Patisserie Royale may sit humbly in an unremarkable strip mall in Scarborough , but the family-run bakery has a boisterous reputation among the Middle Eastern community and beyond.
Its most popular offering is undoubtedly its baklava ( ranked #1 on our Best of Toronto list ), which is infused with orange blossom and mixed with walnuts, pistachios, and other fresh ingredients. The bakery is surprisingly expansive once you get past its deceptively small front, with room for some seating, imported groceries, and plenty of space to peruse the sweet offerings. Bilal Jamous, son of owner Mounzer Jamous, tells me that extra space is very necessary especially during the holiday season, when Canadians of all creeds come in to pick up their pastries.
"The area here is very Middle Eastern," he says. "But we have people who come from all over [the GTA]. They've tried our pastries at a party or event, and then they come by to see for themselves."
Patisserie Royale opened in this plaza in 1997, after Mounzer made a move from Montreal to Toronto. "At that time, there was more of a community here," Bilal says. "There are a lot of Lebanese people in the area."
Mounzer brought with him recipes handed down through generations, which included bassma (made with semolina wheat, clarified butter, and pistachios), karabiges (a sort of pastry pocket), and mammoul (a Ramadan specialty). Most everything in the shop is priced per kilogram and everything is made by hand on location.
But this location is soon to be one of two, as Bilal tells me they're in the midst of opening a second bakery. "It might not be until the end of the year," he says. "But there's a new plaza being constructed at Kennedy and Ellesmere, and that's where we're going to open our new shop." The second patisserie will offer the same treats as the first; the only difference is the family will own the spot instead of rent."
"We really think it's way they're made — the ingredients we use that make our pastries stand out," Bilal says. "Pretty much, it's the taste."
The baklava is unique compared to much of what you'll find downtown. To me, it's much lighter, with a sweetness mellowed by the orange blossom and rosewater. Its reputation has broken the confines of the GTA, with orders shipped out to the States, and in some cases, overseas.
"My dad is the one who has really perfected the products," Bilal says. "There's the French connection — since we used to live in Montreal — but the ingredients and authenticity it what really make them sell."