Spread across four shops in Brighton, Hove and Shoreham-by-Sea, Real Pâtisserie makes authentic French patisserie and vienoisserie alongside a selection of artisan breads. Baked fresh on site on the day. WE ARE NOT ASSOCIATED WITH LA PATISSERIE IN SHOREHAM BY SEA (THEY BUY OUR BREAD BUT ARE A COPMPLETELY DIFFERENT ONWERSHIP). WE CURRENTLY HAVE 3 SHOPS AND WIL SOON OPENA FOURTH IN WORTHING.
Despite possessing a real fondness for croissants cakes and pastries, I have never really been one to frequent patisseries or bakeries. I guess it is because I know full well that I have a complete lack of willpower. I figured that if I were to allow myself to be sucked in by the irresistible smell of freshly baked bread, I would end up buying up all the delicious treats on display, which would be no good at all for my wallet or my waistline. That was until my wife and I took a recent trip to Paris, where anyone who has been will know that there is a lovely patisserie on almost every corner. We simply could not resist the temptation almost every time we passed one, and now I am back in the UK, find myself missing the wonderful relaxing hours spent sipping artisan coffee and eating countless delicious pastry-based goods. Not only that, professional curiosity has come into play, and I find myself wanting to find out what Sussex has to offer in terms of an authentic Parisian patisserie experience.
So we find ourselves enjoying a lovely freshly ground coffee and almond croissant in Brighton and Hove’s best known and most highly revered bakery, Real Patisserie on Church Road in Hove, with none other than it’s founder Alastair Gourlay,who launched the first Real Patisserie way back in 1997, and has since opened several shops in the area with more in the pipeline. With him is his business partner Darren Gearing, and we have a wonderful time hearing all about how it all began, what sets Real Patisserie apart from the rest, Alastair’s unwavering passion for baking delicious breads and pastries, and his exciting plans for the future. All while soaking up the atmosphere and of course, indulging in some delicious freshly baked treats. Here is how our conversation went:
T: Real Patisserie has been around for quite a few years now. It must have been quite a Journey from when it all began to where you are now?
A: It all came about when I went over to Paris to study with the Erasmus program. I was studying Agriculture at the time. Whilst there I found I could not walk past Patisserie’s without being sucked in by the incredible smells I simply had to go in and buy something delicious (I can relate to this). It was then that realised that I wanted to learn how to make these products myself. I opened my first shop on Western Road NOT WESTERN ROAD, IT WAS TRAFALGAR STREET in 1997 and it was a huge success. We have since opened Trafalger Street WESTERN ROAD and the Church Road shop we are sitting in, which was originally called “Lost in Paris,” set up by an employee and eventually re-branded and brought into the Real Patisserie family. We also have a wholesale side of the business operating out of Shoreham NOT SHOREHAM, IT’S SOUTHWICK and I am pleased so say we have been thriving.
T: I can see that! The shop has certainly been very busy this morning! You seem to have plenty of walk-in custom.
A: Yes this shop especially seems to be popular with locals, we have lots of regular customers here. Every ship has a different feel which depends on the local cleintelle. The Trafalger TRAFALGAR Street and Western Road stores are also popular but seem to cater more towards workers from local offices, as well as our loyal regulars and visiting public.
T: So what is the secret of your success? What sets Real Patisserie apart from the rest?
A: Our shops are modelled on French Patisseries, there is only one other bakery in Brighton and Hove that does this, however the difference with Real Patisserie is that everything we sell is produced NOT PRODUCED BUT BAKED on site, meaning we can charge less and we can be honest in terms of value and freshness. You can smell the bread baking as you walk past just like in Paris. Everything is made from scratch with high quality locally sourced ingredients. We re-stock our shelves constantly throughout the day with warm, fresh, high quality delicious products so you can be confident that what you buy has been freshly made that day. Even the furniture was made from scratch by my brother who is a carpenter. We like to keep things in the family.
T: That sounds like hard work! Your staff make it look so effortless!
A: We accept no compromise. It is hard work, but totally worth it. The utmost care and attention goes into everything we do. The dough fermentation takes an entire day. There are no cutting corners. Everything is baked on site and we have a great team, some of whom have been with us since the beginning. Peter is in the bakery downstairs now preparing some quiche fillings (which we can smell and it is giving me pangs of hunger despite having just wolfed down a croissant). Peter has been with us for seventeen years! There is a real family feel to the business. We keep the product well-managed and efficient to protect the customer as best we can from price rises due to the food cost inflation we are seeing at the moment.
As we sit and chat we are approaching lunchtime and the shop is getting busier. It runs like a well-oiled machine and the staff seem to be having a lovely time themselves chatting to the customers before the go on their way with their tasty treats. We take a little trip downstairs to meet Peter and see the bakery in action. Our nostrils are filled with incredible scents of baking breads, quiches and pies! It is a real treat seeing the pastry chefs in action as they prepare fillings and roll pastries.
We head back upstairs just in time for a piping hot potato pie and vegetarian quiche make their way onto the shelf which Alastair also clocks and offers us a slice of each to try. Both were just heavenly. The quiche comprises a variety of roasted veg enveloped in a soft, rich, creamy egg and cheese filling and encased in a delicate, crumbly paprika flavoured pastry crust,topped with Camembert which adds a whole extra dimension, setting it off with a lovely intense tang. The potato pie is the perfect winter comfort food, beautifully seasoned potatoes in a creamy sauce and crisp shortcrust pastry. We immediately order a couple more slices of each to take home with us for later. Feeling content with full bellies we continue our conversation.
T: Thank you so much for the pies, they were absolutely delicious! What are your favourite things to eat when you come in to your stores?
A: I love it all, but if I had to choose it would have to be the super crusty filled baguettes. I also cannot get enough of the honey and spelt loaf, All of the moulded loaves are baked in a stone decked oven giving a wonderful crust and gorgeous caramelised aroma, however for me this one stands out as my favourite.
T: Judging by how busy this shop is, I cannot imagine there being much left at the end of the day, but as your whole ethos is about fresh food what happens if there is any?
A:Nothing goes to waste in our stores, we work closely with local charities and homeless shelters, and we are on “Too good to go” an app which you can download to your phone which will show if there is any food that needs rescuing at the end of each day.
T: I am sure I have seen Real Patisserie products in other businesses around Sussex. Is this the case?
A: You probably have done yes! Our wholesale business delivers to much of Sussex, as far as Arundel, Midhurst, Haywards Heath. We cover a big area supplying to cafe’s, pubs, and independent retail outlets.
T: What is next for Real Patisserie.. What does the future hold for you?
A: We are excited for the immediate future as our Worthing store opening in April on Broadwater Street West. Personally I am keen to be in the Bakery as much as possible, focussing on product development. I have lots of new ideas I want to work on and I am still passionate about baking after all these years. We also want to keep moulding our culture to ensure our differentiation is maintained so we can continue running a highly successful business.
Before we leave I could not resist picking up a loaf of Real Patisserie’s best selling “Chewy Brown” to take home and I am well and truly converted. Made from a combination of rye and malted wheat sourdough it has a beautiful flavour and as the name suggests, a chewy texture, it tastes even better toasted. I simply cannot bring myelf to buy any other bread now as nothing I have tasted comes close.
It was an absolute pleasure talking to Alastair and Darren at Real Patisserie, seeing how it all works and sampling some of their delicious products, and I have truly found an authentic Parisian experience that I will be returning to time and time again that is right on my doorstep!