There’s arguably nothing better than the smell of freshly baked pastries wafting through the air on a Sunday morning. And if you live in the leafy suburb of Didsbury, you’re definitely spoiled for choice when it comes to bakeries and cafés, where you can grab a sweet treat.
However, one of the village’s most recent additions is so popular with residents that queues can often be seen down the street, as locals look to bag themselves a much sought after artisan loaf or croissant. The bakery in question is none other than La Chouquette on Wilmslow Road, which emerged amid lockdown in December 2020.
Launched by professional bakers Mairead Deignan and Florent Verove, La Chouquette, which translates as ‘little bits of (choux) pastry” – the dough used to make these pastry puffs is the same used to make eclairs and profiteroles – has, in a short space of time, become an integral part of the village’s vibrant café scene.
“Both myself and Florent always had the passion and dream of opening our own bakery, it was an ambition of ours since we got together seven years ago,” says Mairead after a busy day at the bakery. “Also as Florent is a baker and I am a pastry chef it’s a great combination of skills to open our own bakery.
“We don’t live far from Didsbury, we are quite familiar with the village, we love the atmosphere and the people and we thought that it was missing an artisan bakery where you could buy freshly baked bread and pastries every day.”
Specializing in sourdough loaves, as well as traditional French pastries such as eclairs and macarons, everything is made within the bakery, using only the very best ingredients. Whether it’s a perfectly flaky almond croissant – a best seller according to Mairead – a baguette or a sourdough loaf, one thing is for sure – you’ll have to be quick if you want to get your hands on one.
“It goes right around the corner, people can be waiting for a good half an hour,” Mairead says. “It’s amazing, we never thought it would be anywhere near as successful as it’s been in such a short space of time.
“The fact that people will wait half an hour and be so patient, it’s amazing.” In fact, the warm welcome it received from residents and the popularity of its bakes meant that Mairead and Florent had to quickly expand into the unit next door to service the demand.
So, it’s no surprise to hear then that last month La Chouquette scooped Best Bakery at England’s Business Awards. “Myself and Florent just looked at each other in surprise as we were up against four other nominees.
“We were overjoyed and just so grateful for all our customers who voted for us to win the final.” When the news had sunk in, the pair took to social media to thank their loyal staff and customers for all their support.
In a post to Instagram, they wrote: “It has been such a journey since we opened in December 2020 and we could not have done any of this without our fabulous staff, our wholesale customers, our friends & family, and of course your support. .
“Thank you all our customers who have been absolutely amazing and so loyal to us since we first opened and for all your votes that helped us win the regional awards in November and now the final this year.”
If you’ve not had a chance to pop by the bakery yet, you’re definitely missing out. Situated just over the road from Didsbury Gardens, the shop stands out for its purplish blue hue frontage and large glass windows, the latter of which is often decorated with window art by Lobster House Studios, whose work adorns many shop fronts around Greater Manchester.
Often depicting many of the baked goods they create in the bakery’s kitchen, on closer inspection you’ll see the famous baskets of breads and viennoiserie that lie within. Spanning a number of sweet and savory treats, it’s not hard to see why their bakes have proven so popular.
From their bread section, you can pick up a variety of sourdough options as well as traditional baguettes and ciabatta, while their viennoiserie encompasses French classics like pain au chocolat, pain au raisin, chaussons aux pomme and of course, chouquettes. As well as macaron boxes, eclairs and seasonal cakes, recent additions to their portfolio include the delectable Chocolate & Passionfruit Tart, which is swirled with passion fruit Ganache montée – a type of whipped frosting – and made with the ultra luxury chocolate brand Valrhona France and finished with passionfruit jelly.
“Our customers know and can see that everything is handmade and baked on site, they can buy fresh bread and pastries that have been baked just a few hours before opening,” says Mairead. “The smell of the fresh bread and pastries in the morning is so comforting.
“Also, our products can change daily and people like the excitement of queuing up and looking in the window to see what different products they can try that day.” Meanwhile, their cookie collection is also growing in popularity, and they’ve recently introduced a salted caramel and chocolate chip variety to the line-up.
And did we mention they are also rather good at proper pies, tarts and quiches? Like many businesses that operated during successive lockdowns, things haven’t been easy, but the award and support from the local community has bolstered Mairead and Florent’s resolve.
“It has been extremely tough as it was for a lot of businesses through Covid, but our customer support system has been amazing, along with our amazing staff. We have had so many lovely messages from people who have said coming to the bakery during lockdown gave them a routine and something to do each day.
“It has also been so challenging but so rewarding at the same time, we absolutely love what we do! As myself and Florent work at the shop ourselves most days we get to interact with all our customers which is so nice.”
So, if it’s a handmade beef and roasted red pepper roll, a slab of sea salt and rosemary focaccia, or a raspberry and pistachio slice you’re after, La Chouquette has every base covered. Whether you live the next village over or a little further afield, locals will tell you that this award-winning bakery is always worth the detour.
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