Croissant Crusade Part 1 - West Gatineau (Hull & Aylmer)

Welcome fellow Ottawa / Gatineau residents!

Join me as I embark on a noble adventure to provide you all with as much information about the best croissants and viennoiseries across our beautiful capital region.

I'm kicking this off in my own hood of Aylmer in Gatineau. I picked 4 local bakeries to compare croissants. The bakeries were:

If you'd like to suggest a local bakery, food shop or café with amazing croissants, please feel free to drop me a line here!

MAISON ODDO


260 Boulevard Saint-Raymond, Gatineau, QC J9A 3G7

Overall croissant rating: 4.25 out of 5

Appearance: 4.5 out 5

Flavor: 4 out of 5

Maison Oddo came on to the Gatineau baking scene in 2019, so can be considered a newcomer to the NCC family of bakeries. But never fear, at it's head is Benjamin Oddo who's well known on the national capital food scene having previously worked at institutions such as Atelier.





Obviously, one great indicator of whether a bakery is doing something right is how much attention it gets and how busy it is on a regular basis. If that said bakery is not in the most appealing location and it's still doing extremely well, you know they've probably got something great in the oven. And that is 100% true for Maison Oddo, located at 260 Blvd Saint-Raymond, in a strange part of Hull that really wants to be in Aylmer but just can't make the stretch. It's in a commercial building that's so far off the main road you'd probably completely miss it if you didn't know you were looking for this place. So the fact that people are making their way to this place for bread and coffee means they are doing something right.


When you enter Maison Oddo and you'll find a pleasant, simple and clean bakery. They've installed a long counter that spans the length of their space with viennoiseries, cakes and tarts at center-stage while their breads and baguettes are proudly displayed at one end. If I wasn't writing this in the time of Covid-19, the chairs they currently use to distance their patrons would be filling up the open area of the bakery which should be dedicated to drinking a warm drink and enjoying the treats you've just bought - but we'll be back to that sooner rather than later I'm sure.


Other than the classic viennoiseries and traditional cakes you'll find in most French-style bakeries, they have a few offerings that seem to be all their own. Every time I have gone they've had a selection of "escargots" or really, cruffins, available. So far I remember these being available in maple or lemon. In terms of bread, they always have different "fagots" on offer and you can see these featured on their Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/maisonoddo/


For the testing, I purchased a butter croissant and an escargot for fun.


About the croissants:

Maison Oddo have gone for the more "modern" interpretation of a croissant, where they are not so long and croissant shape but stumpier and higher. I admit, I like this version. At first glance, their croissants are beautiful. I personally thought their egg wash was a little disappointing. I'm guessing they use milk or cream to help dilute which takes away a bit of the shine and leaves bubbles on the outside. Still, they were perfectly baked and had a nice crunch and color to them. Flavor wise, they are lovely but I couldn't help but feel like they were missing a little something. I personally want the butter flavor to shine through in a croissant and this one was lacking. It's possible they use another fat source other than butter which leads to less taste. Overall, still very very pleasant.

FIDÉLICE - ARTISAN GOURMET

425 Chemin Vanier, Gatineau, QC J9J 3H9

Overall croissant rating: 5 out of 5 (*WINNER*)

Appearance: 5 out 5

Flavor: 5 out of 5


I don't know why, but I almost didn't want Fidélice to win this little "competition". I guess I'm a sucker for an underdog, or maybe I just really wanted to discover the newest best place for croissants in Aylmer. But Fidélice won this one hands down for me.

Fidélice have been a Gatineau bakery staple since 1989, so it's no surprise they know what they are doing. I remember going to their Gatineau location when I was a kid. And then they had a location in Hull which was near my college where my friends and I popped in to every so often. When I moved back to Gatineau in the mid 2010's, it wasn't long before they opened a west-end location in a new plaza at the corner of Vanier and Allumetières so accessing their treats became almost too easy. Their Aylmer location is absolutely beautiful, clean and white and serves up coffee as well as their treats. My husband and I have purchased a variety or their cakes and viennoiseries over the years and I have to say, I've never been disappointed. I love their airy and light charlottes and white cakes, but if I had to pick a favorite, I'd probably go with a traditional Opera cake.


I popped in to Fidélice just after 8am on a Saturday morning and the place already had patrons leaving. What a great indicator when a place is worth getting up early for.


For the testing, I purchased a butter croissant and an amandine.


About the croissants:

Like Maison Oddo, Fidélice have gone for the modern croissant, shorter and higher. As noted above, I do really like this version. Their egg wash is spot on a leaves their croissants with a beautifully shiny finish and color. When you bite into these babies, you know you'll be in for a treat. They are crunchy and flakey and just perfect on the tongue. Their lamination is spot on, with lots of air bubbles throughout showing that the butter layers and action of the yeast have done their job well. But it all comes down to flavor for me, and Fidélice were the ones with the best butter flavor. There was no bitterness at all and it felt like these guys are truly going for an "all butter" version. You can taste the butter! It's divine!


