Park Avenue comes to Park Avenue
Well, sort of. Financier Patisserie’s original location is on Stone Street in New York City. The small chain of low key Frenchie fare currently claims five city storefronts, the 245 Park Avenue one making for the best headline. Its name is a nod to both its Financial District origins and the small, tasty almond cakes that ride shotgun to its coffee.
Financier’s first location outside of the Big Apple recently popped up in – of all places – Winter Park. We can’t say we had high expectations. But, after several meals, we’ve developed an uncomfortable fondness for Financier – a fondness reliant on the hope that it will be as good as it currently hints.
And – make no mistake – Financier’s Florida outpost is still largely a hint of what it might become. Nearly a month after open, plats du jour – from Cassoulet to Duck Confit – remain on the menu but out of reach. A Salade Nicoise’s continued unavailability the result of sourcing difficulties. Pissialiere, Pâté en Croûte? Still someday considerations.
What else? Opening hours remain in flux, we struggled to find a phone number until recently, and – as of writing this — there is no mention of the location on the Financier website or any form of local social presence. Granted, momentum does seem pointed in the right direction – we’ve watched service improve from comedic to awkward (less things are being dropped and it’s now possible to get a glass of water) but the dynamic remains a tad scattershot (albeit friendly).
I was tempted to write that Financier has yet to take off its training wheels, but it’s not an apt metaphor. Rather, they appear to have launched without training wheels (or handlebars, or…) – bobbing, weaving and crashing their way toward a groove. They’re still building the bike while riding it.
All of this introductory hemming and hawing to say – we like Financier. Quite a bit. We just hope we’ll continue to like it.
A rewind: Several months ago, we were propped at the bar watching Kevin and Maria Ruiz put their Peruvian gold of a pop up, Papa Llama, through its paces. We were chatting with just-made friends and among the topics of conversation was Orlando’s unfortunate lack of a true French ‘hang’ – an all-day, everyday affair you could roll into and while away an hour over croissant and coffee or slurp down oysters and bottle of bubbly. What Orlando has endured to date are baguette-based sandwich shops and played out bistros – throwback tastes of fancy date Franco-Americana.
Financier is a bit of different. How so? It’s a self-described patisserie, sure, but the Park Ave location is also a little bit brasserie, a little bit café. Whatever it is, it’s more than welcome. All-day welcome. Craving French toast at 4PM, a lobster bisque lunch or strawberry sorbet floating in champagne for brekkie? They’ve got you covered.
Financier’s vibe is hyper casual – come-as-you-are and not overly contrived. A genuinely attractive bar area serves as staging for coffee, wine and the browsing of baked goods, and when set against soft green, gold-trimmed wall panels and decorative tile flooring, it creates an atmosphere of familiar ease. It feels equally suitable for caffeinated tête-à-têtes with your laptop or dressed-in-your-best boozy brunches with friends.
The menu runs the gamut from small savory plates and salads to sandwiches and tartines to cakes, pastries, breakfast items and plats du jour. Of the more substantial items available to actually order and eat, Steak Frites stands out – having been enjoyed on several occasions. The meaty step of the two-part equation arrived as a buttery bavette, which gave way easily under knife to reveal a beautiful grain and perfect temp. It’s a dead simple plate – both flavorfully and visually. Accompanied by properly crisped fries and a bit of bread, it’s the type of low-commitment café fare we love to love.
The lure of a croque madam proved irresistible – the egg topped, ham filled, slop of a sandwich was devoured in its entirety despite pre-arrival promises from a dieting Go-Kart Romeo that it would just be picked at – a luscious mornay fully soaking into bread, the edges of which were brittle-crisped making for all sorts of textural heaven. As an aside, January dieters are like Christmas & Easter Catholics.
Smoked salmon – on an appropriately light and subtle multigrain croissant – is turned into something wonderful when paired with capers, cucumbers, tomato, red onion and crème fraiche. We didn’t expect much from a multigrain croissant, but it makes the sandwich – a sandwich that wins our most-ordered award thanks to it becoming our dear Munch’s default.
A tartine of smoked salmon, poached egg and avocado (served open faced on a baguette) fared less well. Somewhere between its so-so baguette, sad slices of pock-marked avo and excellent poached eggs and salmon, we arrived at middling. A better piece of baguette and fresher avo would surely move it into the realm of A-OK.
The Financier sandwich is a signature item and is a perfectly tasty bit of boring – think toasted panini with chicken, artichoke, tomato and goat cheese. Hard to go wrong with the friendly ingredients and prep, but also hard to get excited about.
