Putting on The Ritz Paris Teatime

Teatime at the Ritz in Paris was on my perfect French afternoon tea bucket list all during its four long years of renovation. Even as the luxury 5-star hotel was undertaking its €200 million face-lift on Place Vendôme, I still featured the Ritz in my recipe book, Teatime in Paris, knowing that they would unveil something exceptional. Together with our clinging French attire, my friend and I were excited to let time stand still and put on a Ritz Paris Teatime!

Ritz Paris Teatime new Salon Proust

Tea in the Salon Proust

Winter in Paris is perhaps the best time to indulge in the ultimate French afternoon tea. It takes place by the fireplace in the salon given homage to Marcel Proust, under his watchful portrait’s eyes.

Ritz Paris Teatime Salon Proust

Author Marcel Proust came to the Ritz’s opening party in 1898 and chose it as his second home. He apparently took to the corner spot right next to the fireplace, finding endless inspiration for his novels using the hotel’s elegant surroundings and intimate salons of the literary and aristocratic elite.
Here he felt that “nobody would push you around”.

Ritz Paris Teatime at the Salon Proust

As soon as 2.30pm chimes, the loaded silver Champagne bucket beckons at the entrance to the open-curtained, cosy salon. Would you pick a flute of Reserve Barons de Rothschild Blanc or Rosé to add even more sparkle to the occasion?

Ritz Paris Teatime with Champagne Rothschild

The shiny marble table mirroring the impressive floral display is suddenly hidden, groaning with golden-framed glass boxes containing a whole range of biscuits, petits fours and cakes from yesteryear (les biscuits d’Antan).

Marcel Proust looks on wide-eyed, swooning over his childhood favourite sweet treats on overflowing tiered plates. He no doubt would have loved what’s to come from the talented head pastry chef, François Perret.

Ritz Paris Teatime Salon Proust

It is a journey through the flavors of my childhood memories which I grew up with and which developed by taste buds.”

Chef François Perret insists, too, that he doesn’t use sugar to excess. This is my kind of pastry chef!

Exceptional teas from the TWG Tea Company in Singapore are given pride of place over pages and pages in the menu. The tea sommelier has picked out black, green and white teas, including semi-fermented, fermented teas and herbal infusions. I would recommend the Ritzy Earl Grey with added cornflowers. Non- tea drinkers are also spoiled for choice with the likes of hot chocolate, five different coffees, as well as iced and cold drinks.

Ritz Paris Teatime teas

A Right Ritz Paris Teatime

Afternoon Tea at the Ritz is distinctly French in the Salon Proust. There are no patisseries or pastries as such; instead typically refined biscuits and petits fours from yesteryear plus mini tarts and cakes.

It’s the scalloped, humped madeleine teacake that takes centre stage from start to finish, as made famous by Proust in his novel, “In Search of Lost Time” (A la Recherche du Temps Perdu). Even the tea service evokes a golden madeleine motif: Chef Perret helped to design the French white limoges porcelain made by Haviland.

Ritz Paris Teatime Madeleines de Proust

Service is immaculate and convivial, as each element of this Parisian teatime is given a touch of relaxed ceremony. A mini madeleine arrives in a bowl for starters, then sumptuously immersed in lemon-infused milk – we’re asked to leave it to infuse for a minute to enjoy the experience at its best.

Three tiers of treats arrive, competing for centre stage: we’re introduced to each layer in order, starting with a quirky teacup as top tier. They’re all biscuits and petits fours that would have traditionally been served in the brasseries of the time: sponge fingers with cocoa nibs, Russian cigarettes, Florentines.

Ritz Paris Teatime Table

The second tier highlights biscuits such as Spritz, buttery Pailles au framboises (nothing like the French packet ones!), airy allumettes of egg whites and lemon, marshmallow bears. The bottom tier is devoted to tarts and cakes, with the lightest sugar tarts on a brioche base (I hear they’re now serving old-fashioned lemon tarts), pink praline meringue, marble cake and giant tuiles.

A most memorable treat is perhaps the “Pain au Chocolat”. Not at all appearing like the classic viennoiserie that we see in Parisian boulangeries, Chef Perret has played with the simple French childhood goûter (after-school 4pm snack) of a baguette sandwich filled with a couple of chocolate squares, cleverly transforming it into cocoa-nib-covered dark chocolate breads served with a platter of cocoa butter, coconut butter, whipped cream, and jam.

Pains au chocolat butters ritz paris teatime

The Madeleine du Ritz arrives hidden under a bell, unveiled as delicately perfumed with orange blossom and lemon-glazed. So not to completely ruin your surprise, they change the flavour combination every now and again.

Recipes for madeleines and tuiles are included in Teatime in Paris, just in case you’d like to recreate a ritzy teatime at home.

With all that tea, even a trip to the restroom was discrete ceremony, where the tap water glides from golden swans.

Tea break Ritz Paris restrooms

I’d missed the bill arriving, which was yet another wonderful touch (their discretion, that is – not that I’d run off to the bathroom!); elegantly and discreetly placed at page 46 inside an old edition of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, where Proust describes that perfect taste of a childhood memory through a Madeleine and some tea.

