Pastry chef brings taste of Paris to Hampstead

Aside from idle chatter over the shop counter, often little is known about local shopkeepers who are a familiar face to many. This week the Ham&High begins a series of interviews with owners of independent businesses, asking who they are and why they came to Hampstead. All are members of NW3 Hampstead Business Association. Darius Endriukaicis, of Le Petit Nicolas patisserie, talks about how his sweet tooth led him to Heath Street.

Darius Endriukaicis eats a butter cream cake or two at eight in the morning for breakfast, followed by another few pastries for lunch.

By dinner he’s ready for some savoury food but his heart is with the sweet stuff.

That’s good news for the people of Hampstead who can sample the professionally trained pastry chef’s cakes at his new patisserie in Heath Street.

Le Petit Nicolas was opened by Mr Endriukaicis with his business partner and chef Mario Picard in June and promises French delicacies of the gourmet variety.

From rich Noel logs, to tangy lemon tarts, the cakes don’t come at a small price, but every bite is worth a million – one cake is even coated in gold-leaf and all are exquisitely made by hand.

Looking at the window display heaped with sugary delights, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were wandering along a boulevard in Paris.

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Lithuanian-born Mr Endriukaicis, trained in France, is responsible for the opening of exclusive restaurants such as The Punch Bowl, with Madonna and Guy Ritchie, and The Madison near St Paul’s Cathedral. However, it was as a young boy, surrounded by village cooking, that his curiosity for all things culinary grew.

“My grandmother had lots of shops – a cheese shop, a cake shop, some restaurants,” said Mr Endriukaicis.

“I used to get that feeling when I went into my grandmother’s restaurants. I would see the uniforms and I’d go into the kitchen – it was something magical.”

However, he always felt more at home in the sweet corner, sampling pastries for chefs who were trying out their recipes.

He would watch them until he developed his own secret recipes – which he says are closely guarded by his business partner, Mr Picard.

The patisserie is a taste of Paris in Hampstead and Mr Endriukaicis is keen to expand his empire locally.

“I would also like to open a Parisian caf� in Hampstead. If I did, it would serve wild mushroom and truffle omelettes, salmon, scrambled eggs and lots of black caviar,” he said.

With the expensive tastes of a Michelin- trained chef and experience working with some of the world’s finest gourmet ingredients, Mr Endriukaicis confesses he has a weakness for a takeway loved by the British.

“Greasy seaside cafes in Brighton don’t do it for me,” he said. “But I do love a kebab. A kebab is a kebab – you can’t expect a miracle but you know what you’re going to get.”