The streets of Queen Anne are not the streets of Paris – here we have more leaves, more English, and fewer cigarette butts. But thanks to Le Rêve, it’s still possible to stumble upon a quaint Parisian café – complete with a buckled and mossy courtyard, a homey red exterior, and a vibrant pastry-counter of highly-glossed delicacies.
After a trip to Paris five years ago, local Queen Anne resident Andrea Nakata was inspired; she had fallen in love with the culture and at the same time was looking for a new project to pursue. Some three years later, Le Rêve Bakery and Café opened on November 12, 2010. Since then, the bakery has become a “social outlet,” a meeting place, and a go-to for authentic French pastry, cakes, and made-from-scratch.
Comfortable and charming, seating inside Le Rêve ranges from a nestled alcove with cushioned chairs to intimate tables for two and four, and a large antique table for larger parties. Bar stools and a counter line the window. Located on the main Queen Anne strip (1805 Queen Anne Avenue North), the place bustles in peak commute and lunch hours, but is otherwise peaceful and cozy.
Le Rêve’s chefs and bakers bring a wealth of culinary experience ranging above 25 years and with Franco roots; the newly acquired French pastry chef has extensive experience in both his own country and Belgium. Two shifts of bakers mean all pastries are baked fresh daily.
Nakata is passionate about using all-natural ingredients and local produce purveyors. Her suppliers include personal family friends and the local Queen Anne Farmer’s Market, in season.
It’s her goal “to have the best in town on my counter” – a mantra evident in everything from traditional croissants, whose delicate layers and buttery texture flake with ease ($2.25), to the Kouign Amman, a small crusty cake puffed up with layers of butter and caramelized sugar ($4.25).
Also a bakery staple, the pain au chocolat conceals rich chocolate batons within its buttery layers ($3.75). It’s the favorite of a local Queen Anne school boy, who stops by for his warm pastry and chocolate milk each morning on the way to pre-school.
In fact, Le Rêve runs on the patronage of the community. Customers are known to stop multiple times a day, and group gatherings range from book clubs and birthday parties to the French Conversation Group.
It is Nakata’s goal to give back to the community she’s been a part of since her college years. A graduate of SPU, she now lives in Queen Anne with her husband and four children. Le Rêve regularly donates pastries and time to local schools and charities such as Queen Anne Helpline and Martha’s Workers.
In order to complement the high quality of her pastries, Le Rêve has chosen top-of-the-line teas and coffee. They offer a variety of Harney & Sons teas, and purely for atmosphere’s sake the Paris blend is a stellar choice (in a large mug, $2). For a stronger pick-me-up, coffee and a full espresso bar is at your service, featuring award-winning Olympic Roasting Company Coffee.
If searching for heartier breakfast fare, Le Rêve offers a multitude of offerings here as well. A fall-inspired chausson au pomme encloses cinnamon-drenched apple slices in a half-circle pastry; perfectly executed, the outside is brittle and flaky, the interior doughy and divine ($4.25).
Pastries stuffed with sliced ham and gruyere cheese, or bacon and cheddar, are the French precursor to our breakfast burritos and just as filling ($4.25). The top-selling Twice-Baked Almond Croissant packs almond paste into an already-baked pastry, crowns it with more paste and slivered almonds, and bakes it again. The result: a one-pound pocket of perfection ($4.25). Several gluten-free items, such as macaroons, are available.
Open from 7am – 6pm daily, Le Rêve is also a dreamy lunch destination. A local favorite is the BLT&G – crunchy Applewood-smoked bacon and fresh lettuce and tomato layered within a goat cheese-smeared brioche bun ($6.25). Seasonal soups are the perfect autumn comfort food, homemade from local ingredients. Long and tapered baguettes are baked daily; tuck one under your arm on the way home and you’ll look positively Parisian ($3.50).
Unfortunately, and yet with great intention, Le Rêve is wifi-free and laptops are generally discouraged. Patrons are instead invited to linger with good conversation or a good book, or for pure and restorative quiet.
Amid the hustle and bustle that are both Parisian and Seattle life, the occasional pause for good food and good company is essential and yet hard to come by. “It was temporary insanity,” Nakata says when asked what inspired Le Rêve. If this is insanity, we could all use a little bit more.
Published 7 November 2012 in The Falcon as “Taste of Paris right in Queen Anne”