Ritz Paris Teatime check Proust book

Don’t be fooled by all the light biscuits and mini cakes: it’s just not possible to finish everything that’s presented (well, without needing a golden crane option at the end to lift us out). A box of untouched goodies are yours to take home, plus yet another finale: the most exquisite tiny tea caddy containing a Rooibos and yuzu tea with precise instructions to infuse 5g for 400ml at 90°C for 3-4 minutes, s’il vous plaît.

After such a Ritz Paris Teatime, it’s quite easy to take a stroll indoors and lose yourself in the sumptuous corridors leading to the Hemingway Bar. To access the bar, temptations continue with this elegant shopping gallery.

Ritz Paris Shopping gallery

With teatime starting at 2.30pm, by the time you’ve enjoyed an afternoon of it by the fire in such lush surroundings, it’s extra magical in Winter to come out to the sparkling lights of Place Vendôme.

So, what do you think of having a Christmas Ritz Paris Teatime?

Teatime Ritz Paris Christmas

Open every day: 2.30pm-6pm

French Teatime (Thé à la française): €65; Champagne Teatime: €85
Salon Proust
Ritz Hotel Paris
15 Place Vendôme, 75001 PARIS
Tel: +33 (0)1 43 16 33 74

Metros: Opéra or Tuileries

 

Note: This teatime was in experienced in November 2016 but the original version of this article was finally first published for Paris Perfect in February 2017.

Café Renoir, Montmartre Museum Gardens

There’s no denying it: Montmartre is always pretty crowded with tourists and tour groups – and that’s just on weekdays! But it still never fails to amaze me that when you head towards the back of the hill (the “butte”) and follow signs to the Montmartre Museum, you’ll discover a surprisingly much quieter haven in Rue Cortot. Now opened to the public, for just 4 euros entry into the Museum’s Renoir gardens, enjoy the welcome tranquility and relax with a drink or snack in the timeless Café Renoir.

Rue Cortot Montmartre Paris

This week I did just that, avoiding the summer crowds around Sacré Coeur and Place du Tertre during a swelteringly hot afternoon. Thanks to the Montmartre Museum, I was invited for a spot of light lunch at the Café Renoir, which has recently been refurbished.

Café Renoir, Montmartre Museum

café renoir montmartre museum

The sun room has been given a make-over with antiques from La Petite Brocante de Montmartre and touches of dried flowers and plants.  Apparently it was here that Auguste Renoir was inspired to paint Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette in 1876 when he lived here.

café renoir montmartre museum Paris

I could have sat indoors to imagine Renoir painting, but a pretty table in the shade was beckoning with a most beautiful view of the gardens dedicated to the painter, with a view on the famous swing …

cafe renoir montmartre museum garden

By 1pm, I’d already missed the quinoa salad, which was obviously popular in such a heat but when a Moroccan-style chilled carrot salad arrived to accompany a vegetarian quiche (made by Rachel’s Cakes), then that made up for it (part of the €16 menu).

If you know me well, I love good wines and so couldn’t resist a taste of their chilled white (also choice of rosé and red) – I’m looking out for this again and thoroughly recommend their organic Apremont from Savoie by l’Envin – not too dry, bags of fruit and full on the palate.

Café Renoir montmartre museum

All their drinks are supplied by quality brands, with fruit juices by renowned Alain Milliat or Sassy Cidre but as slices of lemon & poppy-seed cake arrived (made by Ryotaro Sato), their own house iced tea with mint was the perfect accompaniment on ice to help bring down the 36°C!

The view from the quiet Café Renoir looks on to my favourite part of the garden: the famous swing, La Balançoire, painted by Renoir in 1876 while he lived here for a year.

Renoir Gardens swing

The painting was presented at the Impressionists’ exhibition in 1877 but hard to believe that it was badly received by the art critics.  The work was purchased by Gustave Caillebotte, Renoir’s artist friend and patron – jolly good chap! Incidentally, I need to visit his home near Orly, outside Paris and take a boat ride à la Caillebotte.

The gardens are so inviting to linger and enjoy the familiar views that would have been seen by Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo from their painting atelier, which has recently been restored to resemble what it was back in 1912.

Suzanne Valadon artist studio Montmartre Museum

Number 12 Rue Cortot is the oldest house in Montmartre, constructed in the middle of the 17th century.  It was home to a number of artists such as Auguste Renoir, Emile Bernard, Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo.

It wasn’t until 1959 that it was restored to house the Montmartre Museum, which houses a unique collection of paintings, posters (notably by Toulouse-Lautrec) and drawings that recount the history of Montmartre, including its infamously animated cabarets.

oldest house in Montmartre Paris

Making your way to the back of the museum, you’ll appreciate the views.

Cafe Renoir Gardens

I’ve already visited the museum many times and one of my favourite exhibits are the slide shows showing how life was through photography and film at the time of these various painters.  They also show a memorable photo of the area where the vines were replanted in 1933 for the Clos de Montmatre vineyard.

