• In France, a patisserie is a bakery specialising in cakes and sweet
    treats where artisans spend years perfecting their craft. South Africans have a looser interpretation, but there is no denying that we’re developing a discerning sweet tooth


     While feather-light croissants and delicate pastries are not to be scoffed at, macaroons are the calling cards of many top patissiers in Paris. Customer preferences for certain brands of pastelcoloured, airy egg white and almond rounds can have similar status implications to favouring one couture house over another. Renowned French pastry chef, Pierre Hermé’s fame for macaroons sees his flavours change with the seasons.

    Patisseries Gérard Mulot and Dalloyau Lenôtre are not to be ignored, while Ladureé’s Paris shops and tearooms are known as much for their exquisite pistachio packaging as for the edible treasures inside. That’s all well and good for traditional flavourings such as rose, pistachio, coconut or orange. But macaroons in olive oil, white truffle or caviar flavours? “In Europe they’re making macaroons with black truffle, wasabi or balsamic vinegar flavours,” confirms Glenda Lederle, owner of The Patisserie in Illovo, Johannesburg. “I can’t see that taking off here. I wouldn’t like to eat it. And I like to sell what I like to eat.” Glenda modelled her fabulous packaging and window displays on European patisseries, but says South African customers have different preferences. Europeans typically shop for bread, fruit tarts and pastries daily, while South Africans view sweets as an occasion.

    “Our local shops also focus more on cakes, rather than the pastry side. Stand-alone patisseries struggle in South Africa so most serve savoury meals on the side,” she explains. French patissier Daniel Bourguet set up shop in Cape Town to familiarise locals with quality pastry at reasonable prices. “At Ladureé you’ll pay R50 for a macaroon,” he scoffs. “My philosophy is that it’s not about money buying a fancy display area, but about the product.” Johannesburg foodie and regular Fx contributor Susan Greig volunteered in the pastry kitchen of Harrods in London a few years ago and is not surprised by South Africans’ renewed interest in all things sweet.

    “There is a big trend towards comfort treats such as beautiful scones, or lemon meringues which are very sixties. It’s nostalgia,” she says. “Old favourites are reassuring because your granny or mother used to make them. In a disposable, high-tech world it endorses your past in an emotional way.” For Danielle Postma of Moema’s in Parktown North, Johannesburg, the rise in local patisseries is thanks to South Africans raising their expectations through travel. “People have seen what’s available elsewhere. Our world-class food magazines also help. As a pastry chef, easier access to quality ingredients means better products. My former boss in London used to send us Callebaut chocolate – now we get it here. The supplier of our free-range eggs plays classical music to her chickens and even stamps each egg with ‘Moema’s’! Now that’s attention to quality,” she says.

    Danielle says London patisseries are rejecting trends and honing their best lines using only top-notch ingredients. “London patisseries aren’t involved so much in food fads as in making a tart or pastry item simple and glorious. At Baker and Spice in London, where I worked previously, they do croissants really well and won’t compromise on the brand of butter used to make them.” Many South African venues are really coffee shops serving tea and bakes, rather than typical patisseries with delicate pastries and cakes displayed. But as long as quality and skills are improving, and appreciation of pastry and tartlet skill is growing, we’ve cottoned on to a delicious thing.

    Pastry pioneers

    3 De Lorenz Street, Tamboerskloof, Cape Town, 072 989 7897. My first introduction to Frenchman Daniel Bourguet’s craftsmanship was being handed a croissant after aromas lured me inside a modest shop. “Would you like a taste?” the baker asked. Flaky and light from all-butter pastry and a 300- year-old recipe, it was fantastic. “It’s the French way of ensuring customers come back,” he smiled. And it worked. As a repeat buyer of well-priced croissants, mini lemon or chocolate tarts, or stillwarm leek or tomato and mushroom quiches, I’ve watched other surprised first-timers receive free pastries.

    Established in 2006, everything at the patisserie is baked from scratch daily. Aside from real butter (his brand is a secret), only vegetarian ingredients are used. Daniel worked as an apprentice patisserie chef for six years at Pâtisserie au Croissant d’Or in Paris from the age of 13, so he’s used to days beginning at 3am. “French customers say I make the best éclairs in town: chocolate, coffee or raspberry,” he says shyly. “I make macaroons only when I have time.” Croqueen- bouche profiterole towers are a speciality he makes to order.

    5 Bellevue Road, Kloof, Durban, 031-717-2780. Lucy Horsman is a talented self-taught pastry chef who loves sweet, pretty things. She set a new trend as the first Durban café specialising in patisserie in 2004, and she’s now expanded into a separate cake shop in a modern space that incorporates decor stores and florists. “We’re famous for petits fours and celebration cakes,” Lucy says. Croissants, Danish pastries, macaroons and fruit tarts are yummy, while her popular decorated biscuits and mini-cakes appear in shapes from babygrows and rattles to wedding dresses and high heels. Lucy’s designs change with the seasons, so spring 2008 includes narcissus flower cakes in white and green.

