Paul is a greedy chap: metropolitan cool and rustic charm, he wants it all. On the one hand, the latest outlet of this patisserie chain is a warmly-lit café with chunky oak ceiling supports and crusty French sticks stacked in the window. On the other, it is a wannabe Palais de Versailles dining room, decked in dark wood panelling and faux oil paintings. The glowing black-and-white frontage, meanwhile, makes you wonder whether-deep down-Paul might prefer to be a posh Plaza 66 boutique when he grows up.
Despite arriving in the Shanghai Centre only in October, Paul is already grown up. The Paul brand dates back to 1889 and already has several well-patronized outlets around town. Time has transformed a family-run bakery into a multinational bread-making venture and appears to have bestowed both wisdom and ennui. The simplicity of the sit-down menu indicates Paul knows to focus on his strengths. The options are all variations on what customers can buy from behind the walk-in bread counter-and are reliably delicious and reasonably priced (40-50 RMB). The salads that accompany the stuffed baguettes and sandwiches, however, are on the hesitant side of an afterthought.
A 45 RMB afternoon-tea menu buys a range of coffee and cake combos, and appeals to many of the Europeans who live or work nearby. Despite the delusions of grandeur, Paul clearly hasn’t lost his lovable homemade charm.