Around 50,000 visitors celebrate the Fête de Vendanges or Montmartre Wine Festival each year in October. Here’s the unique view up close to the vineyard from the Renoir Gardens of the Museum.

café renoir vineyard montmartre

This year, the museum has also organised gardening workshops. Learn how to plant, seed and take cuttings for your Parisian balcony; or how to cultivate your own vegetables; and how to add edible flowers to your savoury and sweet dishes. This is also great for children, accompanied by an adult.  For more information, consult the Renoir Garden Workshop information site.

Renoir Cafe Gardens Beehives Montmartre Museum

The Café Renoir, Musée Montmartre
12 rue Cortot
75018 Paris

Open every day, 12pm-6pm (May-October) & from Wednesday to Sunday (October-April)

Snack lunch menu: €16

Night opening, 7pm-10pm every Thursday in July & August, and last Thursday of every month (€15 entrance fee, glass of wine included).

Metros: Lamarck-Caulaincourt (line 12); Anvers (line 2)

Best Pastries Rue Saint-Dominique, Paris

best pastries rue Saint-Dominique

If you’ve read my second book, Teatime in Paris, you will have discovered not just easy French teatime goûter recipes, but also the sweeter addresses in Paris – plus some fascinating titbits of history that accompany many of the pastries.

With such a wealth of the best sweet addresses in Paris, imagine how exciting it is to have the most delicious oasis of patisseries, bakeries, chocolate and caramel shops plus Salon de Thé tearooms concentrated IN JUST THREE BLOCKS, all near the Eiffel Tower! What’s more, there are now two new delicious arrivals on the block!

Let me be your online guide to the best pastries on Rue Saint-Dominique – starting at the bottom of the foodie pedestrian street of Rue Cler in the 7th Arrondissement, to the Esplanade des Invalides, an open-air playground for the boules-playing locals. Finish off your sweet stroll by watching them play, or grab a bench in the quieter little parks around it with a pastry box or two and caramels in hand.

Best Pastries Rue Saint-Dominique

best pastries rue saint dominique

Aux Merveilleux de Fred

Right on the corner of the Church of Saint-Pierre du Gros Caillou, marvel at the Merveilleux meringue-and-Chantilly-cream domes freshly being prepared in the window. It’s not difficult to be lured in, door wide open, to this chandelier-lit bakery, where Frédéric Vaucamp has brought back the 18th century specialities of Northern France and Flanders. There are a few boutiques in Paris – remember me discovering the first one in the 16th, just off rue de Passy?

Each Merveilleux meringue cake comes in large, individual or mini, and each take a theme from French society. Choose your size, for example, with a whipped cream and caramel that’s called the Sans-Culottes – meaning “without breeches or pants” – referring to the common people who largely took part in the French Revolution. Cinnamon lovers will enjoy the Incroyables (cinnamon speculoos cream), or why not try the Unthinkable (the Impensable) with its crispy creamy coffee meringue? For a cherry in your cake, go Excentrique.

Don’t forget to stock up for an extra-sticky brioche breakfast of Cramiques, either studded with traditional raisins, sticky “plain” sugar, or with dense, dark chocolate chips.

94 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Tuesday-Saturday 9am-8pm
Sunday 9am-7pm (Closed Monday)


Aoki macarons Rue Saint Dominique Paris

Sadaharu Aoki

Award-winning pastry chef, Sadaharu Aoki has been amazing Parisians with his distinct Japanese influences on French pâtisserie for the past 20 years. The window is enticing enough with Matcha Green Tea croissants and colorful macarons but why not step inside to taste the yuzu citrus and the black sesame macarons in the tranquil tearoom?

Many macarons are tea-infused with Hojicha grilled Japanese tea, and Genmaïcha, a green tea combined with roasted brown rice. Green tea is given another voice with his popular pastry, the Bamboo – Chef Aoki’s Japanese take on the classic Parisian Opera cake, with each delicate layer consisting of joconde biscuit, buttercream, chocolate ganache, syrup and glaçage (glaze) – but in place of the traditional coffee syrup, chef Aoki exchanges it with Matcha green tea and a splash of Kirsch liqueur, adding that special je ne sais quoi to the opera notes – Yo, it has its own pentatonic scale! For more of his pastry tastings, see my previous post here.

The shop was previously teamed up with Jean Millet Paris until May 2017.

103 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Tuesday-Saturday 11am-7pm
Sunday 10am-6pm (Closed Monday)


best pastries Rue Saint-Dominique

Lemoine

Stop here for a taste of the other speciality of Bordeaux, the Canelé. As winemakers used egg whites to clarify their wines, the local nuns came up with this delicious idea to use up the egg yolks in the 18th Century and the Canelas was born. Over the years the name has changed but it’s still a fascinating little caramelised crunchy fluted cake with an eggy vanilla and rum interior.

They also have macarons and chocolate but you can’t leave France without tasting a Canelé! The good news is that they can keep for a few days, so prepare your doggy bag for later as there are still many treats to try yet.

