Besides restaurants with unique concepts, bakeries also participated in the culinary festival of Masters of Taste. Bakkerij Toon De Klerck was among those participating bakeries and is known for its fresh baked bread and its delicious pastry. As a passionate dessert maker, I obviously could hardly wait to drop by this shop.
Bakkerij Toon De Klerck can be found on the other bank of the dock of Lazy Jack’s warehouse. On the ground floor of the building, you’ll find the bakery, where you can just buy bread or pastry, and if you take a flight of stairs with a black steel railing, you’ll find a small dining area with four tables. On the left side of the dining area, you can look down at the bakery and on the right side, you’ll see an ugly roof with pebbles. The building has a high wooden storefront, and a large black-and-white picture of a child with a loaf of bread is hanging across from the bakery’s counter.
Baker and pastry chef Toon De Klerck himself was present in the store, but it was an old, short lady who didn’t speak Dutch well who was standing behind the counter. She asked if I came for breakfast, because she couldn’t fry anymore eggs (It was past 1pm after all). I wanted to order pastry from the menu, so I wasn’t disappointed about breakfast, but I quickly felt like a complete idiot.
After all, quite a few customers were waiting in the bakery to get their daily bread. Then in I walked like some bigwig asking to fetch pastry from the counter, so that I could eat it upstairs with some tea. I quickly suspected that most customers choose breakfast in the dining area and I should have too.
It had come very close or I would have. Originally, I had intended to come on a Friday morning after an appointment, but because I prefer not to bike through Antwerp on an empty stomach, I already have breakfast at home and then a visit to the baker’s comes too soon after eating. It was actually more convenient for me to drop by a day earlier around lunch.
In hindsight, I should have stuck to my original plans. For once I could have skipped breakfast to experience something special at Bakkerij Toon De Klerck. Or, on second thought, I should have ordered something in the bakery and taken it home. Instead, like a pampered millennial, I let the old lady fetch two pieces of pastry from the counter and make me some rosehip tea. Still, the counter-assistant remained friendly.
The first pastry I had chosen was a large slice of rice tart, which had a thick, but creamy structure. Towards the end, the crust became crispier, but it remained delicious and sweet. I felt bad that I didn’t ask for confectioner’s sugar to dust the rice tart, because that’s how we always eat it at home. A normal person would have simply taken the pastry home. I underestimated the serving of rice tart, because I already felt quite full, although I had another piece of pastry waiting for me.
The second pastry was a rhubarb crumble that was wrapped in blotting paper and a small cardboard crown. This made it quite awkward to unravel and eat the pastry and left a lot of stains. The crumble was crumbly, but very sticky and quite soggy as a whole. The rhubarb lied on top of a crust at the bottom of the pastry, but I tasted little of this acidic vegetable. The fresh strawberries atop the pastry overpowered the rest.
If I compare this crumble to Bakkerij Goossens’ cherry crumble, then I thought the latter’s fresh pastry was far better. After all, Bakkerij Goossens’ cherry crumble had a very crispy sugar crust and crumbled without being sticky. If Bakkerij Toon De Klerck’s rhubarb crumble was supposed to be fresh pastry, then this has disappointed me. Especially because I had been looking forward to this so much and had expected top-of-the-bill pastry.
In my review of Bakkerij Goossens, I weighed the price/quality ratio. At the time, I wasn’t entirely sure how much I had paid for one slice of cherry crumble, but it had to have been about €2.50 ($2.90). At Bakkerij Toon De Klerck, I paid €3 ($3.48) and €3.50 ($4.07) for the rice tart and rhubarb crumble respectively and in my opinion, I didn’t receive the quality that goes along with such a price. In other words, if you want to buy fresh pastry, I advise you to go to Bakkerij Goossens because there you get value for money.
I now also understand a little better why Het Felix Pakhuis’ underperforming apple pie had been crowned as the best apple pie. Toon De Klerck had been one of the judges then and if his standard is at the level of the pastry I tasted in his bakery, then I understand why such a dry pastry with hardly any pieces of apple could have won a competition.
I had really been looking forward to Bakkerij Toon De Klerck’s pastry, but I quickly realized I should have ordered breakfast. After the uncomfortable feeling in the shop, that realization was enhanced by the pastry that was unable to convince me. Individually, the pastry was delicious, but it didn’t live up to its reputation, not to mention the price. This Master of Taste didn’t fulfil my expectations:
- Food: 3
- Atmosphere and hospitality: 4
- Eat – repeat: If only I had chosen breakfast!