Planning a trip to Europe next year is certainly fun and whilst I have already visited London and Paris, my husband hasn't. One of the highlights in Paris was Ladurée, a gorgeous tea salon on the Champs Elysées and I knew that I was due for a return visit. So in order to get myself excited about it, I dug up some old pictures taken of the cakes and wrote about my first visit there a while back.
At Ladurée, they have a "no photographs" policy so whilst I would've loved to have shown you gorgeous photos its a policy they do enforce. Other customers tried using their mobile phones and they were asked politely but firmly to put them away. So you'll have to take my word for it that the selection of cakes available for take away is breathtaking. The picture is from the Ladurée website and does look somewhat like it is except without the swarm of people in front of the display.
The system of ordering cakes to take away is somewhat chaotic, you stand in a line firmly pressed against the display several people deep and order with someone behind the counter and when you get to the end you pay with someone else. But it also means that choosing a cake and seeing what's available is hard as everyone is pressed against the display and if you're a point and babble-in-badly-accented-French kind of person like me, you may have to point to the item that you want from quite far away.
We decide based on personal preferences, my sister loves chocolate and nuts so the "Praliné" seems the perfect choice. its a dome of chocolate studded with nuts and crunchy praline inside. I choose the "Religieuse de la Rose" (4.30) which is Choux pastry with rose petal flavoured confectioners custard.
Despite the fact that I have a rotten cold, both are so sumptuously rich in flavour and texture, I enjoy every bite. The Praliné is a harmonious mix of chocolate, nuts and shards of praline toffee and the perfect combination of textures. The Religieuse de la Rose choux pastry is perfection, not the soggy, leaky mess you often find here. The custard is delicately rose flavoured and explodes in the mouth against the dry choux pastry and the sweet tang of rose icing. I finally understand why people go on about eclairs, profiteroles and other choux pastry goodies. I wonder if it is named so as its a religious experience but apparently not, its shape resembles a nun thus the name!
There are also pastries (Pain au Chocolat 1.70, Pain au Chocolat Pistache 2.20, Brioche plain or sugared 2.00) as well as their famous mini macarons in a myriad of flavours (6 for 12, larger quantities of 45 are 84.50 or you can buy these per kg with 50-60 pieces per kg @ 69). Cakes are between 3 and 5 which is incredibly well priced for the amount of work put into them.
But onto the the salon upstairs, we join a queue of mostly French people (always a good sign!) and wait for a table for two. Most people in the queue want a non smoking table (as we do) so the wait is longer, about 20 minutes. We are ushered into the Salon de Paéva which is a furnished with dark chocolate and vanilla stripes with the requisite gilt and marble.
To eat in upstairs at the salon, cakes range from 4.50-7 and there are also light meals to be had e.g. duck foie gras served with grenadine macaron and kugelhopf 22, lobster carpaccio served with raw ginger 23, Taramosalata cream puff served with rose petals 14, Truffle cream omelette 19, a range of salads from 19-33 and a staggering array of cakes. As we've had lunch we order cakes. I order the Carre Chocolat 6.40, a black chocolate macaron biscuit, thin black chocolate crispy leaves, smooth black chocolate cream, smooth black chocolate biscuit and chocolate zabaglione mousse. Its an indulgent celebration of dark chocolate but it never verges into being "too much".
My sister orders a selection of four mini macarons which include a caramel with super fine salt, pistachio, violet blackcurrant and coffee. The caramel with super fine salt is intriguing where salt brings out the flavour of the caramel but never overpowers it. The other flavours available are: violet blackcurrant, licorice, coffee, coconut, chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, raspberry, dark chocolate, rose petal, orange blossom, morello cherry and caramel with superfine salt.
There are also special flavours e.g. Seasonal flavours: Lemon, Praline, Ice mint, Coconut, Chestnut, Grenadine as well as Special & temporary creations: Java Pepper - Apricot Ginger - Muscovado - Candyfloss - Havana - White amber - Indian Rose - Aniseed - Champagne - Orange Saffron - Lily-of-the-valley - Strawberry Poppy - Gingerbread - Rosanis and new for Autumn is Macaroon Ruby Kiss aroma of chocolate, berries and spices (with each new season, Ladurée pays tribute to this its most famous creation by creating a new flavour).
An interesting tidbit for those that have tried to make these babies (including me), apparently once cooked and filled, the macaroons are put to one side for 2 days before going on sale, the time it takes to achieve a perfect balance between texture and flavour!
You can also partake of some champagne from the Ladurée rose or Ladurée Brut for 63, Moet et Chandon for 93.50, Dom Perignon 220 or Billecart Salmon Brut 77 as well as a range of cocktails for 11, wines, teas, coffees, spirits and soft drinks.
The English menu is here with prices and a brief description of each mouthwatering dish.
We can't leave without buying a bottle of their Violet perfume called Paéva (35 for a 100ml bottle). Its a beautiful true single note scent in a fairly simple bottle resplendently packaged in a lovely purple box with a tasseled perfume pump. Unfortunately there is a design flaw where the bottle leaks and 3/4 is gone before I even know it. It happened to both our bottles independently so sadly it doesn't appear to be just a one off problem.
For a brief history lesson, if you are interested, "Ladurée was founded in 1862, when Louis Ernest Ladurée, a miller from Frances southwest, created a bakery at 16 rue Royale in Paris.Under the Second Empire, cafes developed and became more and more luxurious and attracted Parisian high society. Along with the chic restaurants around the Madeleine, they became the showcases of the capital. The beginning of this century found Paris wrapped up in a frenzy of distraction and going out in public. Parisians flocked to the Exposition Universal, women were also changing and they wanted to make new acquaintances. Literary salons and « les circles » were outmoded. Ernest Ladurées wife, Jeanne Souchard, daughter of a well-known hotelier in Rouen, had the idea of mixing styles: thus the Parisian café and pastry shop gave birth to one of the first tea salons in town. The salon de thé had a definite advantage over the cafés of the pooch: they permitted ladies to gather in freedom."
I actually bought a Coffee version of the Religieuse de la Rose at David Joness Bondi Junction from a cranky older lady behind the pastry counter and it was the soggy, leaky kind of pastry. For starters, she hadn't boxed it, instead they'd simply chucked it in a paper bag so that it was a choux and custard explosion a short 20 minute car trip home (I shudder to think what would happen if you caught public transport with one!). I was thoroughly annoyed and the pastry was horrible and leaky I wanted to throw it away.
Ladurée Champs Elysées
75, avenue des Champs Elysées - 75008 Paris
Tel : 01.40.75.08.75 - Fax : 01.40.75.06.75
The Restaurant is open daily from 7.30am to 12.30am - The shop is open daily from 7.30am to 11pm except on Saturday 8.30am to midnight and on Sunday 8.30am to 10.00pm
Website: http://www.laduree.com (warning, viewing this website may result in an insatiable urge to hop on a plane to Paris)
P.S. I leave you with a pic of this adorable Fish bag that was in a display cabinet in a Paris Metro station and of course the Louis Vuitton store on the Champs Élysées