74 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Monday-Sunday 9am-8pm


best pastries rue Saint-Dominique

If you’re looking for a good, crusty baguette and a choice of delicious sliced breads, pop into the Boulangerie Nelly Julien, 85 rue Saint Dominique and be tempted with even more pastries.

Monday-Saturday 6.30am-8.15pm. Closed Sunday


Best pastries rue saint dominique

Le Moulin de la Vierge

The bakery window says it all: “Viennoiserie – Tout Au Beurre”.

Here you have to taste their Viennoiseries, the delicious umbrella word which covers the best buttery, flaky croissants, pains au chocolat, pains au raisin, apple chaussons to name a few – and typically eaten for breakfast. More butter cakes come in the form of little Financiers (friands) teacakes, plus their selection of traditional pastries. Rows of fresh crusty bread, flutes and baguettes wink at customers behind the cosy lamps on the counter. They also offer soup and sandwiches to either take out or sit in.

64 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Thursday-Tuesday 7.30am-8.30pm (Closed Wednesday)

 


notre patisserie Paris near Rue Saint-Dominique

Notre Pâtisserie

Turn right into Rue Amélie and you’ll see why it’s worth a few steps just off rue Saint Dominique. Decked out in turquoise blue and white, this most welcoming new patisserie has been dreamed up by talented pastry chef partners Christophe and Francesca.

Christophe Rhedon, a former pastry chef teacher from the prestigious Lenôtre school and a Meilleur Ouvrier de France (sporting the typical red white and blue collar), emphasises that “Notre Patisserie”, is the result of a family team input. He says, “we’ve been working together like a mayonnaise”, all whisking up creative ideas together, right down to the teapot knickknacks by his Mother-in-Law. I personally adore the chic Parisian wallpaper and the flowerpots on the original steel frames that they’ve kept to remind you of the location’s history: it housed the workers of the Eiffel Tower in the 19th Century.

macaron classes best sweet address near Rue Saint-Dominique Paris

You’ll also be lured in to watch the chefs in full swing producing their picture perfect pastries and brioches from the lab in full view behind the counter.

I was most honoured to have a pre-taste of the exclusive macaron classes for Paris Perfect Rental clients that will run from September. More on the hands-on workshop will be detailed on their website.  For those of you who can’t make it to Paris, then grab a copy of either of my books for a step-by-step guide on how to make macarons at home in your own kitchen. 

7 rue Amélie, 75007 Paris
Tuesday-Friday 8.30am-7.30pm
Saturday 9am-7.30pm; Sunday 9am-1pm (Closed Monday)

 


Thoumieux best pastries in Rue Saint-Dominique Paris

Gâteaux Thoumieux

As the word, “Thoumieux” implies with its play on French words, everything’s better! Just across the road from Chef Jean-François Piège’s famous eponymous brasserie, his cake shop has been taking Paris by storm since 2013 with the famous Chou Chou (a chou bun with a mini chou hidden inside).

Pastry chefs Sylvestre Wahid and Alex Lecoffre play with seasonal inspiration to create artistic treats using natural sugars and honey as well as some gluten free options. You’ll love their fraisier, mango cheesecake or lemon cake with a white chocolate crust. Don’t miss their fresh brioche buns – although my firm favourite still has to be the Chou Chou, which comes in various seasonal combinations.

58 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Tuesday-Saturday 8am-8pm
Sunday 8am-6pm (Closed Monday)

Update: Since writing this post, Thoumieux have sadly closed down their patisserie but the pastries and macarons continue with a new shop opened by pastry chef, David Liébaux since mid-October 2017.


best sweet addresses Rue Saint-Dominique Paris

Henri Le Roux

Who would have known that salted caramel is a recent discovery? Not only is this one of the top chocolate shops in Paris but Henri Le Roux is also known as Caramélier. Fans of salted caramel have Henri Le Roux to thank, as he created the CBS© (Caramel au Beurre Salé) in 1977 in Quiberon, the location of his first chocolate shop in Brittany and where salted butter is added to many local specialities. Ever since, salted caramel has appeared the world over and so he wisely registered it in 1981.

Don’t leave Paris without a taste of the CBS, with its deliciously dark and soft half-salted caramel with crushed walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds giving it such a unique texture – and now celebrating its 40th birthday! There are dozens of additional flavours to choose from, including a subtle Sakura cherry blossom caramel to welcome the arrival of Spring. Peruse the mouth-watering range of chocolates (including one with truffle), as well as the caramel (Caramelier) and chocolate (Bonsoncoeur) spreads that are a special luxury on crêpes or simply on the best baguette!

52 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris
Tuesday-Saturday 11am-2pm; 3pm-7.30pm (Closed Sunday & Monday)


best pastries on Rue Saint-Dominique Paris, Karamel

Karamel

Stick with me, as caramel continues to unwrap at the next block! Karamel is the new concept tearoom and patisserie created by another caramel-loving Breton, Nicolas Haelewyn, after a career at Ladurée with the last 5 years as international pastry chef.

