Mornings in Mid-City LA Get a Boost With République's New Pastry Program
The last time we stepped into République, chef Walter Manzke had just begun service inside their sprawling Mid-City space. Formerly the home of Campanile, one of the city's most venerated eateries, Manzke (along with restaurateur Bill Chait) took their time inhabiting the building, blowing out walls, touching up the stone interior, and laying down lots and lots of tile.
After a lengthy soft-opening that found Manzke tweaking dishes for friends and family over a period of weeks, the doors finally opened to the public, but for dinner service only. That's not to disparage the medium—who wouldn't love garlicky escargot served with a top of puff pastry, or squid ink risotto? But really, this airy restaurant with the tall glass frontage and Charlie Chaplin pedigree deserved something more.
Namely, a dose of daylight.
Of course, République is also the former home of the first La Brea Bakery iteration, meaning there's a backbone of bread, yeast, puff pastry and more that runs through the building. And since Manzke's wife Margarita is herself a wonder in the kitchen, having formerly run the pastry program at L.A.'s Bastide as well as several upscale restaurants in her native Philippines, it seemed only natural to expand the day-to-day operations to include a breakfast pastry program. And not long after opening, that's exactly what happened.
The soaring main room opens up for early service at 8 a.m. and continues through the afternoon, offering a rotating array of financiers, fruit tarts, and scones, plus the occasional savory-side item, like slices of quiche or bacon-mustard croissants. A slow breakfast rollout is also currently in the works as the kitchen figures out how to manage the space, meaning sliced cuts of baguette will soon come laced with thick jams or ramekins of warm butter alongside poached eggs and a sweetened Vietnamese latte. But really, you should be swinging by République for the sweets.
First-timers tend to dive straight into the plain croissants, which are shatteringly delicate with an airy, buttery interior. Whether or not these belong in the conversation of L.A.'s best croissant is still up for serious debate, but the endless folds of simple pastry are an easy lure for most.
A rotation of star-shaped financiers are equally enticing, studded with berries and showered with powdered sugar for a soft, slightly dense treat that's packed in with sweetness. Many days, the freshly-made danishes and streusels are pushed to the forefront of the long marble bakery case. It's easy to see why; large crystals of sugar hug the edges of the brioche base like salt to a pretzel, while the thick custard interior holds up the day's bright offerings, including slices of baked blood orange.
Sugar buns are simple and sticky, pulling apart in coils to reveal tender, slightly doughy insides, while heftier pecan sticky buns may not stand up to The Sycamore Kitchen's babka roll down the street, but are no less welcome for their efforts.
Most folks find themselves returning over time to make their way from one end of the bakery case to the other, only to discover halfway through that the first things they tried have been swapped out for new seasonal treats that feature lots of local fruits.
Mini cornbread cakes might come with slices of strawberry one day or studded with blueberries the next, and that brown butter almond cake you loved once has disappeared from sight altogether. Bombolini flavors rotate in and out, and the burgeoning bread selection seems to offer new loaves every time you swing through. But that's all part of Margarita Manzke's plan: keep the neighborhood coming back for more. And so far, the plan is working.