You should be so lucky as us, to get a prime table on the sidewalk at Mrs. London’s Bakery on a splendid summer day. Even better, we’d just missed the brunch rush, we were told.
Inside, the atmosphere feels more European than anything around here. The store is charming, the fixtures luxurious and the glass cases containing exquisite baked goods glow with an almost otherworldly light.
So after you’ve had a good look around at the cozy tables, the well-appointed dining room with its framed accolades from national publications and the stacked loaves of fresh-baked bread behind the counter, you might be ready to order.
They’re open for breakfast, lunch or a late-day snack; you’ll have to go next door to Max London’s for dinner. In addition to the posh cakes and tarts, there are sandwiches, quiches, salads and soups.
Starting with breakfast, you can have an apple, pecan or cheese danish, any number of croissants, brioche, tarts and scones. A classic croissant is $2.95; the apple tart $5.75.
Sandwiches are ample, served on fresh bread, croissants or baguettes. Lovely grilled sandwiches ($10) are served on soft pain de mie bread, a fine-textured, moist white bread, all softness and not much crust. Or get a panini on crisp-crusted ciabatta ($10.50), classic or seasonal quiche ($7.50), or homemade soup. Leave room for dessert.
It’s counter service, and once you get past the dazzling refined baked goods in the luminous cases, you’ll notice that one is filled with sandwiches and quiches. That’s where you’ll look for your lunch.
I don’t need to tell you how hard it is to choose, but we did, and the competent person at the counter told us she’d bring our drinks right out. And she did.
We didn’t have much time to people-watch before our lovely meals appeared. Sheryl chose the French ham croque, a variant of the classic ham-and-cheese grilled sandwich, croque monsieur. This one’s not dipped in beaten eggs before grilling — it’s lighter and less messy.
It’s a lovely sandwich ($10), served with three adorable, diminutive half-sour pickles. The pain de mie bread is cottony, like the center of a loaf of white bread, and perfect for grilling.
“It looks buttered but it’s not greasy,” Sheryl said, turning over the sandwich. It was evenly browned, the Gruyere pleasantly melted, a little extra moisture provided by a bit of béchamel sauce. The ham had enough flavor that only a few slices were needed.
It reminded me of the time husband Eric and I were on a Lufthansa flight to Switzerland when the lunch cart rolled up. There were miniature sandwiches on brown bread that didn’t look like much, but each component was outstanding — the one slice of ham, the one piece of cheese, the rich, moist bread, each excellent in its way, the result completely satisfying. Mrs. London’s has figured that out — you don’t need a lot if you use good ingredients.
Mrs. London’s gets points for a great side salad ($2 extra), tossed with just enough dressing to make the leaves glisten.
I had a tomato, mozzarella and basil panini ($10.50) on grilled ciabatta, a bread with big holes and a flat shape. It was flatter still after the panini press, the crust crisp like corn flakes when I took a bite. The thick slices of mozzarella were oozing out the sides of the sandwich a bit in the most appealing way.
Again, good ingredients here: the basil was assertive, reminding you it was there with every bite; a bit of olive oil added richness, moisture and flavor. The crunch of the bread, acid from the tomato, fat from the cheese and oil and sharpness of the basil created a complete profile, a smooth blend of flavors.
We finished our sandwiches, accompanied by hot coffee for Sheryl ($2.50) and sparking Saratoga water in wild berry flavor ($2) for me. In colder weather I’d have had hot chocolate ($3.75); later in the day perhaps a glass of house wine.
I headed back inside to get dessert, a handsome cannoli for Sheryl ($5.50) and two macarons for me ($2.50 each).
“There are real pistachios on the ends,” commented Sheryl. “And it’s dusted with cocoa.” The filling was the color of cafe au lait, flavored with bits of citrus and dried fruit, an upscale cannoli. “The shell is crispy,” she observed.
Mrs. London’s has Parisian-style macarons made with almond flour, as they’re made in France, Italy and other parts of Europe. They are notoriously finicky to make, but the outcome here is beautiful and delicious, with bright colors, chewy texture and either ganache or cream filling.
The strawberry variety had the flavor of fresh fruit and the cream tasted of butter. Mrs. London’s also offers a decadent chocolate cake, the Nebula, that’s also gluten-free.
The tab for this elegant lunch came to $40.13, with tax, and we added a few bucks to the tip jar.
At breakfast or lunchtime during the track season, there is no better place to be than on the sidewalk at Mrs. London’s on a beautiful day, watching the tony Saratoga summer crowd amble by. That there is delicious food brought to you by competent staff is a bonus.
Mrs. London’s Bakery
WHERE: 464 Broadway, Saratoga Springs; 518-581-8100; mrslondonsbakery.com
WHEN: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
HOW MUCH: $40.13 with tax, plus a few bucks in the tip jar
MORE INFO: ADA compliant. Parking on street or in municipal lot. Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, American Express.