9.28.2012

Mrs. London’s celebrates 15 years as Broadway’s French patisserie



 Is there really a Mrs. London? Some 80 percent of the city’s tourists come into the pastry shop on Broadway and ask this question, often of the man who is Mrs. London’s husband. Michael London assures these customers that his wife, Wendy, is rea

“She’s so large, we have to keep her in the kitchen,” he teases, then relents. “In reality, Olive Oyl is on the heavy side compared with Wendy. Wendy know a lot about nutrition and has great discipline. She is cooking and baking all the time—we have seven breakfasts and seven dinners at home every week. But we know you don’t gorge on pastries.”

It would be an easy thing to gorge yourself on pastries at Mrs. London’s, where the Londons combine all of Paris’s finest under one roof. Among the offerings in the glass case are such French and Italian delicacies as chocolate croissants, apple tarts, cannoli, and biscotti. Or you could try a cannelet, a small French pastry with a caramelized crust and custard in the center. American desserts such as apple pie and the humble brownie are also available.

“Almond croissants are our most popular item,” London said.

“For chocolate lovers, the nebula is the favorite,” added Kim Faiola, who has managed the bakery for the past 15 years, since the Londons reopened.

The Londons reopened in a new Broadway location September 1997 after a 12-year hiatus from the shop. London calls this their second incarnation.

“Among the baker’s dozen of reasons why we chose to reopen was to serve the city,” he said. “We had been doing a lot of consulting work, and we realized we wanted to share our knowledge with our own community. I also wanted a patisserie here where you could sit outdoors, like in Paris.”

The Londons’ road to Broadway led through Paris; Greenwich, N.Y.; and other locales. London grew up in Brooklyn and eventually worked as a poetry professor at Skidmore, his introduction to this area. When his interest in baking developed, he apprenticed himself to the Manhattan bakers’ union. Wendy London grew up in New Jersey and ended up working at a natural foods bakery in Greenwich Village. The couple began working together as pastry chefs. They have been married 36 years and baking together even longer, London calculates—about 40 years.

When they first opened up shop in Saratoga in 1977, their bakery was on Phila Street, where Four Seasons is now. They stayed there until 1985, then closed. During their dozen-year break from that business, the Londons baked bread from their farmhouse kitchen in Greenwich, N.Y.

“We baked bread for fancy-schmantzy restaurants in Manhattan,” London said. Their bread became famous throughout the region. Then London decided to return to pastries by going straight to the hub of the art.

For two years, he studied baking in Paris at the famous patisseries Gerard Mulot and Fauchon. He worked to reinvent his repertoire of pastries. Meanwhile, Wendy London baked at home with their children, Max and Sophie. When London finished his studies in France, the couple chose their new downtown Saratoga site and offered even more delicious items in the glass case.

“This baking ideal to which Wendy and I aspire is larger than the two of us,” London said. So he and his wife hired three pastry chefs, Lena Favaloro, Timothy Hangarter, and Corey Simmons. Lunch chef Larry Pratt creates the store’s soups, salads, and wraps. Holly O’Brien manages the office.

Son Max is connected to the pastry shop, not just by family and name, but by location. His Mediterranean restaurant, Max London’s, opened in 2007 right next-door. Wendy London makes all the ice cream, sorbets, and special desserts for Max’s menu.

“My husband and I eat at Max’s on the weekends,” said Elizabeth Silvers of Glenville, who also owns houses in Saratoga Springs and Arizona. “And I’ve come into Mrs. London’s every day for about two years now. I don’t think you could get better food anywhere. My friends love it here, too.”

Whether out west or up north, even in Canada, Silvers has yet to find any pastries to equal the Londons’. She mails them to relatives during the winter holidays.

 “The pastries are delightful. I can’t say enough good things about them,” she said.

--Jennie

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