I am no stranger to Caroline's Bakery. It opened on Alderney Drive right across from the library around a year ago, and for a few months now I have stopped in pretty frequently, picking up a loaf of bread here and a turnover there.
It's a plain little bakery—mumsy, even—with chintz-upholstered cafe chairs, and a fleur-de-lis wallpaper around the counter. But it's also bright and very charming, with a warmth and welcoming atmosphere reminiscent of country bakeries you'd find in smaller towns around the Maritimes. The silver-haired Scottish gentleman who seems ever-present behind the counter is a delight to chat with as you peruse the sugary goods at the end of the day.
In fact, part of the charm of the bakery is the end-of-day specials that see slices of carrot cake boxed up and windmill pastries paired with turnovers for quick sale. Even a day old, the carrot cake is the best I've had in Halifax, moist and dense with heaps of smooth, sweetly tart cream cheese icing piled high enough to smoosh against the top of the box.
Along with the standard bakery goods, Caroline's also has daily lunch specials, which tend to be some variation of a soup and sandwich combo and a hot pasta or chili con carne. When Simon and I visit for lunch, the specials are chicken Veronique and cream of mushroom soup with a roast beef sandwich.
The chicken Veronique is quite nice. There's nothing special about the pasta itself, but the chicken breast has a really nice sear on it, and wasn't just thrown in to cook with the sauce, so the caramel flavour adds a nice depth to the simple dish. The sauce is delicately seasoned, with just a few soft onions added in, along with a handful of grapes that add bright, acidic pop that makes this classic dish feel a bit special.
At first glance, the soup looks disappointing—the broth looks thin and watery—but first taste erases doubts. There is a deep, earthy richness of flavour and creaminess to the texture that belies the thickness of the broth. It's delicious.
The sandwich also looks a bit boring—the roast beef could be from any grocery story, the cheese could be a slice of anything, and it just doesn't look special. And, in a way, it's true: the filling is basically inconsequential. But, as it should be in a bakery, the bread is the star. The crust development on the fluffy white bread is fantastic. The bread is soft and fresh, a bite into the crust gives a perfect blend of crispness and chewiness. I love it.
This is not my first sandwich at Caroline's—I had previously gotten a chopped egg, ham and cheddar sandwich as take-out—and while all the sandwiches seem to be of the church social variety, it's this sandwich that confirms that the quality of the bread here doesn't vary. I would, in fact, suggest going with a kid who wants the crusts trimmed just so you can have some more. The dinner rolls, served with the pasta and soup, are equally well made.
We finish our meal with two freshly baked double-chocolate macaroons that are brought over by our friendly server, who notes that dessert comes with our lunches. They are still warm when we dig into them. A mix of bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder results in loaded flavour, and a perfect baking time has resulted in a slightly crisp outside with a soft, fudgy middle. They are wonderful cookies.
Caroline's is a quaint, eminently likeable place. With homey food, splendid baked goods and fantastic prices, I hope to be stopping by for years to come.
79 Alderney Drive
Mon- Fri, 8am-5pm
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