2-2/1 Soi Convent, Silom Rd. 02-631-0355.
Open daily 7am-10pm.
The Setting: La Boulange offers both indoor and outdoor dining in cheerful, if somewhat sterile, bistro-like surroundings. Blackboards with the day’s specials are offset by a generous use of brick and checkered tablecloths. People-watching opportunities abound out front, as long as diners are willing to put up with sweltering heat.
The Selection: The loaves of bread are prepared daily at their bakery on Rama 3 Road, then transported to Convent Road every morning, where they are warmed again. On any given day, around 11 types are on offer, ranging from the mini retro, or white bread (B15), to the hefty boule campagne (B120).
The Taste: Although in need of some warming, the bread is consistently good, with a crunchy, floury exterior that belies a soft and chewy center. The popular montagne, or sourdough (B72), is perfect for a midday sandwich, while the campagne (B60) could happily accompany any soup bowl in town.
The Verdict: For good, tasty consistency, it is hard to go wrong with La Boulange, with its welcoming atmosphere and extensive French bistro menu. But the selection could be more extensive and bread could come warmed.
Le Notre at Natural Ville
G/F, Natural Ville Executive Residences, Lang Suan Rd. 02-250-7050-1.
Open daily 6am-10pm.
The Setting: The venerable French institution comes to town with a flagship restaurant decked out in enough natural wood, dark marble and glass to make any Bangkok grande dame feel at home. Service treads the fine line between unobtrusive and solicitous. Three other branches are located at Emporium, the Sofitel Silom hotel and Siam Paragon.
The Selection: Le Notre, which bakes all its bread on the premises, offers a heftily priced country baguette (B60), an old-fashioned or brown bread loaf (B80), crunchy white tabatiere (B80) and sourdough (B80). However, the offerings still weigh on the scant side when compared with rival bakeries.
The Taste: Made daily upstairs, all bread sports a crunchy, flour-dusted shell and a dense texture within. The sourdough long and round loaves are most popular and bear just a hint of tartness. Bread is always served warm and the Lang Suan restaurant is popular with executives and families alike.
The Verdict: You can’t beat what is on offer. While the surroundings are tranquil and the bread tasty, breadophiles with an eye for the exotic should turn elsewhere for more adventurous offerings. You may need to order one day in advance, too.
The Oriental Shop
G/F, Siam Paragon, 991 Rama 1 Rd. 02-610-9845.
Open daily 10am-10:30pm.
The Setting: A bright space on the ground floor of a busy shopping mall was the latest branch to open at the end of last year. Some tables are available for diners, but the shop appears to do a brisker takeaway business. Two other branches are tucked away in the Central Chidlom and Emporium shopping centers.
The Selection: The Oriental Shop offers on average about 12 types of bread, from the tiny mini baguette (B20) to the hard-to-find dark Bavarian rye (B80). The Belgian (B53), meant to showcase pate, is also a rare find, as is the slightly sweet brioche loaf (B33).
The Taste: Strangely, the baguette manages to be chewy both inside and out—unusual for those hoping to get a traditionally flaky loaf. A better bet might be the popular muesli loaf (B80), a dark bread sprinkled with the ingredients of the morning cereal and a rarity in rice-eating Thailand.
The Verdict: The Oriental Shop certainly has variety, so diners would do well to try out the more difficult-to-get types such as the sesame (B30) and sunflower (B30) mini-loaves.
309/3 Nanglinchee Rd.02-818-2700-6.
Open daily 10am-10pm.
The Setting: The bakery for expats in the know or young Thai yuppies-in-training, Folies proves that even in easygoing Thailand, the unique French style of service can be contagious: the main shop features frugal surroundings, while the Alliance Francaise branch sports a pared-back restaurant.
The Selection: A decent range of breads comprising around 10 types on any given day, including the perennial favorite French Stick (B33), the Italian (B35), the Paysanne (B50), the honey wheat (B22) and the pre-sliced honey bread (B50).
The Taste: The baguettes are perfectly made with a pleasant, crunchy texture and yeasty fragrance, while the Italian is cheerfully chewy and the whole wheat robust enough to placate any health-food lover.
The Verdict: Good enough to warrant braving the traditionally surly service. Go early in order to avoid seeing particular favorites out of stock for the day.
Carrefour, on the corner of Rama 4 Rd. and Sukhumvit Soi 26. 02-661-5580-4 ext. 123.
Open daily 9am-11pm.
The Setting: Not a place for lingerers, Carrefour Bakery is set up for the housewife on the go: a corner packed with baked goods also lends a glimpse into the state-of-the-art kitchen, where chefs can be seen industriously pounding or patting creations into place.
The Selection: The most extensive selection surveyed, Carrefour offers at least 15 varieties of bread on any given day, including two kinds of baguettes—the rustique (B27) and the French (B23), country sourdough (B59), hearty French Village (B70) and the bacon sourdough bread (B60).
The Taste: Freshly made every day, the Carrefour baguette has a chewy texture and a rather tough crust that could deter those with less-than-strong teeth. The buttery croissants (B45 for four) are more widely acclaimed.
The Verdict: A convenient location geared toward people in a hurry, Carrefour Bakery ensures Bangkok housewives have their very own place to buy freshly baked baguettes. Their sweet goods may prove more popular.