As the world is going nuts, it’s time for a crunch with a French salted caramel nougatine!
This week sees the start of Paris’s popular annual amusement park situated on the left side of the Tuileries Gardens. The Fête Foraine des Tuileries is open free to the public between 25 June and 22 August with a choice of 80 paying attractions.
With excited, bustling holiday crowds and entertaining wafts of candy floss (Barbe à Papa), waffles (gaufres), toffee apples (pommes d’amour), doughnuts (beignets), and marshmallows (guimauves), there’s something for everyone – and for those of you like my daughters who love the high-sensation rides, you won’t be disappointed. I find it hard enough to even watch them!
As my teenagers are screaming to their heart’s pulsing content, you’ll find me strolling in the rest of the more civilised Tuileries Gardens. Did you know you can see Sacré Coeur from the raised part of the gardens on the Orangerie side? I can’t believe I missed this before.
The Tuileries Gardens were first landscaped under Queen Catherine de Medici (widow of Henri II), who began the building of the Tuileries Palace in 1561 on the right bank of the River Seine. The word Tuileries refers to the tile kilns that previously existed on the site.
The Palace was the Parisian residence of the French monarchs from Henry IV to Napoleon III. Before then, it was the Louvre Palace, originally built as a fortress in the medieval period then turned into a royal palace under Charles V in the 14th Century until the Louvre became a public museum in 1793.
King Louis XIV transformed the Tuileries Palace residence in 1666, when he commissioned his favourite gardener, André Le Nôtre, to design a vast new park with elevated terraces around a central axis. It was opened to the public in 1667, while King Louis moved to his new Palace at Versailles.
In 1871 the Tuileries Palace was set on fire and although destroyed in 1883, we continue to enjoy the splendour of the gardens today which is more or less as Le Nôtre designed it with its some 63 acres (25 hectares) and water basins.
Summer is the perfect time of year to stroll under the regimented shady avenues of lime blossoms and fill up on their heady fragrance.
Heading towards the elevated northwest corner of the gardens towards Place de la Concorde, is the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, a museum of contemporary art. There are currently 3 photographic exhibitions taking place, including the works of Josef Sudek.
There’s also a café inside but their new terrace was beckoning …
The museum’s new terrace café, La Boîte à Images, has been open since end April and is a quiet haven to sit in the shade in the gardens for lunch or for an afternoon goûter or mid-afternoon snack.
This is where the locals are coming for a civilised summery picnic lunch, weekend brunch, after-work plate of charcuterie, or just a glass of wine. I was invited to choose from their selection of popular large salads (including quinoa), fresh baguette sandwiches, tuna Bagnat, or large Croque-Monsieur on oversized pain de campagne with a choice of crisps or side-salad. Iced fresh apple & mint juice was welcome, as was just a taste of the chilled Sauvignon Blanc (well, I wasn’t driving!).
As my daughter and I sat down, we were enjoying the animated game of pétanque going on next to us. The café can lend you the boules to play and join in the fun too.
And I would thoroughly recommend a sweet stop here, with a dark chocolate or raspberry tartlet and Earl Grey tea (with Angelina teabags). I also saw the most tempting ice creams and sorbets too without the well-known queues in rue de Rivoli!
So, what kind of flâneur or stroller in Paris are you? Would you find a chair or two and opt for an afternoon nap, tease the wool with a regal view over the octagonal basin to the Orangerie museum, or would you be on one of those crazy summer amusement rides?
Terrasse La Boite à Images
Open same hours as the Jeu de Paume Museum:
When the heavens open in Paris and driving Spring rain pelts on even the most chic of umbrellas, the City of Light always has a bright side.
On the popular Rive Gauche (Left Bank of the Seine), near the Sorbonne and Pantheon and just a few steps away from the hustle and bustle of Boulevard Saint-Germain, I’ve recently discovered a new quiet haven on rue des Ecoles: the Hôtel des Bulles de Paris.
This charming, modern hotel has a theme around bubbles. Happily we’re talking about my favourite bubbles: Champagne.
Just walking directly into the lobby, the welcoming staff is bubbly. Led (couldn’t resist that one) into the sparkling breakfast and tea-room on even the most gloomiest of days, the room is dappled in light with a very apt quotation from Louis Pasteur decorating the pastel walls:
Un repas sans Champagne est comme un jour sans soleil
A meal without Champagne is like a day without sunshine
This new teatime brings back the sunshine. There’s no need for a menu since the choice is pure and simple: tea or Champagne – or both – served with the hotel’s signature patisserie.
