Who doesn't know Paul? This famous cafe that opened at the entrance of Gemmayze more than a decade ago. In 2002, a group of passionate entrepreneurs got the franchise, seeking to bring to Lebanon a fine quality of bread imported directly from France and here it was, only the second franchise after Morocco.
If you ever tried Paul in Paris or anywhere else, you will know that the bread's taste and quality is essentially the same all around the world. Quality, taste, menu, decoration and spirit follow strict international standards with the flour and ingredients all imported from France. The history of PAUL is the story of one family’s love of good food and passionate commitment to the best traditional baking methods over more than 100 years. In 1889, a small local bakery opened in Croix near Lille in Northern France. Four generations later the PAUL's name has become known throughout France and, increasingly, around the world. As of August 2011 there are over 436 franchised Paul bakery/café restaurants (326 in France and 127 in 24 other countries).
Searching for Lebanon's best bread producers, Paul was definitely on the list. Mrs. Lina Lteif, managing the group behind La Mie Doree pastry, Balthazar restaurant and Paul bakeries tells me the secret: “Today, Paul Lebanon has seven branches, the latest being the one on Bliss. The strategy is clear: Import all raw materials from France and try to always have a kitchen at premises. Bread is prepared and baked to be delivered fresh to the consumer. On a daily basis Paul’s bread is prepared three times a day. The morning bake, the noon bake and the last one before sunset. Customers walking in to buy a fresh product that follows international standards.”
A lot of other bakeries were not happy with me visiting the backstage. Paul, on another hand was happy to welcome me around the baking area. I was invited to walk inside the kitchen where bread is freshly baked using natural yeast and premium flour. Everything is clear, all my questions were answered while I took all the photos that will make me happy. Transparency is key.
The bread is prepared the old fashioned way, with a knowhow that started back in 1889 using natural ingredients, natural yeast and high grade flour (Type 65) which is distributed to the four corners of the world.
Even though I’m not a big fan of its hard texture, one cannot deny its success. The bread has a subtle, fresh smell that clearly shows the fine quality. Handmade three times a day, Paul is indeed one of Lebanon's artisanal bakers.