Good bakeries are in short supply in Washington, which is one reason I made a beeline for Boulangerie Christophe when it opened in Georgetown last month. The two-story cafe is named for the recently arrived Christophe Roux, a third-generation baker who grew up near Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera. His business partner, Didier Martin, is co-owner of the nearby David Rios Salon & Spa and a friend of the chef’s since childhood.
The men have a miss on their hands.
The flaws at Boulangerie Christophe, where Roux’s son Benjamin serves as head baker, are not immediately evident. The bakery case on the ground floor is a roll call of French delights — croissants, eclairs, mille-feuille — and if you want to sit down and graze, a dining area upstairs beckons with a fireplace, chandeliers and walls the color of sage. As Martin puts it, “We want it to feel like home: very cozy, very relaxed.”
If the service proves a bit chaotic (and some customers are prone to line-jumping), the staff is eager to please. Some rosé with your Provencal fish soup? Oui, merci. Small details, including thick cotton napkins and comfy chairs, make nice impressions. The ladies who lunch have discovered the place and make up the majority of the clientele.
If all you sampled here was a bowl of that soup, a garlic-fueled puree of Mediterranean rockfish, you might be inclined to return. With the help of some rouille, meant to be spread on croutons, and grated cheese, a thickener for the soup, the appetizer could pass for a meal. The salmon tartare is also respectable: cubes of pink fish sparked with lemon, onion and pickles and served in a wreath of lettuce and radishes.
Almost everything else is a disappointment, and I base this conclusion on three attempts to find more to like. The breads are mediocre, foremost the pale baguettes with cottony centers (and no audible crackle when broken apart). The tarts look pretty, but the fruit on top hides serious flaws in the goopy fillings and bendy crusts. Christophe’s pale sandwiches look as though they should be in a vending machine rather than in a glass display. One day’s ham and cheese croissant was so flat, it appeared as though it had a run-in with a bulldozer on its way from case to plate.
“Flat” also sums up the taste. Don’t get me started on the dense and cloying mille-feuille or the underbaked pissaladiere, a waste of anchovies and caramelized onions.
Good bakeries are still in short supply in Washington.
1422 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-450-6344. boulangeriechristophe.com. Pastries, breads and (whole) tarts, $1.65 to $35.