I embarked on another food quest this week, deciding on a whim to dig out one of my (embarrassingly numerous) “to try” lists and settling on a little boulangerie I’ve been meaning to visit for at least two years now.
The boulangerie in question is the Circus Bakery in the Latin Quarter, specialist purveyors of organic sourdough bread – and, according to the digital grapevine, The Greatest Cinnamon Buns Of All Time. Okay, I’m paraphrasing, but that was certainly the gist of what I’d heard/read. However, as we all know, you shouldn’t trust anything you see on the internet, so, being the smart and savvy woman I am, I thought I’d better investigate for myself. Seemed the only sensible thing to do.
As with my mission to taste what was (falsely) rumoured to be one of Paris’s best croissants a few weeks ago (the food was a little disappointing, but the day was perfect), part of the point of the outing was to go for a nice long walk. Wandering around this city is plenty rewarding in itself, but I like to give myself an objective (and I’ll take any excuse to sample delicious new food). So I quickly googled the pedestrian route to the Circus Bakery just before setting off – and it’s a good job I did, because a little notice at the top of the search results informed me that I was actually supposed to place my order online before going to collect it. Hmm. Interesting.
It seemed like an unusual requirement – and what happened if you didn’t look the place up in advance? I wasn’t prepared to take any chances with my cinnamon hit, though, so I did as I was told, obediently filling out the order form – even if it did feel a little daft, online shopping for a single bun.
I balked a little when I got to the price; 6€ seemed kind of steep. Was I inadvertently ordering a whole cinnamon loaf? There wasn’t an alternative option though, no little drop-down menu offering me the same in miniature, so I grudgingly keyed in my card details, hoping the hype was justified this time.
Fifty or so minutes later, I arrived on Rue Galande, a narrow, cobbled street just around the corner from my beloved Shakespeare & Co., and a couple of minutes’ walk from Notre-Dame. I managed to walk past the tiny, inconspicuous shop front twice (yes, in both directions) before I succeeded in locating it by quite literally following my nose – or, more accurately, the tantalising scent of cinnamon wafting out through the open door. The wooden facade bore no name or sign to indicate that you were in the right place, but there was no doubting that heavenly aroma. I stepped inside, armed with my order number, and claimed my bounty from the friendly team of two manning the shop. The brown cardboard box I was handed was pleasingly warm – an excellent start – and also small enough to confirm that I hadn’t ordered some kind of XXL bun after all. Better be bloody good then.
Hurrying in a race against the heat rapidly evaporating through the bottom of the box, I made my way to the Seine, finding a flight of stone steps and descending to the quais, where I installed myself on the edge of the riverbank. The view was lovely (Notre-Dame on one side, with the scaffolding mostly obscured from my line of sight by the waterside trees) and it was a warm day, with a pleasant breeze – thank goodness, because I had dressed for autumn, having awoken that morning to heavy grey skies. Now, however, it was sunny with a smattering of fluffy, white clouds against a blue backdrop; the tights and boots had transpired to be somewhat unnecessary.
Okay, I’ve set the scene. Now back to the main event: the food.
I opened the box carefully (no way was I sacrificing 6€ of snack to the Seine)… and all but gasped out loud.
I kid you not, the thing was a work of art.
First off, it was no loaf – but as far as single servings go, it was large. And like no cinnamon bun I’d ever seen; shunning the classic swirl, this one had more of a lattice-type design, apparently achieved by wrapping thin strips of dough around the bun in different directions. Or something along those lines. I don’t know what I’m talking about. Take a look for yourself.
Anyway, I might not be any kind of authority on the process, but I can certainly attest to the outcome. And that outcome, dear reader, is bloo-dy marvellous. I mean, you can tell at a glance, really. The shiny, golden glaze, the abundance of sweet, cinnamon stuff top, bottom and oozing out the sides. And then you take a bite, and your teeth sink into this pillowy, perfectly-baked bun, somehow managing to be surprisingly light and airy, whilst also unequivocally one of THE most satisfying mouthfuls I have taken of anything, ever. Oven-warm, incredibly fresh and impossibly soft, with slightly crisp edges and a delicious, sticky sweetness (without being even a tiny bit sickly), I truly savoured every. Last. Morsel. In the most overt sense of the word – i.e. with closed eyes and lots of audible “mmm”ing.
Although I did have to keep my eyes open towards the end, after I noticed a pair of seagulls, one either side of where I was sat, edging towards me in what looked suspiciously like some kind of pincer movement. Recalling my first experience of the delicious Breton speciality, the kouign-amann – sat on a beach in Saint-Malo with an old friend, I was halfway through my gorgeous little gâteau when one of the bastard birds swooped down and plucked it straight from my hands – I clutched the cinnamon bun tightly and glared at the gulls. Might possibly have told them to “piss off”. Out loud.
So I think my verdict on this fabled cinnamon bun is probably pretty self-evident by this point, but to avoid any doubt on the subject, I cannot recommend this place enough. Worth every single cent of that 6€. Easily. Although I’d better hope their free bicycle delivery service doesn’t extend quite as far as my neighbourhood. That could be very dangerous indeed.