I’ve lived in Canada almost three years yet sometimes I still can’t help but feel like a whinging expat. I’ve noticed the negativity can creep in around the tail end of winter, and maybe also around this time of year, when Australia Day is approaching (Jan 26) and I know my mates back home will be enjoying beers in the sun. I’m combating any looming negativity this week by focusing on something that Vancouver does VERY well — delicious baked goods!
I’ve had to rely on Dan, the real croissant connoisseur in our household, to explain the finer points of difference at some of these establishments. So without further ado, whether you like flaky croissants, melt-in-your-mouth cookies, or decadent cakes, here is our list of the best places to ruin your diet:
Really, there is no competition. Since we first stumbled across the amazing “OMG” chocolate-baked creations at the West End markets in 2012 and subsequently discovered their Whistler location at Function Junction, there really hasn’t been an equal to PureBread. We can’t help but think our near weekly trips to this bakery over the past three ski seasons — and our passionate descriptions of our finds to friends — was the sole reason behind the company’s decision to open additional locations in Whistler Village and now Vancouver. Try a cherry-cheesecake-brownie, or a slice of salted caramel cake, or the well-named “crack”. Go on, have the whole lot. We won’t tell.
Extra points go to the new-ish Vancouver location for adding an espresso machine and understanding how to make flat whites correctly! (I’m looking at you, Starbucks). However, after two trips in the past two weeks, I have to say that I think for overall quality and consistently, the Function Junction location in Whistler is still hands-down the best (and their slow-pour coffee is pretty good too!).
This is almost a tie. For croissants and other French pastries, this little slice of heaven on the corner of Fir Street and West 6th Ave wins hands down. There simply isn’t another location in Vancouver that consistently delivers flaky, buttery perfection quite like Beaucoup. They are only in the number 2 spot because overall, Purebread’s remarkable diversification in the baked goods field takes it to the top spot.
Special mention must go to Beaucoup for their chocolate almond and praline pistachio croissants — according to our in-house croissant connoisseur, these are a rarity. And it’s even harder to find almond pastries that don’t taste like articifal flavouring. Merci!
3. Bel Cafe
A little gem hiding under your nose in downtown Vancouver. Chef David Hawksworth’s casual dining outfit delivers great coffee, delicate macrons, and pretty awesome croissants. Popular with inner-city workers and tourists alike, this cafe wins extra points for creativity with the delightful seasonal items like Eggnog Lattes (not eggnog flavouring — made on actual eggnog) and twists on old favourites like Valrhona Dark Chocolate Chunk cookies and PB&J macarons. Sometimes it sounds gross, but so far I’ve been lucky and everything has been delicious.
4. Bake My Day
A fairly new addition, but it gets bumped into the top 5 for its truly delicious croissants. It does not help that this bakery is just near our gym… we tend to walk right past on the way home, as the croissants are coming straight out of the oven. It’s all about balance, right? The buttery, flaky croissants are divine, but we haven’t actually tried anything else yet. TBC.
5. Cadeaux Bakery (tie)
London Fog, Tropical, Chocolate Praline, Lavender Mocha — the cakes at Cadeaux are as creative as they are superb. Every time I’ve ordered for a group or birthday, there have been nothing but rave reviews. The Powell Street location can feel slightly out of the way if you are coming from downtown, but it’s worth the trip. The savoury pastries are very tasty but alas the traditional croissants were not as flaky and delicate as the ones from the bakeries listed above — still pretty darn delicious though.
5. Tartine Bread & Pies (tie)
I’m a sucker for Tartine’s tarts and sweet pies — particularly the bite-sized treats that are just too delicate to resist (lemon meringue, anyone?). Even though this bakery is tucked away under a residential tower on Beach Avenue, it always seems to be packed. Yet to try croissants/pastries but it’s definitely a good find! I have tied with Cadeaux as the items tried at both locations are quite different — I can’t honestly say the cakes at Cadeaux are better than the pies at Tartine, and who am I to compare apples with oranges?
Terra Breads: I love good bread and without sounding too much like a whinging expat, it’s bloody hard to get in North America (almost all commercially packaged bread has added sugar — not a common ingredient in European/Australian bakeries). Thankfully, the bread at Terra Breads is made in-house and delicious. I am less enamoured with their sweets and pastries, but definitely some of the best bread you can find in Vancouver. Locations at Granville Island, Olympic Village, Kits, and Mount Pleasant.
Finch’s Tea & Coffee House: Some of the best (and ok, biggest) chocolate chip cookies I’ve tried. And I’ve tried a lot of them. The baguettes are great for lunch.
Thomas Haas: Controversially, this is not in our top 5! I’m not going to lie — I haven’t personally visited Thomas Haas. I know, I know. But as mentioned, Dan is the big croissant fan in the house, and personally scouted out the Kits location to give his verdict. And? The almond croissants were not super fresh and — he says — overrated. However, we have both heard that original North Van site is better (where the goods are baked) and I’ve heard nothing but good things from other Vancouverites, so I guess I’ll just have to check it out for myself.
Thierry: If you like very rich French desserts and decadent hot chocolates, this is definitely the place for you. I personally can’t spend $8 on a hot chocolate without feeling like it should come with gold trimming and am not so big on gooey desserts, however, this is pretty much the only “late night” spot for decadence.
Soirette Macaron & Tea: About a million flavours of macarons to choose from and some pretty inventive ones at that. Worth a stop for a cup of tea and sweet treat.
I know there are more delicious bakeries out there, so tell me, what have we missed? Where should I scout out next?