Decadent sweet creations are a hallmark of France, and Paris inspires modern pastry chefs with a pâtisserie love affair quite unlike any other city on the planet. Lonely Planet recommends the best places to eat, from their new book Food Trails...
Food trails: Where to eat in Paris
Second-hand booksellers peel back the wooden lids of their weathered stalls. Fountains at the neo-Renaissance Hôtel de Ville spring into action. And down the road at La Cuisine Paris, ovens are fired up for aromatic trays of rich buttery croissants. This cooking school’s morning croissant workshop is a real treat – few Parisians dare make the impossibly flaky French breakfast staple at home. The greatest irony is the origin of the French croissant. Introduced to Paris in the 19th century, it was inspired by an Austrian who opened a Viennese bakery at 92 rue de Richelieu in 1837. Local bakers imitated his Kipferl (crescent-shaped pastry) and all too soon France’s croissant was born.
www.lacuisineparis.fr; tel +33 1 40 51 78 18; 80 quai de l’Hôtel de Ville, 75001 Paris; metro Hôtel de Ville
Pastry chef Fabrice Le Bourdat traded in the glamour of Michelinstarred, palace-hotel cuisine for his own kitchen in 2006. The lavish cakes and desserts he gets up at 2am each morning to craft in his neighbourhood boulangeriepâtisserie near Bastille remain fivestar. But appropriately, his pièce de résistance is the humblest French cake of all – the Madeleine.
Immortalised by 19th-century French novelist Marcel Proust in Remembrance of Things Past, the petite scallop-shaped tea cake is a simple mix of flour, eggs and sugar, sweetened after baking with a delicate orange-sugar glaze. Proust ate his mother’s homemade Madeleines dipped in a cup of linden-flower tea, but chic Parisians snack on them at any opportunity these days – including at the end of a simple quiche or savoury tart lunch on Blé Sucré’s pavement terrace overlooking leafy Square Trousseau. Follow suit.
Tel +33 1 43 40 77 73; 7 Rue Antoine Vollon, Bastille; 7am-7.30pm Tue- Sat, to 1.30pm Sun
After lunch head to the foodie Marais neighbourhood for an enticing exploration on foot. Taste chestnut honey nougat, ginger caramel, rhubarb or pumpkin fruit jellies and other novel flavours in the chic loft lab of self-taught, chocolate-andcaramel wild child Jacques Genin. This hugely creative chef’s basil-and lime-laced tarte au citron (lemon tart) and made-to-order millefeuille (flaky, cream-filled vanilla slice) are sensational avant-garde retakes on two great French classics.
www.jacquesgenin.fr; tel +33 1 45 77 29 01; 133 Rue de Turenne, Le Marais; 11am-7pm Mon-Sat
Strut the fashionista’s catwalk south along rue Vieille du Temple to this dazzling white space where a rainbow of miniature éclairs, arranged with military precision beneath glass, hogs the limelight.
This shop – the work of bold pastry chef Christophe Adam – is haute-couture pâtisserie at its finest. Trends and seasons decide flavours: think a plump finger of choux pastry filled with velvety cream and glazed with chocolate ganache or shiny sugar icing and a crazy assortment of fresh fruit, chocolate orange slivers, caramelised pecans, Madagascar vanilla… Anything goes in fact, which definitely would not have been the case when éclairs first graced Parisian tables in the 19th century. Pop a toothpaste tube of Christophe’s other-worldly salted caramel into your shopping basket forgood measure.
www.leclairdegenie.com; tel +33 1 42 77 85 11; 14 Rue de Pavée, Le Marais; 11am-7pm Mon-Fri, 10am-7.30pm Sat & Sun
For dinner, turn to pastry chef Christophe Boucher at the city’s only fine-dining dessert restaurant. This is a flavour alchemist who knows how to impress. He was previously at Le Grand Véfour at Palais Royal, dining hot spot for the Parisian glitterati since 1784, and his innovative and unexpected pairings of sweet flavours with vegetables are executed with precision and brilliance.
