The best meal on my trip to Seoul last weekend was a lunch at Gontran Cherrier’s bakery. Some of us Singaporeans might find his name familiar. That’s because Gontran is the man behind Tiong Bahru Bakery. Unlike Singapore, Japan and Seoul are so fortunate to be the only countries outside Paris to house his namesake bakery.
I have never been particularly excited about TBB in Singapore. Overpriced tarts and sub-par quality pastries. But after reading many food blogs and seeing my friends on Instagram harp on about his namesake bakery in Tokyo, and especially how much better than TBB it was, I knew his bakery in Seoul must be sought out. This turned out to be a wise decision for every pastry we had turned out to be immensely satisfying and of high quality. It was my most unforgettable meal of the trip. And one that I proudly harp on to others whenever asked about my trip.
We got real lucky on many fronts with this bakery on Sunday. My best friend wanted to visit Coex Mall, the biggest underground mall in Asia. Desperate for something different from Myeong-dong and Hongdae, we hightailed to the other side of the river near Gangnam. It was a 13-stop subway ride away for “fresh air”.
Immediately upon exiting the station to COEX, I saw the “Parnas Mall” sign and jumped. Checked my food list and saw this unusual sounding mall contained one of the two Gontran Cherriers in Seoul. We raced to find this bakery! Luckily it was located on the same level as the train station. Parnas Mall happens to be the smallest of the three malls that lies in between retail giant Coex and the Hyundai Department Store. The mall is the underground arcade of the Grand Intercontinental Hotel Seoul.
Upon entering the bakery, we behaved like kids in a candy store and gushed over every pastry in sight. Despite our big breakfast, we were keen to try as many as possible. To our immense delight, even though some of the shelves were empty, on the other side of the bakery, fresh-out-of-the-oven bakes were being cooled on their baking trays and trolleys. Including their famed croissants. We helped ourselves to those.
In the end, between two of us, we narrowed it down to five choices. Croissant, Croque Monsieur, French Apple Turnover, Savoury tart topped with cheese and vegetables, and a Paris-Brest.
The warm Croissant was outstanding. It was everything we hoped for in the french classic. Delicate, flaky and buttery, our hearts melted on first bite. The Croque Monsieur may have been too cold for our liking but the two pieces of bread were undeniably fluffy with a crusty side. Superb.
The French Apple Turnover was such a surprise. The delicate flaky pastry did not let down and expectedly superb but it was the chunky pieces of soft apples within that made us smile.
The Paris-Brest was not only a looker; when a guy sat down next to us and saw ours, he went back to the counter to get one for himself too. But the thick luscious rich hazelnut cream stole the show.
It was a wonderful meal at Gontran Cherrier. I am still craving for that croissant. If you love your french pastries as much as me, promise me you will seek out his bakery in Paris, Japan or Seoul. You will not be disappointed. After the jump, check out more pictures of their offerings taken in the bakery.
Gontran Cherrier Artisan Boulanger: 1F Vision Tower, 25, Seoraero, Seocho-gu, Seoul; (02) 599-0225; F-2-A, B1 Parnas Mall, 521 Teheranno, Samseong-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul; (02) 3453-0225; gontrancherrier.kr
Directions to Parnas Mall:
Samseong Station (Seoul Subway Line 2) , Exit 5 or 6.
– Get off at Korea Trade Center Samsung Station
Main road bus 333, N13, N61, 146, 740, 341, 360
Non-main road bus 3411, 4434
Express bus 9414, 1100, 2000-1, 1700, 2000, 7007, 8001
Other bus 41
Town bus Gangnam 07, Gangnam 08