A three foot chocolate duck and beautifully detailed chocolate rabbit on display for Easter are just some of the impressive creations you’ll find at the Payard Patisserie and Bistro. Immediately upon entering Payard, visitors find themselves in the famous patisserie and are surrounded by colorful pastries, rich chocolates and signature yellow Payard gifts stacked high along the dark wood walls. Cafe tables are available in the patisserie where you can sit and admire the beautiful pastries and stylish customers passing through, or you can take your selection to go. The helpful staff are happy to make recommendations when it comes time to order, but I recommend taking a walk around the pastry counter and proudly saying, “I want this one,” when you find the item you can’t take your eyes off of. Every Payard pastry tastes as good as it looks (including the rainbow pistachio pastry Andrew ordered, which I was skeptical of) and you will want to try something new on every visit. While many customers never make it past the pastries in the front, the bistro located just behind the patisserie serves a full lunch and dinner menu in addition to dessert.
Owner and patissier, Francois Payard, along with his staff of 40, make the pastries for the patisserie each morning and the selection becomes more limited as customers take home their favorites throughout the day. On our visit at 10:00pm, ten different types of pastries and an array of cookies and chocolates remained. Monsieur Payard said the day we were there had been somewhat slow and that the selection on the night of our visit was larger than normal. We were content with the selection, but recommend visitors come during the day to see the full breadth of Payard offerings.
What we bought: Rainbow Pistachio Pastry ($6), Chocolate Tart with Mixed Nuts and Caramel ($6) and two Cafe au Laits ($3 each). All were excellent and are highly recommended.
Cost: Payard creations come with Manhattan prices, but are some of the best you’ll find in the city. Desserts in the bistro are an average of $11, while pastries in the patisserie run between $5 and $6.
Our total bill came to $19, but I got so caught up talking to François Payard in the patisserie (and getting a picture, of course) that we forgot to go back to the table for our change. As a result, the waiter got a $20 tip on a $19 check! I wish we got double the pastries for double the price, but at least the extra tip went to a good waiter who served us excellent food.
Wait: Having experienced many long waits at dessert places in New York City (Serendipity 3 is notorious for this), we were surprised to be seated immediately in the patisserie at 10:00pm on a Friday night. The patisserie is much busier during the day and reservations are recommended in the bistro.
Atmosphere: A dozen cafe style tables (perfect for two) are in the center of the circular patisserie, surrounded by beautiful pastry and chocolate counters and a coffee and wine bar. Brass fixtures with cacao pod shaped lights are scattered across the patisserie and bistro, creating a perfectly lit, relaxing environment. Electronic music was (surprisingly) playing in the background, confirming that this French establishment is as hip as it is classic.
Uniqueness: Not only does Payard welcome dessert-only orders, it dedicates the entire entrance of the restaurant to the cause! Most well known New York restaurants would not be happy unless dessert was one of three courses ordered.
Clientele: Park Avenue elite, Upper East Side residents and couples out for a romantic evening.
Location: Located in the Upper East Side of Manhattan (off of the 77th street #6 subway stop), Payard is a perfect place to drop in after a day of shopping and museums.
Staff: The waiters are true professionals, who will take the time to walk you through the extensive pastry menu and make recommendations after you realize the choices are so good that it’s impossible to decide.
Final Verdict: The best patisserie in New York City.
Payard Patisserie & Bistro
1032 Lexington Avenue (between 73rd and 74th Streets)
Patisserie Hours: Monday – Saturday 7am-11pm, Closed on Sundays