Sitting in front of a long glass case of traditional looking pastries, it’s difficult to choose just one, as each masterpiece is intriguing – from the giant 1001 Karamel Mille feuille to some more dainty-looking treats. While I’m pondering, I’m thrown off track with tasting cups of a huge tureen of Teurgoule (or Terrinée), a dark-skinned slow-cooked caramel rice pudding from Normandy as Mum and our good friend, Rena, already tuck in to their pastry choices.  I won’t spoil your surprise of my rather curvy caramelised pear on a tartlet – but open it up and Oh-là-làs are guaranteed! Sharing this somehow would have been difficult (well, that’s my excuse).

The teas by Kodama are all beautifully explained. Amazed at such a surprising match of green tea with lively ginger and lemon, the extra touch was a caramel slipped behind a dainty floral porcelain teacup.

67 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris

Monday-Friday: 7.30am-7.30pm
Saturday 9am-7.30pm
Sunday 9am-1pm


Want to make your own financiers, canelés, madeleines, tarts, millefeuilles, éclairs, choux buns and macarons yourself at home? Don’t forget you’ll find the recipes in my second book, Teatime in Paris!

Saint Honoré Paris: A Pastry Party and a New Healthy Menu

The words, Saint Honoré Paris, mean more than the ever-so-chic luxury shopping street in the first arrondissement. Saint Honoré – the patron saint of bakers – is now given a double tribute at the Mandarin Oriental, the most modern of the Parisian Palace hotels, just around the corner from Place Vendôme.

Saint-Honoré Vendome

This week, la fête du Saint Honoré (16 May) was honoured in true Parisian Mandarin Oriental style, with celebrations centred around the famous Saint-Honoré pastry, originally invented by Chef Chiboust on the eponymous street back in the 19th century (1847 to be precise).

Whilst the location of Chef Chiboust’s original patisserie isn’t known, thanks to the Mandarin Oriental hotel on rue Saint-Honoré, it’s now an address (that I’m personally glad to see, as it was previously lacking) which honours the patron saint with their very own signature pastry, completely re-modelled in the hotel’s modern style.

(Did you know that the actual location of the hotel used to be on the same spot as a circus?  See my article all about the Bento Teatime and the true story of Chocolat the clown, who was made famous here.)

saint honore paris pastry mandarin

It’s a double whammy, as such a contemporary re-model of the pastry classic (originally designed by David Landriot) doesn’t stop there.

l’Honoré: New Healthy Menu

The Saint Honoré celebrations announced the opening of l’Honoré, the start of a new style of a healthy-eating detox menu experience from breakfast, lunch to teatime – served in the re-looked stylish lobby and the more discrete cosy alcoves.

Mandarin-oriental Paris

Butterflies follow us around the hotel: starting from the reception area with 138 Swarovski butterflies, representing each of the hotel rooms, to every stylish nook and corner.

saint honore paris

Michelin-starred Executive Chef, Thierry Marx – one of the pioneers in France by indicating vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free or nut-free on his menus here – takes it a step further with l’Honoré by offering menus to cater for those with dietary requirements, or for those who simply like a particularly healthy but gourmet option.

L'honoré restaurant Mandarin Rue Saint-Honoré Paris

Photo courtesy of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Paris

(Update 24 May 2017) Honoured to try out the new l‘Honoré menu, I plunged right in with a taste of the carrot, apple and ginger detox drink. The detox concoctions change daily, but I would easily drink this every day given the chance: it has the perfect dosage of reviving ginger without it being too strong and the carrot is balanced beautifully with green apple (checking my complexion in the mirror today to see the benefits!).

The 100% vegan options on the menu are a mix of light quinoa style salads to avocado toast but the vegetable burger is more substantial, served in a rice-flour bun with pickles, salad and the most addictive parsnip chips. Spice lovers will adore the green vegetable curry with coconut and delicate rice: I found it hard to imagine that seasonal vegetables without meat or fish would be so satisfying, especially with its fragrant mix of fresh Thai basil and coriander.

honore paris new healthy menu
Dessert options are fruity and light – but if you’re feeling a bit more decadent, you can choose a pastry from the cake shop that sweetly beckons across the hall.  The one downside is that the new plush seats are so comfortable – it’s just too easy to wish to linger for teatime and, as you’re slightly hidden from view (not from the attentive service), it’s tempting to get working on your next project in such a discrete, peaceful haven.

Saint-Honoré Pastries on Rue Saint Honoré Paris

Back to the pastry party! Chef Thierry Marx and his prestigious pastry team had exceptionally created SIX different flavours of their signature Saint-Honoré pastry just for the occasion: including Matcha green tea, praline, and rose-raspberry. I’ve put in a word that they continue them during the year, so fingers crossed!

Saint Honore pastries Paris

But there was no time to stop and marvel at the Cake Shop’s window. Out in the leafy courtyard during a brief Parisian heatwave, Chef Thierry Marx was kicking off the Saint Honoré celebrations – starting with a demonstration of a giant Saint-Honoré savoury pastry.

