The original NADÈGE opened in 2009, at 780 Queen St. West, under the ownership of French pastry chef Nadège Nurian and her Torontonian partner, Morgan McHugh. The pair opened a second, smaller Rosedale location in 2011, at 1099 Yonge St, and two more downtown spots (one around Bloor and Yonge, the other near the Yorkdale Shopping Centre on Dufferin) this year. Another is expected to crop up somewhere along the PATH in the next few months.
You could say that NADÈGE is a bakery. It certainly deals in baked goods, but it also offers sandwiches (of a certain extra-fancy sort — I don’t think they’re still called “sandwiches” when they’re served on a croissant), “sophisticated artisan chocolate products,” and a few other food prep–related items such as aprons. This is not an establishment that suffers from low self-esteem. Their website states that your sense will be “tickled by excellence,” in the form of their “exquisite decadent treats” or “delectable moments of pleasure.” The whole spirit of the place is an almost conceited celebration of the sensual and luxurious side of life.
The Rosedale NADÈGE bears some resemblance to a jewellery store, with the flat, bright, glassed-in displays and perfect, colourful wares. The prices are also somewhat reminiscent of jewellery. A single sculpted treat, no more than three inches across, can be around $7 or $8, and a single chocolate “bon bon” is $2.50 — or $16, if you get four in a fancy box. You could pull off a credible marriage proposal with one of these things.
If you can stomach some of the prices, there is clearly some weight to all the store’s online boasts about quality and excellence. I make no claims to great sophistication of palate, but the NADÈGE products I’ve tried were very pure-tasting — nothing artificial or overly sweet. Macarons and croissants are a particular speciality here. The pain au chocolat ($3.15 each, including tax) I tried was moist, flaky, and buttery-tasting without being greasy, with a rich, smooth vein of bitter chocolate down the centre.
Presentation is a big deal at NADÈGE. So is “art.” Those who are really serious about their macarons can get 16 of them in a “limited-edition artist series” box. Apparently, there have been five such “series,” each one designed by someone with proper creative cred. Past box patterns have been attributed to a photographer, a textile designer, a shoe designer, and a wallpaper studio (who knew such places existed?). At NADÈGE, packaging isn’t seen as an inconvenience so much as another medium in which to be creatively decadent.