I can’t believe this is only my 9th instalment of Travel Tuesdays! I first started this to make sure that I was diligent about uploading and sieving through my travel photographs, but I’m afraid I’ve yet to stick to that goal. I have to admit that sometimes, when I do look through my photos, I too am surprised by what I see – photographs do tend to record things that you never did notice ;p
As I have alluded to here
, I went up to KL on a short impromptu trip over the Vesak Day holiday weekend, and the aim of the trip was to stuff myself silly with good food. And that I did. I always have this ‘list’ of places to eat at for almost every destination that I want to visit, so it’s no surprise that I’ve got a very lengthy list for KL, which I regard as my third home, after JB and Singapore.
High up on the list was two places – Levain Boulangerie for the breads, pastries and cakes, and Les Deux Garçons for their French entremets. I was not disappointed at each place. Maybe it’s because I’m looking at the prices with a ‘Singaporean’ eye, but everything was so darn cheap! Cakes per slice in Singapore cost anything from $6 up, so for a cake to cost in the vicinity of RM10 was a pretty good deal for me.
Sadly, I didn’t get too good photos of LDG’s cakes or the place itself, because it was pouring cats and dogs and I didn’t take my camera with me. The cakes didn’t make it back well either, but suffice to say that they are really good! I was very impressed with the care they took in the packaging and the entire look of the place, although I do hope that they come up with some new cakes by the time I return to KL in August because there were probably about 10 types of cakes and tarts in the counter and when I asked, they said that this was all the variety that they had and the flavours don’t change. Huh.
So back to Levain. Levain is my kind of bakery. It’s one of those large homey refurbished colonial houses, or ‘cottages’ as I would like to call them, and the entire place has been renovated (for a cool million I heard). It actually reminds me of MANY such places in Australia, which have these types of bakeries in abundance, and not so much European/continental bakeries. I was half expecting for Levain to let me down in some aspect, because it sold everything – warm food, breads, pastries, cakes, and even macarons! But…I must say that I am pretty impressed on the whole! I went with a huge group of relatives, so I was able to try just about everything. Their beverages, pastries, pizzas, spaghetti, soup, cakes, macarons, breads – ALL CHECKED! Everything was more than passable, and I was very impressed with a few items.Let’s go down to the nitty gritty shall we?
When you first walk into the bungalow cottage, (you first have to get pass the problem of very-hard-to-find-parking), you will be greeted by the cashier and the bakery proper on the left. On the extreme left, lies the bakery which contains the stone oven which they use for their breads. Mind you, I see normal commercial ovens too, so I suspect only pizzas and the crusty continental breads get their baking in the stone oven.
I liked the self-service aspect of it – if you’re just getting the breads to go, you can grab a tray, then head to the cashier to pay up. If you’re looking for a seat, I’ll recommend you looking for a seat first, noting down the number and going down to order. There’s seating downstairs and upstairs, inside and out. The view differs from room to room, so take your pick! You can (or have to) ‘chope’ your seat with a ‘reserved’ tag before making your way to get your food. As for warm food and beverages, they’ll be served to you, so be sure to remember where you are seated. Water and other cutlery are available at counters in each room.
Onto my review proper. For the clueless, levain actually refers to a starter that French bakers used in their baking. And this is perhaps the selling point of this bakery, that all their breads make use of this special levain, or natural yeast as they like to call it. I personally prefer the term sourdough, but well, to each his own. Admittedly, because I was there for the ‘levain’ items, I was quite disappointed to see a very small variety of actual European-styled breads. I guess that’s mainly because Malaysians still like their soft and sweet buns, so European breads, which tend to be crusty, can be pretty hard to sell. Besides, other than the usual baguette, I’m sure more than half of the patrons probably have no idea what European breads I’m referring to.
I tried the ’natural yeast’ baguette, which I asked them to slice and toast for me. I didn’t quite like it – although it was nicely crisp and all, I expected a slight tinge of sourness or at least some complexity in the taste of the baguette but… nothing. It was a very flat taste, and very reminiscent of normal yeasted baguettes, so I was disappointed that their levain didn’t taste good enough. But mind you, I am comparing to the baguettes that I had the privilege of eating in France, so it is perhaps an unfair comparison. The baguette was good, just not great.
