There is something of the Midas about pastry chef Dominique Ansel, creator of the world famous Cronut, a croissant-doughnut hybrid filled with flavoured cream.
This award-winning chef’s creation drew snaking 6am queues at Ansel’s New York bakery, Time Magazine dubbed the Cronut “one of the 25 Best Inventions of 2013,” and it even tempted a supermodel to eat carbs.
Heidi Klum, famously gave a box of Cronuts their own seat on her private jet, flying them from New York to her home in Los Angeles.
The Cronut is to Dominique Ansel, what Layla is to Eric Clapton, one of their greatest hits.
In 2016, he brought his eponymous bakery to south west London, opening on Elizabeth Street, between Belgravia and Victoria.
He has continued to produce some of the most admired sweet confections in the industry: the cookie shot, frozen S’more and a Blossoming Hot Chocolate.
Cronut flavours at the bakery rotate monthly. The February Cronut – Yorkshire Rhubarb and Honey Ganache with lemon zest sugar – is every bit as lovely as it sounds.
The French chef lives by the maxim: ‘Don’t let the creation kill the creativity’ and perhaps that is why there are no Cronuts on offer at his latest venture, Dominique Ansel Treehouse, an all-day cafe which opened in Floral Street, Covent Garden last week.
A second UK outpost in this central London location makes smart business sense, riding the wave of a fresh and exciting Covent Garden foodie scene, that has gathered pace in the last five years; perfect for diners seeking culture, adventure or shopping ‘up West.’
Perched on the corner of the smart, redeveloped end of Floral Street, a magical woodland entrance with a bird box and fairy lights greets you upon arrival.
A rope tree trunk separates the bakery counter from the service area on the ground floor of the two storey space.
The views over quaint, cobbled Floral Street from the treetop canopy upstairs are delightful, as is the romantic, ambient yellow glow emanating from the filament lamps.
The menu is divided into small and larger plates, designed to showcase the variety of artisanal techniques of the pastry chef, often the unsung hero and the heartbeat of a professional kitchen, producing short crusts for pies and tarts, fresh-baked breads, flaky puff-pastry and delicate handmade pasta.
A glorious aroma announced the arrival of the bread basket to our table.
It’s a clever curation of breads. The warm chunks of homemade 24hr sourdough were my favourite, made all the better when spread with a creamy cultured Edinburgh butter, whilst the crisp snap of seeded Carta di Musicabrought a crunchier texture.
Joining this generous assortment were buttery brioche and crusty ciabatta – classics done well – served with black & green olives and very garlicky olive-oil foccacia, studded with tiny pieces of the soft brown bulb.
We opted to start with cream of plum tomato soup en croȗte.
This soup is a joy. A classic with a twist – like suit by designed by Paul Smith, whose iconic store is just a stone’s throw from the Treehouse.
A masterful golden-brown pastry crust covered the top of a white porcelain tureen, bringing to mind nursery rhymes – where four-and-twenty blackbirds might burst forth.
“Break the crust inward with your spoon,” advised our delightful and attentive server, Gala.
We duly obliged and were rewarded with spoons of unctuous soft pastry, soaked into the delicious steaming, amber liquid.
The consistency was just right. Seasoned to perfectly balance the tomatoes with woody thyme and mellowed by a splash of Cognac.
Next came burrata served with three radishes – a revelatory way to dress the rich cheese of mozzarella and cream.
The wafer-thin slices of crunchy radish, so vibrant and fresh they could have been plucked that morning from Mr McGregor’s garden, were accompanied by a gossamer light dressing of olive oil.
Crisp sourdough crostini added some requisite bite.
Any dish on a menu that begins with the word ‘pillowy’ begs to be ordered and pillowy gnocchi with a mimolette & comté sauce, confit ligurian lemon with parmesan was no exception.
The elegant cushions of smooth gnocchi were the perfect foil to cut through a sauce made with some of France’s punchiest cheeses. Bursts of warm citrus from the confit lemon and fine shavings of parmesan rounded it off nicely.
From the larger plates, we opted for a French bistro classic: roasted baby chicken with lemon & garlic rub.
This dish certainly ticked all the boxes. Tender and well-seasoned, it was served with baby roast potatoes and a bacon studded stuffing, perfect for a freezing February night.
Before dessert, we took time to visit the wine counter upstairs.
The Treehouse offers six different wines on tap (greener than glass bottles) with a focus on natural wines which change seasonally to complement the dishes.
The charming floor manager, Hermès, selected a white and a rosé that went perfectly with everything we had eaten that evening.
In the hands of Dominique Ansel, you know that dessert is going to be the star of the show and his desserts to share menu is genius.
Other diners were having indecent amounts of fun with bowls of chocolate mousse with mix-your-own toppings and profiterole building blocks – think luxe foodie versions of Ice Cream Factory.
We chose sticky toffee pudding with a pour-over toffee & custard sauce.
Bundt tin shaped, it arrived warm. The sponge had a lovely crumb consistency which held up well to being doused in a sweet toffee and custard sauce.
Scrolling through my phone contacts list, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t enjoy Dominique Ansel Treehouse.
It’s great for a casual catch up coffee and a sweet treat from the bakery.
I can imagine a thorny problem being tackled with close friends over lunch, gradually feeling that bit lighter, with every delicious forkful of the shared plates.
It’s the perfect place to tell someone you love them (almost as much as the food).
Dominique Ansel Treehouse, 24 Floral St, London, WC2E 9DP.
Featured photo courtesy of Ed Schofield.