If you’re into brunch, there’s a weekend brunch menu – just don’t get your heart set on Duck Confit Hash or Lyonnaise Potatoes as we did – both on the menu, and both unavailable as I type these words.
Steak & Eggs (sans Lyonnaise potatoes) was a winner of a brunch bite, however, and the smashed flash-fried potatoes served with it were outstanding – making us perfectly happy to leave Lyon on paper.
Likewise, Eggs Norwegian were a hit – salmon and poached eggs under a bright hollandaise that seemed deepened with perhaps a hint of smoked paprika. Perfectly cooked and went down a treat with a small split of Laurent Perrier.
Of course, there’s sweets. Financier is known for its viennoiseries and pâtisseries. We can confirm that the lemon meringue tartelette is indeed a thing of joy – billowing with toasted cream and with a lemony heart that’s tearjerkingly pure. On the flipside, a takeaway almondine suffered from being less than fresh – dry and indistinct.
Many will go to Financier for croissants alone. Its croissant beat out some heady competition to be named ‘Best Croissant in New York’ in 2018 by Frenchly. We found the straight-up traditional croissant delicious – buttery, flaky and full of flavor. An almond croissant proved less impressive – equally flavorful but with a chewiness that keeps us visiting down the street Buttermilk Bakery to get our fix.
Worth noting that the croissant also features in a breakfast sandwich of bacon, egg and cheese that is all sorts of dirty delicious.
Financier’s slight brasserie bent comes courtesy of beers on tap, including a semi-local or two and Chimay (hooray). The wine list is small but thoughtful and offers some very good by-the-glass options. The house white (“wine of the moment”) has been reliably good as a quaffer, and we found a ’14 Les Chaux de Fontbonau Cotes du Rhone top notch – and a wonderful breakfast wine to boot.
House-roasted coffee (roasted daily and shipped to individual Financier stores within 24 hours) is pleasant even if it’s not to our taste – meaning it carries a smokiness more akin to coffee served “on the continent.” It is top quality, however, and we’ve cleaned every cup. Both Americanos and Macchiatos have been well prepared, arriving with very good, complementary financier cakes.
As you can see, amidst the chaos there’s an awful lot to like. Warts and all, we’ve enjoyed almost everything that has come out of Financier’s kitchen. It’s simple, well-prepared food. Honest food. Our type of party. But fully embracing Financier at this point is like trying to hug a greased pig.
Let’s wrap with a bit of real. A restaurant soft-open should never last more than a couple of weeks. 3-4 days is common. A week is generous. To cry soft-open after three weeks is to admit that things aren’t going as planned. Fortunately for those slow out of the gate, good food can mask a multitude of sins. The food at Financier is good. Our hope is that when the supervisorial eyes of startup stakeholders eventually look the other way, it remains so – that Financier commits to becoming the elevated everyday eatery Winter Park (and Orlando) lacks and craves rather than falling into the mediocrity trap set by the indiscriminate and disinterested that will surely wander in looking for frappucinos.
As of today, we count Financier as yet another feather in Winter Park’s increasingly feathery food cap. We would recommend it. As for tomorrow? Who knows.
Watch this space for updates.
So. So, so, so. We’ve been back a few times since the writing of this review. Are we stalking? Sort of. We prefer to call it verifying.
Front of house service continues to improve, but the kitchen has been struggling with weekend crowds. Weekend waits for food have been borderline intolerable – even by French café standards. Wait staff do what they can, we’ve smiled our way through delays, but neighboring tables have been vocally unhappy.
Many dishes continue to be unavailable – both on daily and weekend brunch menus. Finally, consistency, accuracy and the quality of some dishes are still in flux. A fried green tomato sandwich was mediocre at best and served without its promised burrata. Ordered a croque madame, received a croque monsieur. Ordered steak and poached eggs and received steak and overcooked fried eggs. This second go at steak & eggs also bore zero resemblance to our first. Our first, featured in the above review, was beautifully cooked and plated. The second was a murder scene – haphazardly prepared and swimming in grease that had turned everything brown. Not a promising trajectory.
As a result of the above, we’ve dropped our rating for food and service. Unfortunately, at this point, our willingness to overlook out-of-the-box clumsiness is largely gone. Visits are on hold for now – still a lot of promise, but we’re going to give them some time to decide what they want to become. Sink or swim, mon ami.