French Riviera Bakery & Cafe, formerly at 3000 Chimney Rock near Richmond, has moved a few doors down the street to 3100 Chimney Rock. The new cafe space is much larger, which should make it easier to find a seat on Saturday morning when the crowds are thick.
The pain chocolat, chocolate eclairs, and cream puffs here are among the best in the city. The croissants are as good as they get in our humid climate, and the almond croissants, filled with a thick slab of almond paste, are stellar. The espresso is Segafredo Italian brand, made with lots of foamy crema, and served in a Segafredo logo cup.
But as good as the sweets are, it's the bread that keeps me coming back. Maybe you're thinking that you've never tried French Riviera Bakery's bread--you're probably mistaken. If you have ever reached into the bread basket at a Houston restaurant and extracted an exceptionally crusty slice of thick French bread, you have probably already sampled the bread from this bakery.
The French Riviera "farmhouse loaf" is served in restaurants all over town. In fact, the bread is so popular, there's a competition to get the limited number of loaves sold to the public every day. I stopped by at 10 a.m. the other morning, and I was way too late. I settled for a boule instead. The boules are great, but the farmhouse bread is exceptional.
Many people think the owners of French Riviera Bakery are of Vietnamese descent. The rich history of French-Vietnamese culinary hybridization and the many Vietnamese bakeries with French names around town make this an easy mistake to make. In fact, owners Louis and Robert Wu grew up in Madagascar, another former French colony. Louis Wu studied baking in France. He worked as an apprentice and then as a baker in Paris for many years before he came to Houston.
Trendy bakeries come and go in Houston. French Riviera Bakery has been around for decades.