One reason I love traveling is that when I’m a tourist, I live in an alternate universe where the foreign currency isn’t real money (thus I have to spend it all before I head home) and calories do not count (see gelato eating in Florence). By extension, when I have visitors touring Paris, their rules (at least the calories one) apply to me too. Thus I’ve found myself partaking in more afternoon tea sessions during those periods of hosting than during the usual weeks, where I’m happy puttering around the apartment sans afternoon break.
The variety of salon de thes in Paris run the gamut from luxurious and grand (George Cinq) to homey (le Loir dans le Theiere) to modern (Patisserie de Reves). But for the grand dame of tea salons in Paris, one simply has to go to Laduree.
Both the Champs Elysees and Rue Bonaparte salons are ornately designed in an old school fashion, the main parlor at Rue Bonaparte even having a chinois theme. And unlike the madhouse that is the retail section, where the lines for macarons are sometimes staggering, the environment in the salon is extremely civilized, where patrons take time to sip their coffees and fork delicious cream filled morsels of puffy choux pastry off gold rimmed, pastel green plates into their mouths.
Laduree’s macarons need no introduction, but there are alot of other options if you are not keen on them. The choux pastries, including the Saint Honore filled with fresh cream is very good, so is apparently the religieuse, which comes in several flavors. The strawberry millefeuille is good too, filled with fresh fruits, crisp pastry and not too wet cream. And if you really wanted macarons, you can sample the originals along with a icy bowl of chilled macarons with ice cream.
Angelina is another famous and historical salon de the, her fans including Marcel Proust and Coco Chanel. And with the flagship located so close to the Tuileries, the Lourve, Rue St Honore and also a stone’s throw away from Chanel’s original boutique on Rue Cambon, it is another tourist favorite. Decorated in the Belle Epoque style, it is also a handsome room, albeit a little worn out and in need of some sprucing up. The things to order here are not cakes, though their mont blancs are supposedly famous. Instead, skip the mediocre mille feuille (stale tasting) and go straight to a pot of legendary hot chocolate a l’ancienne.
It is thick and very rich, and coats one’s throat like molten cashmere. The taste is quite complex, sweet with a touch of bitterness and spice, with its own pot of freshly whipped cream in case one wanted to make it even more decadent. A pot pours at least 2 full cups, so my advice would be to share or to clear out that afternoon’s agenda, sip and savor, and enjoy the fantastic atmosphere and people-watching opportunities.
Laduree (multiple locations), http://www.laduree.fr/en/scene
Angelina (multiple locations too, the flagship being 226 Rue de Rivoli, 75001, Paris)