As for the other breads, I read that the bakers actually come up with at least 4 new items each month, which is really impressive! I managed to snitch bites of a couple of other breads, such as the walnut ring thing that you see in the background in the photo above, as well as other ‘japanese’ style soft sweet breads. The breads were pretty much standard, and the prices were quite hefty (at least RM 3) for each, but I guess we’re paying for the experience? A good bet however, would be their sandwiches. They have quite a few varieties available, and the portions are enough for one for lunch.
As for the pastries, I liked them :] I had the croissant, the almond croissant as well as the danish pastries (the sultana one). I liked that they used the yeasted versions of these pastries, and that each layer/lamination was very crisp and well done. The almond croissant was really good – I liked the almond paste on the inside – it didn’t reek of almond extract, and the sweetness was just right. Same with the other pastries.
As for the macarons – MAJOR GRIPE. WHY WHY WHY do they spell them as macaroons? For a bakery to name themselves after something French, it is unacceptable that they got the spelling of MACARONS wrong! It’s not macaroons for goodness sake! GAH. I certainly felt that it was incongruent to sell French confections and not know how to spell them properly >.<
I can’t remember the exact price of each macaron, but I was told by my cousin that the macarons here are quite costly as compared to other places. However, they are also one of the best. So I guess you’re paying for good quality stuff! Levain has approximtely 15 flavors on sale each day, and out of those I tried, I was pretty impressed with the strawberry, which had fizzy candy to give it an extra pop. The other flavors were good as well, not overly sweet and overwhelming, and all very well done. I was impressed also with the fact that the feet were nicely frilled for most of the macarons and the sizes and filling quite uniform across the board. Thumbs up!
As for the cakes, I had the Noisette (Hazelnut Dacquoise, Dark 62% Mousse, Chocolate Flourless Cake, Pralinosa Mousse), Mango Passionfruit tart and Raspberry Pistachio Cake. I’m not sure if those are the exact names for the latter two, but I can’t seem to find them on the website any longer. They probably are out of season by now. In any case, no loss if you want to try them because out of the three cakes I tried, I was most impressed with the Noisette. You can probably give the other two a pass since the raspberry tasted very sugary and fake, as did the pistachio (there just wasn’t enough real pistachio) and the mango-passionfruit quite normal. I tend to prefer a crispier and more well baked pate sucree, so the tart crust was below par for me. Nevertheless, I think each cake cost me RM7-9, so it was pretty cheap and value for money! Do try the noisette – I really enjoyed the praline mousse and the hazelnut dacquoise – I thought the layers were very well balanced between chocolate and hazelnut.
As for the other hot meals, we had two pizzas, which are available from 12pm to 8pm, and we had spaghettis and soups as well. The pizzas start from RM14 for medium sizes and RM20 for large sizes. The large is probably enough for two people for a meal. Very decent prices, and you get to choose whether you want a thin crust or a ‘roman’ thick crust. The bottom pizza picture shows the thick crust. Really pretty good stuff!As for the soups, I had the minestrone and mushroom, both to dip the sliced baguette in, nothing too fantastic to rave about, but nothing below average either. Their spaghetti was pretty good – I had the spaghetti in arrabbiata sauce, and the sauce was nicely hot with chilli padi and the spaghetti nicely al dente.
So all in all, Levain gets my two thumbs up! Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the vicinity, and if you’re a tourist, the place is just off Jalan Imbi, but it’s quite a fair walk (especially under the harsh sun) and I’d certaintly recommend taking the taxi there if you can afford it. It’s a great getaway in the middle of the city, and definitely a novel experience :]
Levain Boulangerie & PatisserieAddress: 7 Jalan Delima, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Opening hours: Mondays to Sundays, 0730h to 2100h
Price: $ (starts from RM3 for a bun)