www.philippebaranes.com/dessance; tel +33 1 42 77 23 62; 74 Rue des Archives, Le Marais; noon-11pm Wed, Thur & Sun, to midnight Fri & Sat
Next day head west, beyond the steel-laced silhouette of the Eiffel Tower, to the posh 16e arrondissement for breakfast at The Pastry Shop of Dreams. Head pâtissier Philippe Conticini revisits pâtisserie classics and his Paris-Brest is Paris’s best. The choux pastry wheel, filled with hazelnut praline cream, was created in 1910 to celebrate the Paris-Brest bicycle race – cyclists devoured the cake upon arriving in the French capitalfrom Brittany. La Pâtisserie des Rêves conveniently divides the wheel into six bite-sized choux puffs, and spikes the frothy hazelnut cream inside with shock pockets of liquid praline that explode in your mouth. Or indulge in a timeless Saint Honoré in honour of the French patron saint of pastry chefs and bakers. The small pyramid cake, traditionally piled high with cream puffs and caramel, is re-crafted here as a more manageable oblong so foodies can revel in the combined taste and texture of caramel-coated choux puffs, crunchy puff pastry and different flavoured silky creams in each glorious mouthful.
www.lapatisseriedesreves.com; tel +33 1 47 04 00 24; 111 Rue de Longchamp, Eiffel Tower Area; shop 10am-7pm Tue-Fri, 9am-7pm Sat & Sun; tea room noon-7pm Fri, 9am- 7pm Sat & Sun
The city’s grande dame of department stores opened in 1912, with art nouveau staircases and a stained-glass cupola rising dizzily above the shop floor. Wander from the main store to its Maison & Gourmet annex where epicureans drool over a lavish feast of luxury food products, designer chocolates, bonbons (candies), cakes, pastries and breads in Lafayette’s opulent food hall. It fills two entire floors.
http://haussmann.galerieslafayette.com; 35 Boulevard Haussmann, Grands Boulevards; 8.30am-9.30pm Mon-Sat
Your lunch date, a 10-minute walk away, is one of Paris’s most gastronomic addresses (advance reservation essential). Cocooned in luxurious palace hotel Le Bristol, Éric Fréchon’s triple Michelin-starred kitchen is an ethereal culinary exaltation of French produce and tradition, climaxing with unique desserts from his outstanding pastry chef Laurent Jeannin. The signature dessert is a vivacious, sunfloweryellow lemon from Menton on the sun-blessed French Riviera, infused with pear and candied lemon, and glazed in Limoncello frosting.
www.lebristolparis.com; tel +33 1 53 43 43 00; 112 Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, Champs-Élysées; noon-2pm & 7-10pm daily
Polished smooth and round like giant smarties, eggshell-fragile macarons (nothing to do with coconut) are the icon of French pâtisserie. Contemporary macaron master Pierre Hermé shares the maestro baton with traditional favourite Ladurée whose signature, pale green boxes are the last word in Parisian romance Louis Ernest Ladurée, a miller from southwest France, started serving tea in his chintzy, Second Empire pastry shop near the new Garnier opera in 1871 – a 10-minute walk from Le Bristol. Nineteenth-century cherubs and winged fairies flutter across its frescoed ceiling, and glass cabinets display neat rows of colourful macarons – a legacy of Catherine de Médicis who came to France in 1533 with an entourage of Florentine cooks and pastry chefs adept in the subtleties of Italian Renaissance cooking. Macaron flavours are inexhaustible (cherry blossom, yoghurt and grapefruit, rose and quince…) and any marriage of tastes is possible. Buy a beautifully packaged box for home.
www.laduree.com; tel +33 1 42 60 21 79; 16 Rue Royale, Champs-Élysées; 8.30am-7.30pm Mon-Thu, to 8pm Fri & Sat, 10am-7pm Sun
Five minutes away on rue St-Honoré, the city’s sexiest chocolatier Jean- Paul Hévin invites you to afternoon tea in his beautifully bittersweet salon de thé (tea room). Chocoholics be warned: his purist, all-chocolate tartlets are to die for. Exquisite almond- and chocolate-sanded pastry cradles a polished pool of oven-baked, dark chocolate ganache.
www.jeanpaulhevin.com; tel +33 1 5535 35 96; 231 Rue St-Honoré, Louvre-Tuileries; 10am-7.30pm Mon-Sat
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