Kinshasa is admittedly a difficult if not pointless town for the normal tourist. Besides all the messiness of it and the fact that getting around is incredibly difficult if you can’t ride on the back on the UN shuttles, there isn’t really much to see. This is a new city (founded in 1876, which makes it newer than even San Francisco) and the small bits of history that were there from colonial times, were completely obliterated when the Congolese achieved independence due to what they represented. Other towns in this situation often get a good club scene going or have beaches or something else for the visitor to enjoy. Unfortunately this is not the case in Kinshasa and even having access to the Congo River is impossible because they’ve walled it off along the town due to it being an international boundary, because you know, so many people want to sneak in to Congo illegally due to its “freshness”…
As always though, it you poke around enough, you will usually find something redeeming about any place. In the case of Kinshasa, it’s Patisserie Nouvelle. This is a bakery in the middle of Gombe, the center of town. It also happens to be just a hop and a skip from the HQ for MONUC, which explains a good deal of the success, being that a good degree of the clientèle are expats looking for what I would warrant to say is the hands down the best croissants outside of France. The Congolese aren’t to be left out on this and also go to Nouvelle to eat, despite the fact it is extremely expensive for them.
This may seem like a silly thing to get excited about until you think about all the non-French croissants that you may have had in your life. I know that in the US, croissants suck. They’re always too dry and not flaky enough. It’s like places are too scared or too cheap to use enough butter in them. In Spain, a country that has a border with and a royal family from France, fares about as well in the croissant department. Again, I don’t get it and I just gave up eating croissants except when in France, which is something that doesn’t happen as much as I’d like.
But here at Nouvelle, the croissants are bombastically good. They’re just like the best ones I’ve had in France. But even beyond the croissants, the breads, sweets, and other baked goods at Nouvelle are also top notch. It’s an astounding find in place like DR Congo and the atmosphere inside is a lot like some small French cafe that you’d find Paris. We pretty much lived on this place for breakfast while we stayed in Kinshasa.
For those interested in finding it, there used to be a website that was part of the site for Caf Conc, which is a very upscale restaurant nearby that the same people own, who happen to be Belgians, not French. Alas, the website has long been dead, so about the only way I can point folks to these dreamy baked goods is via a Google map. If one finds oneself in Kinshasa, make sure to drop in.