Elegance overflowing: Ladurée Covent Garden
For those of you who have been reading my blog since its inception, you’ll know that I am unashamedly obsessed with all things Ladurée. Not only is the café/salon/patisserie emblematic of all things Parisienne, it is also the height of elegance wherever it is situated (apart from the rather aberrant gold cave-like cacophony that is the Mayfair branch). There I was in December freezing my you-know-whats off in a huge queue for the Champs-Elysees branch in the heart of Paris, when all the time I had no idea that a spectacular new branch of the macaroon masters had opened up almost on my doorstep in London’s Covent Garden. And what a branch it is – large outdoor terrace on the cobbles made famous by My Fair Lady, a retail shop which glistens like the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, and an upstairs salon of which Marie Antoinette herself would have been proud. To top it off, there’s even a small roof terrace overlooking Covent Garden’s market and plaza – the perfect view of street entertainers and the continental café culture underneath. All hail Covent Garden’s Ladurée!! It is a joyous thing for all us Londoners, and finally, a well needed injection of elegance has come to CG. And Ladurée is not alone. Joining it are new branches of Ralph Lauren, Burberry and the huge new glitsy Apple store which is for Guggenheim architectural contemporary glitz what Ladurée is for Louis XV glamour.
I visited this luscious Ladurée a few days ago. I had seen the shop and the outside terrace, but I had no idea what gems lay in store upstairs. There in the little salon, small Parisian-pavement style tables are matched with elegant velvet armchairs, small sofas, and even a chaise longue topped by a four-postered curtained canopy. Meanwhile on the walls, elegant swept frames surround antique portraits of landed gentry, reminding those supping upon coffee and macaroons that they are in the company of the upper echelons.
So what did I partake of on this auspicious occasion? Well, it was a Saint Honoré pastry for me, although the choice was overwhelming and all-tempting, a rather shoddy iphone picture of which I enclose. This was theatre on a plate. One choux pastry dome surrounded by several miniature renderings, all filled with and surrounded by a delicate cream imbued with the subtle elegant perfume of rose, balanced with deliciously sweet sharp raspberries and an indulgent raspberry icing. It was phenomenally delicious, and while it doesn’t come cheap (£6 for the cake alone), it’s an incentive for any eater to sit up straight, mind their Ps and Qs, and hark back to the sophisticated society of a more dignified past.
Talking of dignified, the staff were fastidious in their approach, refined in their perfect appearance, and charming in their manner. And when they speak French to one another, I could so easily be back in the 1eme Arrondissement in Paris that I would consider moving into the café full time, except it would probably bankrupt me in about a week.
This Ladurée, in fact any Ladurée, is a must for all champions of tasteful pursuits. All that remains now is to recreate the patisseries themselves at home… I have the book, I have the ground almonds, the eggs, and I have the icing bags… I think, with some trepidation, I’m going to try my first macaroons this weekend. I’ll let you know how that goes…