To accompany the patisserie, two teas have been chosen by master of teas, Madame Tseng of La Maison des Trois Thés, nearby in rue Saint-Médard. Either choose a rather subtle black tea from Nepal, Makalu SFTGFOP 2nd flush. Tasting it on its own before the patisserie, I was trying to pin down the floral, fruity Muscat and rose notes with an accent of honey. It wasn’t until I tried it with the patisserie that the flavours came through, and could then see why it was a good match.
For those of you like myself who love a more fragrant floral tea, then go for Madame Tseng’s white Jasmine tea, Xiu Qiu, from the Chinese province of Fujian. Even the hand-rolled pearl-shaped tea-leaves evoke the idea of bubbles!
The signature patisserie’s design had been re-modelled as an Easter egg nesting on strands of white chocolate, but the pastry remains the same: hiding inside the pearl-rose white chocolate shell is a Champagne jelly, topped with a raspberry sponge and delicate vanilla mousse.
The real honour of this new teatime goes to the Champagne, selected by the Hotel des Bulles de Paris by Bocquillon: a Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru with white floral notes, white fruits and a subtle hint of citrus, the perfect match with the patisserie.
If you do opt for the tea and Champagne, I would recommend tasting the tea first and finishing off with the bubbles.
Peeking inside the Champagne bar, I couldn’t help being drawn in to its quirky bubbly decor, and can just imagine finishing off the day after my chocolate and pastry walk nearby in Saint Germain with a glass of one of their wide choice of Champagnes in a bubble chair. I hear another of their walls speak to me:
Start the day with a smile and end it with Champagne
I can see clearly now the rain has gone.
The new Champagne Teatime is served Wednesday – Sunday, 2.30pm-5.30pm
Signature Pâtisserie with choice of two teas or a glass of House Champagne: 15€
(for all 3: €20)
Hôtel Les Bulles de Paris
32 rue des Ecoles
This article is published on BonjourParis.com
News is spreading in Paris this week of tomorrow’s release of Roschdy Zem’s new French film, “Chocolat”.
Thankfully the shiny billboard’s image of a clown dispels any confusion with the previous film about a woman and a daughter opening a chocolate shop in rural France. Instead, this film is based on the true-life story of Raphael Padilla, nicknamed “Chocolat”, a former Cuban-born slave who became the first black circus artist in France at the end of the 19th Century.
Most of the film’s story takes place at number 251, rue Saint Honoré – now the modern location of the Mandarin Oriental Paris. The hotel is proud of its prestigious historical past: previously a convent, a hippodrome, royal equestrian school then the Nouveau Cirque. The film centres round the renowned modern circus popular with the elite Parisians from 1886 during the Belle Epoque era.
On 20 January, a commemorative plaque was unveiled outside the hotel by the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and the “Chocolat” film crew. It reads:
“Here, at the Nouveau Cirque Raphael Padilla known as the “Chocolate Clown” (c. 1868-1917), born a slave in Cuba, and Georges Foottit (1864-1921) invented the clown comedy, associating the White Clown and Auguste”.
White Clown and Auguste; Foottit and Chocolat
It’s no surprise that the role of the more sophisticated, “sad” White Clown, George Foottit, is played by James Thierrée, a celebrated circus performer himself – and grandson of Charlie Chaplin. Known on film as a character clown, Chaplin wrote and directed the blockbuster silent film, The Circus (1928), considered one of his best comedies.
Omar Sy plays the role of Raphael Padilla. Padilla was sold into slavery at age 9, then escaped to Europe to be discovered by Foottit when he was 18. As the outrageous Auguste clown, Padilla was known as “Chocolat” on stage. It’s a term that made it into French slang, as the expression “Être chocolat” (to be chocolate), means to be ridiculed or abused.
Foottit repeated, “Monsieur Chocolat, I’m obliged to hit you”. After being regularly duped, Padilla announced to his captivated audience, “I’m Chocolate” – a formula that would lead to 15 years of phenomenal clowning comic success.
Candy Floss, Clown Bow Ties and Red Noses
To celebrate the historical duo and such a glorious history of the Mandarin Oriental’s location, Thierry Marx and pastry chef Pierre Mathieu have created an exceptional gourmet duo together with their afternoon tea in Paris – with a difference. Be prepared to tickle your taste-buds with the “Bento Circus” at the Camélia restaurant and Cake Shop.
Three mysteriously stacked dishes gradually unveil a clown-inspired feast of nine entertaining treats for the senses.
The three mini “starters” are perhaps savoury but with a Pomme d’Amour of fresh goats cheese rolled in piquillo pepper, sesame and parmesan, the first smiles are guaranteed.