A note on the amandine / almond croissant:

From every bakery I tried here, I purchased a second viennoiserie, just for fun. At Fidélice, I chose an amandine simply because, I love any almond. Although their version was very traditional, I just found them to be super dense. I know ideally a bakery will use day old croissants to make amandines and so they tend to loose their "fluff". I just thought this version was a little too stuffed with almond paste, or maybe it's the paste that was too thick. Don't get me wrong, it was still delicious, just a bit on the heavier side.


BOULANGERIE AUX DEUX FRÈRES

146 Principale St, Gatineau, Quebec J9H 3M4

Overall croissant rating: 4.25 out of 5

Appearance: 4 out 5

Flavor: 4.5 out of 5


Aux Deux Frères has been an Aylmer institution for years. Throughout 2020, my husband and I often walked by this location at various times of the day and there was almost always a line going out the door sometimes half-way down the block (Covid rules apply). When I decided to do a piece on croissants in the region, this one was recommended to me by folks on social media. Before I included it on the list, I did a quick Google search and found out this place was outstanding ratings on various websites. To be honest I was surprised I hadn't heard more about this place and had only visited once before.


Very different in style to Maison Oddo or Fidélice, this isn't a bakery where you'll be taking a seat and enjoying your treats and coffee. It's located in a small house on rue Principale in Aylmer and when you walk in there is only a few meters between the door and the service counter. Still, their team is efficient and you'll be served quickly and out the door ready to enjoy your breads and other baked goods. And I think their breads are probably where this place shines, so I'm almost sad I'm not doing a bread review at the moment, but maybe that is something I will do in the near future.


I visited Aux Deux Frères on a Sunday morning, around 9:30, during Covid, in the middle of January, and still had to wait outside because there were too many customers inside. And as I left, people were lining up to get in. Always a good sign!


For the testing, I purchased a butter croissant and an amandine.


About the croissants:

Aux Deux Frères and La Vieille Alliance have both gone for a different style of croissant than Maison Oddo and Fidélice - more elongated, not as high and puffy, much closer to what you will see in your corner bakery in France. I think this is a nod to both locations' French roots.

Because of the longer shape, the dough doesn't get the same height and distinguishing the lamination is a bit more difficult, but it's still there. I thought these croissants had one of the best colors and egg washes. Similarly to the croissants at Fidélice, the ones from Aux Deux Frères had a great buttery taste to them. I warmed up all the croissants slightly before eating them and the ones from Aux Deux Frères showed the most "oiliness" which wasn't a bad thing as I took it as a good indicator of high butter content. These croissants also had a good crunch, but it was just slightly less satisfying than Fidélice, but only slightly.


An important note on the amandine:

If this was an amandine contest, Aux Deux Frères would have won over Fidélice. Their version was much lighter and actually had a stronger almost taste. I shared all the treats with Andrew and based on his feedback this was his favorite viennoiserie overall.


THE AULD ALLIANCE / LA VIEILLE ALLIANCE

210 Chemin d'Aylmer, Gatineau, QC J9H 1A2

Overall croissant rating: 4 out of 5

Appearance: 4 out 5

Flavor: 4 out of 5

Last but not least for west-Gatineau / Aylmer, is La Vieille Alliance. I wanted to include these guys in my piece because I feel they are often overlooked in the region, which is normal when you exist in the shadows of places like Fidélice and Aux Deux Frères.


Located in the middle of a plaza across from the Gallery Aylmer, it would be very easy to miss this place if you didn't know it existed. But the story behind their name is pretty unforgettable so I hope you'll drop-in one day. The Auld Alliance is a reference to the alliance that existed between France and Scotland for hundreds of years to protect both nations from invasion attempts by England. The owners are Scottish and French, hence, the auld alliance. This place also nods to it's French roots by offering a selection of imported goods from France. They serve up all the traditional cakes and treats you would expect from a French bakery but also have a few more regional offerings which I appreciate. It's a chance to discover some of the lesser known treats of France.


For the testing, I purchased a butter croissant and a pain aux raisins.

About the croissants:

I really wanted the croissants from this place to be outstanding, as I said at the beginning, I have a thing for underdogs. It's not that the croissants from this place were bad, they just fell short in comparisons to the others. There was definitely no strong butter flavor and I would even go as far to say these croissants tasted a little bitter when you allowed them to dissolve on the tongue. I'm guessing they use a combination of butter and shortening or another fat. They looked very good and the egg wash finish was shiny and provided a nice color. The crunch was definitely not like the others, which is another indicator to me that there is less actual butter in these guys. As with the croissants from Aux Deux Frères, because they have gone for a more elongated, traditional shaping, the dough doesn't rise in the same way and lamination isn't as impressive.


A note about the pain aux raisins:

I purchased a second pastry at each bakery to help me get more information about their croissant dough - if there were any doubts. The pain aux raisins confirmed to me the lack of butter as noted above. Although the pastry was light and airy, it didn't have as much crunch and definition as you would expect in a really well laminated croissant pastry.


I hope you found this review helpful! Have you tried any of these places?

I would love to hear your feedback and opinions about local bakeries in and around Ottawa / Gatineau as I continue to generate content on the subject.


Happy croissant eating everyone!


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