Thierry Marx Demonstration Saint Honore

Renowned for his molecular gastronomy with touches of Asian exoticism, chef Marx explained his techniques with an impressive, speedy precision – interspersed with his charismatic sense of humour we’ve loved watching over the years as jury on the first few episodes on French TV’s popular Top Chef on M6. He’s my idol. He may be a celebrity chef but he’s a most modest human being and helps others to succeed.

He fires off a number of baking tips: from how to create the lightest puff pastry in the blender; to the preparation of an avocado and mascarpone cream with a hint of spice, while he pipes it out like luxurious clockwork using a special Saint Honoré piping tip. Finishing flourishes of the most delicate garlic flowers, spots of preserved lemon compote and lime zest are added before popping on the crab-filled choux with scallop coral hats. Et voilà!  As he sprays the masterpiece with ice, he announces that the tasting begins.

Saint-Honoré Thierry Marx

Before we know it, he hands us our aprons and we’re in Giraud’s hands to learn how to make a sweet Saint-Honoré cocktail.  Each cocktail coupe is decorated with their Saint-Honoré signature mini caramelised choux. Our tasting group is given a doser, the vanilla syrup, caramel and coconut water – and we learn to shake that ice shaker like a pro, right up to how to pour the cream to rest on the top.

The final touch is edible glitter, which I find difficult to get it in the glass. If you find glitter in their hedges, that’s still my cocktail masterpiece (well, it was my first ever homemade cocktail!)

saint-honoré-paris cocktails

All change to the next workshop: with the lovely Anne-Charlotte giving us the job of decorating the ready-prepared caramelised choux bases.  Our hardest job was decision-making: what cream to use (vanilla vs pink rose)? What piping tips (starred, plain)? What toppings (raspberries, blueberries, chopped nuts, whole almonds, chocolate marbles)?

Saint-Honore Paris Pastry

Celebrations continued into the evening, with a gigantic meters-long Saint-Honoré pastry – which needed four bakers to carry it while dodging the firework candles!

Here’s my Mandarin Oriental Saint-Honoré. Now I’m wondering how I could have piped out one of these beautiful butterflies: just imagine that stuffed raspberry on its side, fluttering about!

Saint Honore Paris pastry

If you’d like to make the easier classic version of the Saint-Honoré pastry, then it’s the final recipe in Teatime in Paris, as part of the special tea party chapter!

Saint Honore Teatime in Paris

Cheers to Saint-Honoré and to your year ahead of happy baking!

L’Honoré
Detox Menu (Breakfast, Lunch & Teatime)
7am-7pm
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
251 rue Saint Honoré Paris

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour

Welcome to my delicious Do-It-Yourself guide: your own Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour, the second part of my series on Day Trips Outside Paris.

As I mentioned in my introduction to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, it’s where I live. There are about 400 shops in the royal historical town and, if you tend to look in the sweeter windows, then I have selected my particular favourites in the centre of town for your very own DIY tour, all within easy walk to and from the RER train station, opposite the castle.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Grandin

Patisserie Grandin

Since Grandin opened in 1822, this pastry shop has been an institution on Rue au Pain, the oldest medieval street of Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

Michel Pottier, member of the prestigious Relais Desserts group, has continued with traditional French pastries from the Opéra cake to a legendary Baba au Rhum – but they also have three house specialities.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour grandin

Known primarily for their Saint Germain cake (individual versions seen above in the foreground), it’s made with ground almonds and topped with a boozy rum glaze.

Le Debussy pays hommage to the composer, born in the house just across the road (now Tourist Information), with a hazelnut sponge, praline mousse, rum and raisins, all glazed in dark chocolate.

The Saint Germain chocolates (both dark and milk) are filled with a good dose of Cognac. They were created for the opening of the new railway line from Paris to Saint-Germain-en-Laye on 14 August 1847.

13 rue au Pain
78100 Saint Germain en Laye

Tues-Sat 8.30am-7.30pm and Sunday 8.30am-2pm

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour osmont-patisserie

Patisserie Osmont

Originally in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine since 1987, the Osmont family spread their wings and opened another boutique here in 2009. The business is now run by the son, Vincent, who trained with Thierry Atlan at Lenôtre and with Pascal Caffet in Troyes.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Osmont-pastries

Their bestseller is the Bois-Mort, the pastry that earned father Jean-Marie Osmont the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France. It’s a crunchy meringue with hazelnuts interspersed with chocolate-hazelnut and dark chocolate mousses.  Other highlights seen in the above photo are the Tropique (lemon & mango caramel with coconut sponge), the Alliance (mint pannacotta with red fruit compote), and a Vanilla Profiterole Chocolate Tart (which inspired one of my recipes in Teatime in Paris).

There’s such a vast choice – including 15 macarons and a perfect Président pastry that thankfully never has to change.