An adult version of candy-floss has us deliciously tricked with hidden foie-gras, but for me the showstopper is the more serious mini tart of smoked duck, sweetcorn cream and caramelized popcorn.
The Auguste clown comes more into play with the next sweets on stage: a pistachio flowered hat, a crispy praline chocolate mousse with a lion ring – and a memorable coconut star crowning an exotic fruit tartlet that has me believe my feet have outgrown their shoes.
As our charming server poured more tea from an oversized pot, he seemed surprised how little milk was used for a cloud of milk (“une nuage de lait”). No clowning about: for just a drop of milk, next time I’ll remember clowns’ tears: “Une larme de lait.”
At this point, it’s hard to believe that the show still goes on. The finale demonstrates an inventive vanilla clown’s eye, an explosive lemon bow-tie and an oversized red nose, concealing blackcurrant-blackberry confit and a vanilla-rose mousse in white chocolate.
Service is faultless: attentive, friendly yet relaxing – all ingredients for the perfect teatime of stylishly clowning about in Paris!
In true French slang, let’s say we’re not chocolate: at 38 euros for such a prominent address, this celebratory Circus Teatime at the Camélia is great clowning value.
Tel: (+33) 01 70 98 78 88
This article is published over at BonjourParis.com
Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest to taste the Circus Teatime. I was not required to write a review. As always, all opinions are my own.
It was an unusual time last week. Only a mere few days after the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, the already serene and discrete neighbourhood in Paris’s chic 16th arrondissement was particularly quiet.
Security was welcomingly tight and the original cast iron gates to the Palais d’Iéna were unusually ajar, but business was open as usual. I was glad my lunch date wasn’t called off as I jumped on the RER train into the City. I just wished more visitors could have shared moments like this, rather than naturally take fright and cancel their trip.
All of us have been shocked, subdued, apprehensive, pensive, confused, but it’s time to get back to life and celebrate it, not let terrorism win. So let me whisk you back to Paris where life goes on, and come inside to admire a unique blend of Asian hospitality and French art de vivre.
As soon as you walk into the welcoming lobby of the Shangri-La Hotel, it clear that it’s not just one of the most elegant Palace hotels in Paris. It’s a fascinating step back to 1896 when Prince Roland Bonaparte (1858-1924), the grand-nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, moved in to his residential home after four years of construction.
Today, thanks to the Shangri-La Hotel – who bought the palace from the French Centre of Foreign Trade in 2006 (it previously belonged to the Suez Canal Bank Company from 1925 amongst others) – the palace opened in 2010 after a mammoth four-year renovation project respecting its French heritage and, since 2009, much of the building is listed as a National Historical Monument.
The Palace retains its mix of 17th and 19th century eclectic styles plus is given a clever, contemporary luxury feel with all the comforts of a modern Palace hotel.
It’s no coincidence that the main grand Staircase of Honour looks so regal: it was designed by the Moreau brothers of the Château de Chantilly. The bronze statue of a child holding a torch leads us upstairs to the residential salons.
On the first floor with its giant reception rooms, the original marble continues throughout, as does renovated and original wooden flooring, stained glass and the likes.
The impressive main reception or banquet space is the Grand Salon, decorated in Louis XIV style. What a venue for a wedding, and just across the landing is yet another terrace looking over at the Eiffel Tower. It’s enough incentive to get married again, even to the same husband!
This trumeaux mirror reflects yet another mirror which previously framed a large portrait of Prince Roland’s Grand Uncle, Napoleon I (his brother was Roland’s grandfather, Lucien Bonaparte).
Imperial signs of Prince Roland are reminders of the Bonapartes, with recurring eagles and bees of the first and later second empire in the architecture throughout the palace. Look out for the beautiful bees in the Chimneys – and you’ll see them flying around many lush curtains and other furnishings.
But reminders of his presence don’t just include the ornate bells and whistles that remind us that he was last male descendent of the Lucien Bonaparte line. Clever clogs Prince Roland was foremost an explorer, geographer and botanist, named president of the Geographical Society in 1910 – a position he held until his death in 1924 at age 66 – plus nominated President of the Scientific Academy.
Forced to abandon a military career due to new legislation in 1886 banning the relations of French rulers to serve in the armed forces, Prince Roland was devoted to botany. He cultivated the world’s largest private herbarium (2nd largest in France and 7th in the world), comprised of more than 2.5 million samples of about 300,000 herb and fern species. They were eventually moved to Lyon as there wasn’t enough space within Paris’ Natural History Museum!
Examples of his botanical collections are showcased in the lifts taking us to the 65 hotel rooms and 33 suites – many of them with unique views of the Eiffel Tower.
