cathedral. As we say in Hawaii, ‘chicken skin” aloha

    • parisbreakfast

    How delicious!
    This is the wrong post to read when you’ve skimped on breakfast and it’s time for lunch and yr in New York not Paris…
    Really the bread here is nothing to write home about in most cases..
    Now to go forage for something even remotely similar to wolf down!

    • Eileen @ Passions to Pastry

    What a beautiful post on Poilâne. (Have your posts made others cry, too?) I am also amazed that I see the same women behind the counters that I saw on my first visit to Paris in the 90’s. I was able to visit Paris again this past September, and every morning I went to Cuisine de Bar for a massive (!) bol of café au lait. I bought several slices of bread my last day, and my first morning back home in St. Paul, I briefly felt like I was still in France with buttered Poilâne toast and my killer flat-white cappuccino. Oh… I also bake my rolled or sliced cookies to the point where they are nearly burnt. As you know, they taste best that way!

    • jean-charles

    Excellent tip for lunch and I just fell off my stool when I took my first bite in my St Marcellin-Bayonne Tartine…Thank you

    • Calogero

    Very nice photos :-).

    • Simon Cave

    Dear David, This post made me want to move to Paris immediately…


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