Paris is always a good idea.
So is cake.
The first time my cake-fancying father went to Paris was in 2011 – his debut to Europe, in fact. That was a cold, bleak December, when the city was stripped bare of any colour. The Christmas markets sparkled and we spent almost all our money in croissants, but there lacked that je ne sais quoi that keeps bringing people back to this stoic little city. I lamented that my father never got to see Paris at its best. But this month, my dad returned. Spring had sprung, the sun burned unseasonably hot, Montmartre gleamed, St Germaine buzzed with people packed into sidewalk tables and we spent almost all our money on cakes.
How better to see Paris than to walk around and eat?
First cake stop: La Fabrique à Gâteaux.
“You have to go to Fabrique, it’s so cute!” declared a friend.
And it was cute.
But it was closed.
By a stroke of luck, across the street was Liberté – not even on our list but in hindsight it should have been. We picked up some brioches and ate them sitting along the Canal St Martin.
I am officially declaring this the best brioche I’ve ever eaten.
La Patisserie Des Reves is the place to get something a little more extraordinaire.
The last time I was in Paris was to interview the duo behind this ‘patisserie of dreams’, the talented Thierry Teyssier and dessert mastermind Philippe Conticini, (definitely one of those “pinch me” moments. Also one of those “dear GOD don’t say anything stupid” moments).
Philippe had explained how all his cakes are designed to evoke a sense of childhood, of nostalgia.
“The flavour is one thing. The texture is another thing. The sensation is the whole thing.”
The sensation I opted for was my favourite Gran Cru Vanille, a light, creamy square with a centre of crumbly vanilla, as black and sweet as pure vanilla seed. And for Dad it was the St Honore, a work of modern art, piped to bursting with creme patissiere.
Of course, when it comes to Paris cakes, the macaron is king.
There is something about this simple, pastel-hued meringue that just asks to be given its propers. You don’t scarf down a macaron on the run. You sit down and you do things properly.
Personally I’m a sucker for the Ladurée on Rue Royal; there’s a sense of old fashioned elegance in the darkened dining room, all silverware and swift service.
This is how you macaron.
By this point, father and I were suffering the harsh reality of a sugar come-down and had to fold up the map and admit defeat. Apologies to remaining patisseries Angelina and Pierre Hermé – it turns out we couldn’t eat all the cake in Paris in one day.
(I know. I’m as surprised as you are.)
But after walking off the cake weight along the Seine we found we had enough room for dinner, at
Le Relais de l’Entrecote.
Normal stomachs are separate from your dessert stomach. Everyone knows that.
If you haven’t been to L’Entrecote, go. Everybody gets the same thing: steak, frites and salad. You just tell ’em how you like your steak, and tell them when to stop bringing you more helpings.
Of course, you get a little more selection when it comes to dessert.
Just a little crème brûlée for the road.
La Fabrique à Gâteaux
34 Rue des Vinaigriers, 75010 Paris, France
Liberté Patisserie Boulangerie
39 Rue des Vinaigriers, 75010 Paris
La Patisserie des Reves