3 rue des Coches
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Tues-Sat 10am-7.30pm and Sunday 10am-1pm 

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Gontran Cherrier

Gontran Cherrier Boulangerie & Patisserie

Since 2013, Gontran Cherrier has tranformed this spot as an ex-garage into The hang-out just about 40 baguette’s length from the market place. After the Ferrandi school, Gontran Cherrier trained with Alain Passard at l’Arpège and Alain Senderens at Lucas Carton. Now he’s surprising us locals with a range of exciting breads, viennoisseries and pastries.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour gontran-cherrier-croissants

Here you’ll find me grabbing my favourite croissants during the morning market (Tues, Fri, Sun) – and if it’s teatime, a Cape and Cape African tea with a yuzu cheesecake just to travel far. Don’t forget to pick up either a mustard baguette or a squid ink loaf, both rather sensational – and more croissants!

rue de la Grande Fontaine
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Chocolate Shops

As it’s the Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour, let’s turn to the chocolate shops. As you can see, we’re rather spoiled.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour pascal-le-gac-chocolaterie

Pascal le Gac Chocolatier

This gem of an address is classed as one of the top 7 chocolatiers in France.

After working at La Maison du Chocolat for 24 years and reaching the accolade of Creative Director, Pascal le Gac set up his own boutique in Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 2008.

He favours excellence over appearance, simplicity and lasting tradition over passing trends. Just peeking in the window, glistening classic pastries such as éclairs, moelleux au chocolat, truffles, macarons, millefeuilles and opéras all allure the Saint-Germanois to open that door.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Pascal-le-gac

Step inside and smell that chocolate. Ganaches from miel (honey), spices, to even Mango & Sage – where dark chocolate and mango play together – but a subtle herby sage says a cheeky bonjour in the aftertaste.

The chocolate bars are all particularly accessible. I say that since sometimes chocolate makers can make chocolate dry, earthy and complex that it can be difficult to appreciate. Here I thoroughly recommend a bar of Equator 68% which is delightfully fruity, and the more intense Venezuela 81%. Pascal le Gac also does a 100% cacao chocolate bar.

Before you go, taste at least a couple of macarons – the salted caramel and dark chocolate are my personal favourites.

61, rue de Pologne
78100 Saint Germain-en-Laye

Tues-Sat 10am-7pm and Sunday 10am-1pm

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Nicolsen

Nicolsen Chocolatier

Each time I see Nicolsen’s thin chocolate discs or palets, it reminds me of Sulpice Debauve who was pharmacist to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, and lived here in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Of Debauve & Gallais fame, the oldest chocolate shop in Paris in rue de Saint-Pères (where I normally start my chocolate pastry tour in Paris), chocolate discs were flavoured with ginger or coffee and the likes as a form of royal medicine.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Nicolsen

Mr. Debauve was the great grandson of David Chaillou who was first to set up a chocolate drinking house in rue de l’Arbre Sec, near the Tuileries Palace in 1660 under Louis XIV.

Nicolsen, based in Chavanay, are easy to spot in summer as their ice cream cart is popular outside the shop, selling the famous glaces Berthillon. I hear they’ve decided to continue their famous saffron ganache, a house speciality.

19 rue au Pain
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Tues-Sat: 9am-7.30pm and Sunday 9am-1pm

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Patrick Roger

Patrick Roger, Chocolatier

Last but certainly not least is the famous Patrick Roger, the chocolate sculptor who thinks well outside the chocolate box. A Meilleur Ouvrier de France for his house speciality: Amazone, a bright green dome of chocolate lime caramel which takes around 24 steps to obtain this look without using any colorants. If you’re looking for a taste sensation, try the Delphi for a blind tasting and let me know what you think is in it.  I personally love to stock up on Beijing, his large chocolate gingers.

A wider range of his chocolate sculptures are on show at his boutique in Place de la Madeleine in Paris.

2 rue de Paris
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Tues-Fri 10.30am-1pm; 2pm-7.30pm and Sat 10.30am-7.30pm

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Cakes

Have I at least whet your appetite to jump on that train from Paris?  It only takes 20 minutes on the RER A line from Charles de Gaulle Etoile station (Arc de Triomphe) and you’ll discover even more chocolate shops (such as Jeff de Bruges, deNeuville) and many more boulangerie/pâtisseries (Eric Kayser, Goulay, Maison Hardy, Paul, Fabien Ledoux, etc.), biscuit shops (La Cure Gourmande) and even a new American-style cupcake shop, Daisy Cake, which I still haven’t tried yet – I’ll leave that to you.

However, how could I finish a Saint-Germain-en-Laye Sweet Chocolate Pastry Tour without stopping for a cup of tea?

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Chez Alice

Chez Alice Salon de Thé

Hidden off the pedestrian precinct of Rue des Coches, Chez Alice’s tearoom is a quiet haven where you can secretly be decadent with a marshmallow hot chocolate and cream, a Champagne lunch, brunch on a Sunday (reservations a must) or a most civilised teatime with a selection of teas retrieved from one of the oversized Compagnie Coloniale tea caddies.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate Pastry Tour Chez Alice Tearoom

Alice is not only one of the most adorable French women I know, but her cakes – all made by herself and her mother – are such a special treat to enjoy while escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday routine. In fact, I wish I could make it a routine to come here more often!

