The first thing to know about Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie, one of two new eateries at Epcot’s France pavilion, is that it is a full service, working bakery. You’ll see, behind the counter, some of the bakers and cast members preparing baguettes and sliding them into the massive ovens. Or maybe torching some creme brulees to be placed in the display cases.
What you won’t see is the industrial, state-of-the-art equipment that is part of the newly constructed two-story addition to the pavilion. There are massive mixers, huge cauldrons, and the largest pressure cooker I’ve ever seen. There are proofing ovens, machines that roll out the dough and sophisticated devices that control the temperature of the water that is to be added to the flour and yeast that will become the iconic baguettes of France.
And yet there are still some things that must be done by hand, such as shaping the dough into long batons of brioche for the sandwiches, as several cast members were doing when I snuck a peek inside the facility recently. I wasn’t allowed to take any photos in the “backstage” kitchen, but I can tell you I was impressed with the extent -- and expense -- that has been taken to produce as authentic a product as possible.
It shows in the items that I tasted, none better than the simple baguette I took home with me and enjoyed with some cheese. The outside was hard and crusty and the inside was fresh and fluffy.
The brioche that my Dinde B.L.T. was built upon, was softer and fresh tasting. The sandwich had the requisite bacon, lettuce and tomato, but also turkey and aioli. The bread was good, but I think I prefer the crusty baguettes (certain sandwiches are made with certain breads, and as for now there are no provisions for sandwiches by request).
I also sampled a number of sweets and pastries, including a creamy and flaky Napoleon; a parfait aux fruits with yogurt mousse and raspberries two eclairs, one chocolate and one vanilla, both wonderful; mousse au chocolat; and a chocolate cake that was impossibly rich. It’s a good thing I don’t have a sweet tooth or I’d be in big trouble with these pastries (emphasis on the big).
The menu also includes two soups (lobster bisque or pumpkin currently), croque monsieur (no croque madame), salads and quiches.
But I think my favorite item was the pissaladiere, a pizza-like device with a base of bread similar to focaccia topped with slices of tomatoes, black olives, and a bit of gruyere cheese. It was so fresh and the flavors of the toppings, which included some fresh rosemary, just popped in the mouth.
Les Halles is classified as a quick-serve restaurant (available on Disney Dining Plan as quick service/snack credit). Guests line up in a central queue then go either left or right at the counter -- the same items are available and displayed in a mirror configuration in either direction. Once you pay for your purchase, you may carry it to one of the indoor tables, either with chairs or standing at one of the counter-height tables, or if you’re lucky snag one of the few outdoor tables in the courtyard. The indoor dining area is in the space next to the gift shop that guests go through when exiting the pavilion’s movie attraction (how convenient!).
Beer and wine are available, and get this: guests will have access to the bakery in the morning before the World Showcase opens for a morning pastry and, if desired, a mimosa.
Besides making tasty things for tourists, the boulangerie is now producing the breads that are used at Chefs de France and Monsieur Paul, the other new restaurant at the France pavilion that replaced Bistro de Paris last month. (Read my review of Monsieur Paul here.)
Les Halles, which of course is named for the district in Paris known for its shops and eateries, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Prices range from $3.50 for a mini baguette with bacon and herbs to $9.25 for the assorted cheese plate.