* Edited 10/3/2014 – this restaurant has since closed
I watched with interest as the Cho Pain, French boulangerie on Davie Street, underwent some changes. First there was a lovely striped wall that seemed to take about three weeks to get right, then the table configuration changed to add a bar at the window for perching and people-watching, and then seemingly overnight the front counter was a beautifully striped brown veneer. Happily, the pastries remain the same: incredible. If you love flaky, delicious baking, this is where to eat in Vancouver.
Where to eat in Vancouver for the Real Thing
Cho Pain is a small shop, and not geared to rambunctious children. A single line of tables for two, together with the tables outside on the sidewalk, makes up the group seating. The flat glass case along the counter is right at preschooler eye-level, which elicited much oohing and aahing from my tea companion. My son is well-acquainted with the benefits of behaving in Cho Pain, and so our tea and croissant moment went well.
The pastries taste of butter and flake in that lovely but inconvenient way that signals you’re eating the real thing. Neighbourhood favourites are the pistachio and almond flavours, though I tend to veer towards the chocolate – they use such a good quality chocolate it makes you wonder what everyone else puts in theirs.
Pass up the Macarons for the Gorgeous Cakes
The tea is Ahmad, which I had never heard of but tastes like actual tea, and they serve that rarity of rarities, a decaf English Breakfast. Like any good local Vancouver cafe, they serve 49th Parallel coffee.
With the redesign has come a macaron stand. They are not as perfect in appearance as others I have seen from French-made Baking in Mount Pleasant or Thierry on Alberni, but I tend to think macarons are overrated anyway. If you were looking for a gift to bring someone, a bag of croissants from Cho Pain, or one of their gorgeous cakes, would be a much better return on investment.
Cho Pain is where to eat in Vancouver for a quick treat with a little one, and a lovely place to while away an hour or two watching people walk by on Davie. They are busiest on weekend mornings, so plan to take your pastry to go and head for Nelson Park around the corner.
Cho Pain Boulangerie
Erin McGann is the former Managing Editor for Vancouver Mom and Toronto Mom Now. She drinks just a bit too much coffee, is a bit obsessed about sourcing local food, plays the cello moderately well, spends too much time on Twitter, keeps honeybees on a rooftop, and has a thing for single-malt whisky. Erin is working on a novel set in turn-of-the-century Vancouver, which her husband, son and dog have to hear about all the time, and also blogs at Erin at Large.