The Canal St-Martin neighborhood of Paris, once primarily known as an industrial shipping route, has in the past two decades or so become a place where good food, including creative little eateries, street food joints and patisseries, is abundant.
If the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Prés were once the key places you’d instinctively head for an excellent bakery or patissier (and remain so to some extent), you can now add the Canal St-Martin area to the list.
We recently stayed nearby (but it felt like miles away), just feet from the comparably grimy Gare de l’Est train station; our morning walks to the canal area offered some necessary reprieve from the intense and virtually tree-less urban environment around the Gare.
It was on one such morning walk that we stumbled on Liberté, a patisserie and bakery that’s clearly gained much local adoration, if the long lines around the entrance were any indicator. And as we soon found out, its popularity is more than deserved.
Opened in 2013, Liberté– which to my surprise has several branches around Paris, as well as in Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan– was founded by Mickaël Benichou, who in each of his boutiques wished to highlight fine architectural details as well as the work of onsite artisan patissiers (bakers).
The shop at Rue de Vinaigriers is housed in a 19th-century building with ornately painted ceilings that have been left faded and rough. You’ll see exposed beams, old mirrors and a huge marble counter heaping with breads, pastries, cakes and tarts.
You can watch the bakers and shopkeepers at work in the vast open space, as you nervously try to figure out what to order (it’s all equally tempting).
Tasting: The Savory
Still, choices have to be made, especially when you have a long line of people pressing impatiently behind you. For our savory treat, we settled on two varieties of “pains gourmands”: rounded and filled breads. One was laced with briny, salty black olives, oregano and feta, and another with goat’s cheese and tomatade (sunblushed tomato).
I especially enjoyed devouring (plain and unadorned) the pain aux olives, which was full of sharp, more-ishly Mediterranean flavors and had a perfectly chewy yet soft consistency. Still, it would have been even better warmed up a bit and paired with butter, or with a touch of olive oil and salt.
The goat’s cheese and tomatade variety was pleasant enough, but the flavors were more subdued– this bread definitely needed some cheese, or perhaps its flavors and textures would be best brought out if dipped in hot soup.
Tasting: The Sweet
It was still early morning when we arrived at Liberté, but I couldn’t help but take away a couple of pastries more suited for dessert– after all, how could I properly assess the place if I failed to sample a large enough selection of their key creations? It was a hard morning’s work, to be sure.
I went for a tarte au citron meringuée (meringued lemon tart) which was topped with intensely tangy pipings of lemon cream and marshmallow-like puffs of meringue that made my partner ask whether they were marshmallows (the answer is no).
The second dessert, a dense-looking chocolate brownie with a “heart of praline”, would satisfy my need to assess how well this bakery handles le chocolat.
The lemon-meringue tart was a thing of beauty, balancing a strong tartness from the lemon with the sweet, crunchy mouth feel of meringue. It may have only been 9 am, but this made a delicious park-bench breakfast.
I was less convinced by the chocolate-praline brownie, which was a bit too sweet for my tastes and had a rather dry cake-crumb. Maybe it was just a less than ideal batch, but I felt this cake represented an attempt to imitate American or British-style brownies, with a result that didn’t quite make the mark. This was in spite of the unctuous praline heart, which despite being delicious was admittedly a tad too rich for so early in the morning (my mistake).
Next time I visit Liberté, I’m looking forward to trying some of their other sweet creations, including pistachio eclairs, bourbon vanilla ganache “bombs” with fleur du sel salt and a dramatic molten crust infused with charcoal, and a Paris-brest chou pastry decorated and flavored with toasted pine nuts.
You can see these, and more of their tempting treats, at the official Instagram page.
Liberté Patisserie: Getting There & Practical Information
Liberté is located in the heart of the 10th arrondissement, just a block from the popular Canal St-Martin. Visit as part of a self-guided tour of the area, or for dessert after sampling some delicious street food in the area.
- Address: 39 Rue des Vinaigriers, 75010 Paris
- Metro: Gare de l’Est, Chateau d’Eau or Jacques-Bonsergent
- Open: Monday through Saturday, 7:30 am to 8:00 pm; Sunday 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
- See all locations for Liberté in Paris at the official website
Peruse Our Other Gourmet Guides to Paris
If you’re a self-professed gourmet– even one with a tight budget– there’s much to explore here at Paris Unlocked.
Start by checking out our in-depth look at where to taste delicious French pastries in Paris, from eclairs to pain au chocolat and Paris-Brest chou pastries, one of our absolute favorite chou/creampuff based desserts.