Original is a fantastic new bakery with an enviable pedigree, located on the south side of Tianmushan Road between Huangushan and Yugu Roads in a cozy cutout near the tiny river that flows past Dragon Stadium. The baker, Louie has a long history of baking extremely authentic and high-quality breads, working for Baker & Spice (by Wagas) in Shanghai and for bakeries in Hangzhou, and if you’ve sampled some of the better breads and pastries around here in the past you’ll probably have had some experience with the amazing things he’s capable of creating.
Louie treated us to a variety of the things he’s been producing lately. My personal favorite is the simpler and more straightforward stuff, like his buttery croissants; don’t get me wrong, I love a chocolate or otherwise flavored croissant but there’s something pure and essential about the most basic form, not the least of which is you can add your own accoutrements according to your own standards (I like toasting a croissant and putting an omelette on it). His baguettes 法棍 (16RMB) were perfectly crusty on the outside and had that perfect spongy softness on the inside, and one of my favorites—reminding me of home, as my father is an accomplished breadmaker—a fantastic sourdough! Another benefit to the essentials like sourdough, croissants, and baguettes is that the quality of the ingredients really shines through and they aren’t concealed by layers of sugar. Louie uses some of the best stuff on the market.
The Sourdough 发酵面包 (35RMB) in particular was a big thrill for me though, as good, proper crusty bread like this has generally been elusive in China and is absolutely necessary for making the best possible sandwiches. It’s something we take for granted in America but it’s still a bit of a rarity and a luxury here in Hangzhou and I’m so happy Louie is helping to popularize it. If you aren’t aware of the process involved in making sourdough it’s a traditional process that involves fermentation of a flour and water culture fermented for many hours at a low temperature (30 hours for sourdough, 20 for Pain de Campagne, 12 for his baguettes), does not use standard yeast, and was actually the traditional way of making bread in Europe for much of the middle ages. Personally, I value it for things as simple as buttered toast or things as elaborate and divine as a Reuben sandwich.
Novel to me was that Pain de Campagne 乡村面包 (25RMB), a French sourdough that predates the baguette and will definitely be finding its way into my sandwiches in the future. For both of his sourdoughs, they’re only available Friday to Sunday, but if you reserve a minimum of two loaves you can get them any day of the week.
Finally I don’t want to overshadow that this bakery has a delightful cafe to get you in the door and sticking around! To go with our coffees, we started with the Sea Salt Cheese Cake 海盐芝士 (32RMB), a delicious Cream Puff 泡芙 (“choux à la crème”, 18RMB) and Cannelé 可露丽 (13RMB). Louie told us that in the future he’ll be offering a Croque Monsieur sandwich, and while I may be a proud American (at least where sandwiches are concerned) I have to admit that the French really knocked it out of the park with that one.
This place is fantastic and I will definitely be back.
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