    Shop 24, The Post Office Centre, Rudd Road, Illovo, Johannesburg, 011-268-0044. Owner Glenda Lederle modelled her patisserie on the gorgeous tearooms and pastry displays of France when she opened shop in 2003, roping in Hilton Amsterdam-trained pastry chef Mandy Voudouris to execute her vision. Signature cakes include a chocolate chiffon and berry Queen Elizabeth cake, Queen Victoria sponge and cheeky Prince Harry square chocolate cake with liquorice sweets. At the pastry end, you’ll love crème patisserie fruit tarts, macaroons and petits fours. Glenda’s eye-catching packaging is almost as popular as her sweet treats. A 2008 addition was leopard fur profiteroles with alternating white or dark chocolate dots. “We try to have one different item available all the time,” Glenda explains. “The lemon drizzle cake is another flavour of the moment.”

    The Piazza, Parliament Street, City Bowl, Cape Town, 021-469-9750, www.josephineboulangerie.com. Stepping into the feminine decor of this aromatic space, you would be forgiven for expecting to find a chocolate-loving girl called Josephine with a penchant for pink, as the website states. Josephine seems to be a tantalising myth created by Congolese owner David Rwaytare, but young Toulouse-trained pastry chef and baker Cedric Lacombe has been delivering the baked goods since the shop opened in late 2007. He starts early so you’ll miss him if you arrive after 8:30am. A variety of croissants (almond, chocolate and raisin) are served alongside miniature fruit tarts including the usual styles such as apple or lemon, plus a “Congolese” confit apple tart – Cedric’s invention – with almond cream, honey and coconut.

    Shop 1, Parktown Quarter, cnr 7th and 3rd Avenue, Parktown North, Johannesburg, 011-788-7725. Danielle Postma qualified at the Leiths School of Food and Wine in London, overcoming splitting cream cheese icing for carrot cakes. She’s advanced significantly since those days, eventually working as head chef at Baker and Spice in Chelsea, London. Back in Johannesburg, Danielle opened Moema’s in May 2007, training her partner Mike Caudle to assist with baking that happens on site. The display window is a regular source of customer salivation, and Danielle enjoys seeing passers-by stop in their tracks. Specialities include the brioche and a flourless chocolate fudge cake with three layers. “We don’t do croissants yet as I’m still perfecting them,” explains this purist. “But we make a butter-based brioche round with vanilla custard, bananas and crumble. We’re also known for our galette pastries with fruit and crumble on top.”

    Find more irresistible pastries at…
    • Bread In Love, 100 Ridge Road, Umhlangha Rocks, Durban, 031-561-4140. Expect good chocolate croissants.
    • Bonaparte Flannerie, 11 Central Park, Platinum Crescent, Marconi Beam, Cape Town, 021-552-8381. This gorgeous patisserie and chocolaterie offers a wide selection including classical gateaux, flans, tartlets and pretty petits fours.
    • Der Zuckerbäcker, Shop 18 Dely Road, Hazelwood, Pretoria, 012-460-7773. Specialist in German confectionery including bienenstich (a layered custard almond pastry) and fruit flammen (custard with fruit).
    • Fournos Bakery, Dunkeld West Centre, cnr Jan Smuts Avenue and Bompas Road, Dunkeld Johannesburg, 011-325-2110. Delectable croissants and Danish pastries. For other branches, see www.fournos.co.za.
    • Gabriella’s Pastry Shop, 15 Tide Street, Knysna, 076 845 6409. Italian Gabriella Bozzini is self-trained so cakes and pastries look a little home-made, but petits fours, florentines and petits choux taste good.
    • Hollandse Bakkery, Shop 20, La Lucia Mall, La Lucia, Durban, 031-572-4079. Try the bee stings, apple Danish and croissants.
    • Ile de Pain, The Boatshed, Thesen Island, Knysna, 044-302-5707. Giant macaroons, fruit tarts, delectable lemon brioche and croissants are world-class.
    • Jardine Bakery, cnr Bloem and Bree Street, Cape Town, 021-424-5644. Flaky croissants, bacon croissants, French apple tartlets and brownies.
    • Le Fournil de Plett Bakery, Main Street, Lookout Centre, Plettenberg Bay, 044-533-5899. The best almond croissants within a 30km radius. Lemon and chocolate fondant tarts and quiche Lorraine too.
    • Nice on 4th, cnr 14th Street and Fourth Avenue, Parkhurst, Johannesburg, 011-788-6286. Carla Edgar focuses on large cakes and cheesecakes but also sells mini fruit tartlets, croissants and petits fours.
    • The Bakery of Buenos Aires, Linden Centre, 39 7th Street, Linden, Johannesburg, 011-782-2765. Argentinean owner Tulio Retyk makes feather-light brioche, croissants and Danish pastries, as well as almond or lemon tartlets and caramel-sandwiched alfajores.
    • The Bread Basket, Shop L40, Sandton City, Sandton, Johannesburg, 011-783-9053. Excellent baklava and biscotti. For other branches, see www.breadbasket.co.za.
    • The Sweetest Thing Patisserie, St Georges Street, Simon’s Town, 021-786-4200. Doreen Alcock’s café offers delicious fruit tartlets, éclairs, mini lemon meringues, quiches and pies.
    • Vanilla House, Suite 4, Gladstone Road, Durbanville, 021-979-0307, www.vanillahaus.co.za. Sisters Gayle and Cordon Bleu-trained Angie have expanded from wedding cakes into a patisserie. Chocolate truffle cake, wedding and fruitcakes, exotic cheesecakes, biscuits, petits fours and tarte Tatin.


    Be sure to check out any of the top Parkhurst restaurants.