It’s fiendishly difficult to find (the address baffles most GPSes), it’s a trek for anyone save the lucky residents of Tomball and environs, it’s tucked into one of The Woodlands’ more absurdly named shopping complexes—Creekside Park Village Center—and it’s still expanding its hours. But Inner Loopers should not be deterred. Levure Bakery & Patisserie, I am pleased to report, is worth every minute of the roughly three-day journey required to get there (five during rush hour).
When it comes to French, Levure may have just a passable knowledge of the language (my server at brunch suggested a croque mon-sewer) but it’s fluent in every other respect. A joint effort by first-time restaurateurs the Rubiralta family (Fatima makes pastries, husband Manuel bakes breads, his brother Juan Carlos runs the front-of-house), the establishment’s mastery of French baking is much in evidence. Its croissants au beurre are meltingly good, its almond version simply spectacular. And while the pains au chocolat are fine if unspecial, there’s a tangy originality to the pain au kiwi, stuffed with house-made jam. Indeed, from papaya danish to raspberry-pistachio muffin to chocolate cake filled with lemon curd, Levure’s cross-pollinations are generally successful (excepting its pulled-pork danish, which I found to be something of a deadly mutant). Yes, the Rubiraltas' kitchen is well-nigh exploding with ideas, as evidenced by Levure's Facebook page, whose daily alerts are forever announcing something new and different, be it kouign-amann, blueberry windows, berry and chocolate cream tarts, blood orange shortbread, ginger cardamom puffs, raspberry profiteroles, or—of course—baguettes. (Don’t dawdle if you want the latter; the bakery frequently sells out.)
Levure seems to have a thriving pastries-to-go business, but I prefer to linger in its cozy and intimate dining area, a fine weekend brunch spot if ever there was one. The French toast stuffed with organic ham and Brie was a winner, as was the aforementioned croque monsieur, served in a skillet, the rich béchamel proving a perfect foil to the sourdough sandwich bread. Score a table near the window, sip a latte, pick at a croissant, strike a brooding pose (à la Romain Duris) or an impish grin (Audrey Tautou), et voila—you’ll suddenly feel as if transported to…well, not Paris exactly. No Parisian worth his sel would ever eat a croque monsieur at 8 a.m. Still, what Left Bank patisserie offers the chance to witness two Range Rovers fighting over a parking space, not to mention convenient access to a state-of-the-art sprayground?