I was given a sneak peek at the spacious and bright Chaillot Suite, called after the Chaillot Hill upon which the hotel is located, and is the smallest of the three signature suites. That would do me fine, imagining myself as Julia Roberts sitting elegantly on this wrap-around balcony enjoying the Paris skyline sipping on something festive when the sun goes down and the City of Lights sparkle. But I dreamily digress.
Prince Roland wasn’t keen on the new Eiffel Tower built for the World Fair in 1900. His private apartments (now the vast Suite Impériale which is also listed with Monuments Historiques) are on the other side of the building, facing Avenue d’Iéna and overlooking the Guimet Museum, which houses one of the largest collections of Asian art in the West.
Is it coincidence? The Prince was particularly fascinated by the Eastern world and his world expeditions inspired him to write one such essay on the rising curiosity within Europe about China and its culture. I bet he would also have had a few things to say at the Climate Conference next week in Paris.
Back on ground to the present, another conference was taking place in the Michelin starred Abeille restaurant, with the view over the pristine garden. Their other restaurant, the Shang Palace, is the only Cantonese restaurant in France with a Michelin Star. But for teatime and for a light lunch or dinner, the social hub venue is here at La Bauhinia.
La Bauhinia takes its name from the iconic five-petalled orchid flower that graces the Hong Kong flag. This is a contemporary restaurant where creative executive Michelin star Chef, Christophe Moret offers French and South-East Asian cuisine, complete with a popular “100% Green Menu” with constantly varying vegan dishes since the summer.
I chose their signature Asian favourites since, although there are many contemporary French dishes to tempt, I felt the need to turn up the Autumn heat and make a culinary stop in Malaysia with this classic coconut chicken soup with lemongrass, Sup Santan Ayam. On the menu, it wasn’t given a spicy chili sign but had just the loveliest, hint of background kick to warm the senses.
The menu is beautifully varied and there’s temptation for all palates. Two lightly spiced salads could have also been just the ticket – how about a grapefruit salad with prawns, coriander, peanuts and lime? The soup went best with the main course, although the vegan options with mushrooms in thin sheets of chestnut with a hazelnut and soy emulsion were swaying me to confuse the waiter.
Even during the darkest of French winter days with a Murano three-tiered chandelier, the natural light still shines through directly from above in the 1930s-era restaurant. During the renovations of the courtyard, this glass and steel Eiffel Tower inspired treasure was discovered completely by surprise behind a false dropped ceiling put in place by the building’s former corporate residents.
One of my most memorable dishes was Pad Thai when I visited Thailand. I had a few of them but only one stands out in Bangkok, served in a banana leaf boat. This didn’t need a boat as Chef Moret’s Shrimp Pad Thai just hit the spot and took me back to that special taste with its mix of textures, flavours and colours of rice noodles sautéed with shrimp, scrambled egg, soy bean sprouts, daikon, cabbage, peanuts, lime, garlic, tamarind.
A recommended glass of Savennières, a Chenin Blanc from the Loire, was the perfect partner with such exquisite exotic flavours. It was also the ideal excuse as a sipping break when noodles slipped between undisciplined chopsticks.
Next time, I could catch the waiter for the fish of the day with its saffron and truffle risotto or the Sole Meunière, opt for an Aberdeen Angus steak, or choose from the vegan menu with a pumpkin and squash Tatin with coconut. If you prefer to light up the winter fire, then the stewed lamb in a Malaysian red curry with coconut would change the inner climate and possibly produce condensation on the coupole glass roof.
Vegan Teatime Paris
Would you believe I couldn’t even manage dessert? How could I possibly turn down a chocolate tart on the menu, exotic fruits or even an Asian-style exotic puff pastry with Tahitian vanilla and spiced caramel? Perhaps I’ve been deliciously sweetened out, tasting and testing so many of the recipes before Teatime in Paris was published!
Instead, I was surprised with a mini-tasting of the most innovative and healthy vegan French pastries, brilliantly crafted by the head pastry chef, Michaël Bartocetti, who joined the team in June.
Following nearly three months of research, chef Bartocetti recently introduced these healthy pastries which not only use seasonal products, but eggs are cleverly replaced by vegetable proteins; non-refined sugars (such as coconut oil and maple syrup) are used; and there are no additives. Flour is replaced by a range of chestnut, buckwheat “flour” (I say flour but chestnut is gluten-free and so is buckwheat which isn’t wheat at all – it comes from the rhubarb family!). Milk is replaced by homemade vegetable milks (almond, soya etc.)
About ten pastries fall under this vegan, lactose-free, gluten-free choice.
