Please don’t think I am on a Starbucks bashing mission. I am not. I don’t love the place so I don’t patronize it but I don’t wish them ill. I recently noticed, though, that alternative coffee shops are not afraid to enter in competition with what used to be the mightiest coffee place in town. Driving around Santa Monica, I saw a bunch of high-end coffee places right across from the green mermaid, to prove that customers have become very discerning (and possibly a bit snobbish) about their coffee.
I am not on a Pain Quotidien bashing mission either. Really. But, after having had brunch at their Brentwood location (right next to Starbucks) I couldn’t help harping on how outrageously overpriced their food is.
Le Pain Quotidien, a Belgian chain, were the first to open bakeries cum restaurant spaces with a rustic look, communal tables and the idea of serving fresh and simple food, mostly organic. The pastries are in the best French tradition, their own made bread is very good and they can all be bought and brought home, together with jams, coffee and other edible and pretty packaged products.
The food is indeed good, in a simple and fresh way, especially the sandwiches made with their bread and the salads. The coffee, served in wide French bowls, is also excellent but, today, sitting at one of the long communal tables, I couldn’t help noticing that my two soft-boiled eggs, albeit organic, were priced at $7.45. Two eggs. Boiled. With the addition of two slices of rye bread and a small cafe au lait, my breakfast was nearly $15. I felt taken for a ride.
The French toast one of the other guests ordered looked appetizing and healthy, without the common addition of whipped cream and other heavy accoutrements but, even for a small eater like me, the portion looked extra small. European portions with Euro prices. And, when yet another guest asked if it was at all possible to slightly heat the pain au chocolat (you know, to moisten all that butter), he was told that it was company policy not to do that. It might be company policy but certainly not good business practice.
I work in the food industry and I am aware of the cost of food, especially organic food, and of the small margins that restaurants have to deal with. And the rent in tony Brentwood can’t be cheap. While I will gladly pay $40 for a fish or meat entrée at a good restaurant, over seven bucks for two boiled eggs is something I just can’t get over. Unless the chicken lived on her own private farm!!