Chez Alice Salon de Thé
10 rue des Vieilles Boucheries
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Tues-Sat: 11.30am – 6.30pm and Sunday 12 noon-6pm

Luxury Italian Ice Cream by Il Gelato Del Marchese Paris

Queues for ice cream are inevitable when the Parisian summer sun heats up the City of Light.  But there’s a hidden corner of Paris where we can taste the highest quality Italian ice cream in style, right in the heart of Saint Germain-des-Prés.

Il Gelato del Marchese is tucked away on Rue des Quatre Vents, just behind the crossroads at Odéon in an area known as the Chocolate quarter, due to its high concentration of chocolate and pastry shops.

Il gelato del Marchese Italian luxury ice cream paris

On passing this pristine golden and white ice-cream parlour after it opened in December 2014, I remember first gazing in the window, wondering if the caped gentleman at the counter was the Marchese or Marquis, with such an alluring air of mystery.

The mystery was unveiled when I was happy to meet the lively Marchese himself, Renato. Together with his wife, Veronika Squillante Montoro, the dynamic duo with savoir-flaire have created a luxury brand in the heart of Paris’s 6th arrondissement and it’s already taking off with a boutique newly opened in Saint Tropez, a new larger laboratory in construction near the Canal Saint Martin, a recipe book due to be published in October and many more surprises in store.

Renato Squillante Montoro

Now certified Vegan, Il Marchese’s ice creams and sorbets are all made with top quality healthy ingredients using mineral water, unrefined sugar, and no colourings or preservatives are in sight.

Veronika provides that extra touch of elegance with her choice of porcelain and delicate glasses to complete the plush furnishings.

Il gelato del Marchese Paris

Thanks to my friend, Maggie, who insisted I taste a selection of savoury ice creams before the sweet, as I would never have normally dared at teatime – would you? What a revelation! Spoonfuls of delectable savoury ice creams to tickle the senses arrived with water, but imagine tasting these on mini toasts with a glass of Champagne or Prosecco in hand: Tomato-Basil sorbet, Artichoke-Walnut Cream, Olives, and Mustard ice creams.

They also whip up the most incredible salmon ice cream which is not only good on small toasts as an aperitif, but they suggest mixing it into hot tagliatelle pasta, as with their parmesan ice cream.

My personal favourites were olive, imagining it on the terrace in Provence with a glass of chilled Rosé (a refreshingly cold tapenade sensation), and the mustard which, like my mini curry macarons from the savoury chapter in Mad About Macarons, it provokes a spicy-sweet tremble!

Savoury Italian ice cream at Il Gelato dei Marchese Paris

When I first tasted the Marchese’s pistachio ice cream last year just after the book launch of Teatime in Paris around the corner, I admit that it has been hard act to follow elsewhere. Using the finest quality pistachios from Iran, it’s not just its exquisite taste that hits the spot but if anyone knows how I shy away from anything that says pistachio without the right natural colour (see my previous blog article), you’ll understand how this is such an important factor too.

Best pistachio luxury italian ice cream paris

As the tasting continued, the Sencha green tea was recommended as an ideal partner with all the ice creams and sorbets, a special selection by La Confrérie du Thé.

New flavours appear sporadically according to season and creative artistic flair. The day I arrived, the menu selection was a traditional but tremendously tasty Tiramisu, to an unusual – slightly tart – Ricotta Cacao; then a crunchy passion fruit sorbet, with a finale of chocolate sorbet using 70% dark chocolate from Italian chocolate makers, Domori, based in None – all served with the most delicate (albeit sweet) Chantilly cream, Matcha green tea cakes, light ginger biscuits, and mini cornets.

Italian ice cream teatime in Paris

The Marchese’s ice-creams pop up around Paris at the most luxurious addresses, such as at the Italian Embassy, Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré, and now they have a pop-up boutique at La Grande Epicerie, part of Bon Marché’s Rive Gauche chic department store until 22 August, where I hear the Pear and Ceylon Cinnamon sorbet is melting customers.

Italian ice cream Embassy Paris

Artisanal cones (cornets) are made on the spot.  I never normally choose a cone but when they’re as good as this all the way until the last crunchy bite with its hint of honey, I’m not just going for a plain little paper tub to carry out!

Handmade Italian ice-cream cones in Paris

I couldn’t resist popping in for another dose with the family; this time pure sorbet in the weekend heat – a taste of mango and their new Detox Vegetal sorbet.  It reminded me of what Renato said:

It’s more than ice-cream; it creates an emotion.

I found myself giggling at such a surprise concoction of predominant cucumber and apple, with cheeky hints of lemon and ginger – were there herbs in there too? You have to try this refreshing cocktail and tell me what you think are the ingredients!

Best luxury Italian ice cream in Paris

To finish off your afternoon, walk up Rue de Condé to the Luxembourg gardens and sit at the Medici Fountain to complete the luxury taste of Italy in Paris.

Update 31 May 2016: Il Gelato del Marchese ice creams are now also available on the Champs-Elysées Terrace of the Hotel Marriott.

Il Gelato del Marchese
Italian ice-cream parlour/tea room or take away
3, rue des Quatre Vents
75006 Paris

Tel: 01 46 34 75 63

Open every day: 12 noon – midnight