Ladurée is one of my favourite Parisian tea-rooms. They’ve recently opened a branch in Harrods in London, their first outside France. It’s a jewel of a place, with little linked salons in the style of Napoleon III, serving excellent teas, faultlessly French light meals and some of the best patisserie you’ll find in London. These people have style coming out of their ears; Ladurée is the pastry consultant for Sophia Coppola’s film about Marie Antoinette.
My Mum and I were at Harrods for a day of Ladies’ Nice Things, and stopped off for tea and macaroons at Ladurée. Ladurée’s macaroons are what makes them so very famous: crisp discs of ground almonds with a soft middle, sandwiched together with flavoured cream. The macaroons are served festooned with raspberries, pistachio cream and other good things if you have some in the tea-rooms. I bought a large box to take home as well.
These macaroons are flavoured delicately with the highest quality ingredients. There’s a basic range which is available all year round, and some seasonal flavours. (The black one in this box was a seasonal one; liquorice, which was surprisingly subtle and tenderly flavoured.) The flavours aren’t what you’d expect – the pale pink one here is scented with rose petals, the gold one caramel with fleur de sel (sandwiched together with some of the creamiest, most delicious caramel I’ve ever eaten). At certain times of year an orange flower macaroon is available, and I had a violet and cassis one in Paris a few years ago which I still think about fondly on occasion.
Eating at the tea-rooms themselves is a lesson in luxury. Each salon is decorated in a different style; this is the Black Salon, a tiny room packed to the gills with Etruscan caryatids. Zeus, surrounded by snakes, glowers from the middle of the cupola in the ceiling. I am informed that the velvet on the seats is made from pure mohair, and I can’t think of anywhere nicer to enjoy your truffle and morel omelette.
If you visit Ladurée, ask for the violet-scented black tea. I brought a (very expensive) packet home, and it’s glorious stuff; delicately scented and laced with violet and hibiscus flowers. I’m going to have to make another visit in a month or so – I have a dreadful craving for a black truffle religieuse and a large box of marrons glacés.