As for the other exquisite-looking vegan pastries, including this Chestnut and Blackcurrant Mont-Blanc (uses no egg whites), I’ll just have to save my appetite for another visit or perhaps I may have tempted you to get there before me.
As of 28th November, the hotel will be glowing with festive cheer and holiday magic – and, if you’re lucky to be in Paris between 5-25 December, I hear that Chef Michaël Bartocetti has created a special “Christmas Sphere” yule log!
Shangri-La Palace Hotel Paris
10 Avenue d’Iéna
Tel: 01 53 67 19 98
La Bauhinia Restaurant
Reservations: 01-53 67 19 91
With sincere thanks to the Shangri-La Paris for sharing such an enlightening bite of French history.
Vive la France, its heritage and cheers to the French art of living!
When the entrance to a restaurant is a pâtisserie known as le ‘Cake-Shop’, wouldn’t you be excited?
Antoine didn’t need any sweet-talking to treat me here for lunch. It has been on my top restaurant dream list for months (OK, I’ll be honest – since 2011 when it opened) since the Chef, Thierry Marx, is one of my French super-heroes! So what was the special occasion? An early Valentine’s Day ‘surprise’. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to Valentine’s Day and eating out we avoid it and prefer to spend the evening at home over a romantic dinner with our girls. So the timing was perfect.
Calm. Cool. Cosy. The Camélia at the Hôtel Mandarin Oriental in Paris. It’s more accessible and less sophisticated than the more chic, bigger brother restaurant, Sur Mesure. The room is airy and light and when the weather is more clement, guests can eat in the gardens surrounded by camellias.
The Camélia also happens to be in one of my favourite delicious streets of Paris, Rue Saint-Honoré. If you follow me on Instragram or Facebook you’ll have a taster of Pierre Marcolini’s new chocolate boutique just a few doors down – where the macarons take pride of place – and that’s only just a few doors down again from Jean-Paul Hévin’s chocolate shop and bar. So whoah – what a street!
First off, let me explain that when I’m in a restaurant, I don’t click and point the camera at all angles. I also respect fellow diners, so my apologies for the lack of photos, all taken discretely with my ‘phone.
Are you ready for lunch? On your Marx, get set, what a menu!
A lovely touch from the Sommelier, David Biraud, is that wines by the glass are poured at the table from impressive Magnum bottles. Most important, however, are the wines. The choice was excellent, even if my favourite Condrieu was out of stock but a glass of Marsannay from Burgundy had ample long-lingering creamy floral flavours, served with the most succulent olives and truffle roasted nuts.
While I was tempted to go for the chef’s speciality of squid tagliatelle on a bed of squid ink risoni, I instead opted for the lunch menu, Daily Marx. 48 euros for either starter and main or main and dessert with a choice of 2 dishes per course. Service was swift, friendly and the staff knew the menu inside out. Our inquisitive neighbours certainly put them through their paces, while we just sat back and took in the delicious ambience of a couple of chefs in the centre island, chopping up vegetables and preparing the more intricate parts to each dish.
Tiger prawns, (snackées and tempura) with blood orange, endives (chicory) and a Dashi and bonito broth. Although this is French cuisine, the chef makes his Marx (sorry, couldn’t resist that) with Japanese influences.
The main dish was where Chef Marx really strutted his Michelin-starred stuff by transforming the classic Blanquette de Veau in the most exquisite presentation. As in my previous post, what’s so important in this dish is the sauce – and he certainly didn’t disappoint, with extra served separately on the side. The classic vegetables were tasty, glistening jewels and the surprise was the crispy rice. He did, however, add some comté cheese to the rice, which is the only ingredient altering the classic dish.
This may look small in portion size but, for lunch, the veal was huge! What with the homemade bread, rolls and salted Normandy butter (yes, butter is not often served in restaurants in Paris), it was difficult to refuse. Oh, and I also just had to try the Alsace Riesling, as the sommelier
insisted suggested that it was perfect with the veal. If you know me well, you’ll understand how I love wine tasting…
I simply couldn’t manage dessert. However, as we were settling the bill, the tastiest little sablés shortbread biscuits arrived with the lightest of chouquettes.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to disappoint you. That way I’ll be back here soon to fully enjoy the cake-shop for you. Don’t you think that merits a separate post for the perfect teatime in Paris? Hopefully next time, I may even get to meet the great man himself?
Well I hear snow is on its way to Paris this week. Wish us luck, as we’re driving down to Burgundy this weekend for the Fête de Saint Vincent Tournante – coming up next week!
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
251 rue Saint-Honoré
Tel: 70 98 78 88
Daily Marx Menu served Monday-Friday 12h30-14h30.