Le Petit Four Patisserie serving little wonders of pleasure
When I was in France, I was bowled over by the pâtisseries, offering delicate beauties that were truly culinary works of art. Sipping a creamy cup of cappuccino while savouring a freshly baked croissant or a slice of the rich, decedent opera cake was indeed a heavenly experience.
The term "le petit four" (direct translation in French means "the small oven") actually refers to a small bite-sized confectionery or savoury appetiser. The word "pâtisserie" on the other hand is more than a fancy name to describe French pastries and the shops they are sold in. Do you know that in France and Belgium, the law restricts its use to bakeries which employ licensed maître pâtissiers (master pastry chefs). This is necessary as only well-trained hands can execute many of the intricate pastries and cakes flawlessly.
Located along Beach Street, Le Petit Four Patisserie is popular among locals as well as tourists. This is one of the places to visit for instagrammable pâtisseries. The freshly-baked pastries, buns and artisan desserts do not only look appetising, they are scrumptious and can be highly addictive.
Here, its top-notch croissants (plain or with almonds) literally fly off the shelves. Go early to avoid disappointment, especially on weekends.
Undoubtedly, the croissant is the heart and soul of French pastry. The recipe calls for an insane amount of butter, added into a dough while folding and refolding it multiple times over. This gives the croissant a heavenly, airy texture and buttery, rich flavour. The golden crispy exterior crackles with every bite, giving way to a soft interior that is delightful to taste.
There are various theories as to the origins of the croissant. One version suggests a Viennese origin. Most food historians agree that it was August Zang, an Austrian artillery officer who founded a Viennese bakery – Boulangerie Viennoise in Paris in the 1800s. A croissant was then referred to as a kipfel. Today, the croissant has become one of the most popular pastries in French bakery tradition.
Le Petit Four offers other pastries as well. The display glass counter is laden with freshly baked goodies as well as artistically crafted desserts. Together with your choice of a beverage, taking time to indulge in these pastries and appreciate their beauty, flavours and textures. The culinary experience should not be hurried. Besides the cinnamon buns and apple pies, scones seem to be quite a popular item as well.
If you love desserts, you might would want to savour a chocolate éclair or a slice of "tarte au citron" (lemon tart). The shell of a classic tart is filled with a zesty lemon cream, topped with meringue. It has the right balance of flavours successfully controlling the sharp taste of the lemon. In a few bites, all is gone too soon!
Once so very often, there is always something new at this pâtisserie as the creative team would conjure up new offerings. Its "Forêt Noir" (black forest in English) dessert reinvents the classic black forest cake. The chocolate glazed cherry-looking dessert is even adorned with a white chocolate snow flake, reflecting the festive season. With such attention to detail, it can be almost painful to cut into the "cherry". Encased within is a cherry compote, kirsch namelaka, Guanaja chocolate mousse and feuilletine. Expect nothing less than perfectly-crafted desserts at Le Petit Four Patisserie.
Another beautiful fruit-shaped dessert one should order is the "Lemon". Here, a white chocolate shell coated with a lemon yellow covering wraps a whipped Yuzu ganache with a lemon and mint insert. The zesty flavours of lemon take centre stage, making this a refreshing choice. Good to note that the pastry chefs here have elevated desserts to the next level.
There are many sinfully indulgent desserts to consider (e.g., mille feuille with lime ganache and raspberry compote, strawberry shortcake (light and soft vanilla sponge with silky vanilla chantilly) or vanilla éclair toped with carmelised hazelnuts and pecans).
Having too much of a good thing can at times reverse the pleasurable experience. Gorging down one dessert after another is not advisable. It is best to order one or two and enjoy them slowly, allowing the flavours to dance on your palate. I definitely recommend sharing. You can always return to sample others. As I age, I realise that my cravings for sweet things are gradually diminishing. These desserts would have satiated the sweet tooth cravings of my younger self.
On one of my birthday dinners, I ordered a variety of desserts from this French élan and my guests were intrigued by the level of artistry and combination of flavours each had to offer. These memorable desserts were the highlight of the evening.
From its humble beginnings along Hutton Lane, Le Petit Four Patisserie relocated to its current location in Beach Street in August 2018. The high ceiling and white walls welcome diners to an airy interior, anchored by dark coloured furnishings. The glass counter, showcasing offerings of the day, makes it easy to place orders, just by pointing to your heart's desire. This is convenient for takeaways as well, although pastries should be enjoyed fresh, while they are still crispy.
The driving forces behind the thriving business are Le Cordon Bleu Paris patisserie graduate Ooi Hooi Shing and Elveen Tai. Together with their team, they continue to strive for excellence, offering delicious, quality creations. This is also mainly due to the use of top-grade imported ingredients. The theatre-style kitchen, tugged away at the left back corner of the dining hall, has tall glass panelling allowing diners to gaze at how the wondrous desserts and pastries are being made.
Life experiences, culture and tradition inspire their creative endeavours. The founders have their hearts in the right place, focused with the single aim of bringing pleasure from the lips to the heart.
Le Petit Four Patisserie
310, Lebuh Pantai, George Town, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang.
T: +6016 409 3918
Opens daily from 9:00 am – 6:00 pm except Wednesdays and Thursdays
Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah
© All rights reserved
27 December 2021