The simple white exterior and floor-to-ceiling glass façade of Tienstiens
stands out against the drab, brown
masonry that surrounds the modern
bakery. Even from the outside,
each and every pastry, macaroon
and parfait is presented in gallery-like
lighting; the shop’s alabaster
motif and minimalist display cases
smack of a high-end boutique. The
last thing this highly stylised space
feels like is a bakery-cum-café, but a
bakery-cum-café it is – and a serious
one at that.
The white-on-white motif stands
up well and contributes to the
excitement of perusing the well-stocked
display cases that bank the
entrance. Electric yellows, robin’s
egg blue and neon greens punctuate
the blank canvas. The confections
practically scream out, begging to be
bought, if only to bring a bit of colour
into Courtyard 4’s grey surrounds.
The offerings at Tienstiens, however,
offer more than just a bit of colour.
Baguettes (20RMB) are baked
fresh daily and deliver a dark
brown crust and fragrant, open
crumb, while the canneles (8RMB)
are wonderfully chewy, with a
caramelised bark of sugar and fat
encasing a soft custardy crumb that
coats the mouth like a spoonful of
rich pudding you wish mum could
The puff pastry offerings are
no less worthy, with flaky pain au chocolate (18RMB) and croissants
(16RMB) exhibiting the classic irony
present in all quality pastry: light and
airy in spite of a dark, buttery secret.
The macaroons are less exciting,
with muted flavours that yield to
dramatic colour schemes and
staggering tags (18RMB a piece).
The signature financier is likewise
underwhelming, hard, dry and
expensive (24RMB for two). Caramel
squares of grapefruit, vanilla and
ginger fare much better and would
make for an impressive gift (8RMB
each or 192RMB for 24).
The daily assortment of
confections run out early, so be
sure to duck in before lunch if you’re
after classics like chocolate fondant
(58RMB), raspberry diplomatic
(12RMB) or chaux sporting a variety
of creams and colours (40RMB).
The Vietnamese (55RMB) and the
Moroccan (58RMB) sandwich are
both excellent, with strong flavours
and fresh ingredients that defy the
price, especially when measured
against the diminutive sweets.
The menu – French and traditional
Chinese characters only – is short
and to the point, which leaves
more time to sit back and enjoy
authentic French baked goods in
pleasing surroundings. This spring,
you’ll mostly find us on the terrace
sipping a latte (30RMB), nibbling a
pain au chocolate and brushing up
on our French.
By Nick Gollner