A throne is only a bench, covered in velvet
We just got back from a few days away in London.
I especially wanted to attend a one-day seminar being organised for ‘Women in Energy’ in London plus we had public holidays in the Netherlands so we all trooped over. The seminar was all about taking your ambitions to the next level.
So, Thursday afternoon, I left my man with his our kids and headed to Piccadilly.
I arrived at the station, destination – Burlington House, home to the Geological society of London. After a few minutes of walking in the opposite direction, I accosted a guy on the street who instructed me better: ‘Turn around and take a right turn, you won’t miss it, he said’.
What he neglected to mention, (not that he knew what my interests were) was that one building away from my destination, there was a small Ladurée shop. Are all their shops this small?
Nor that right across the road from it was Fortnum & Mason.
Did I mention that both De Beers and The Ritz are on the same street?
I was in fine company, ladies and gentlemen, and I didn’t even know it.
Before we left for London, I had promised myself that there would be no wild photography missions – I have been to London more times than I can count. I still took my camera though, for, you never know what you might come across – I was right.
Excited as I was though, I wasn’t going to forget what I came for, as in my seminar and so I went off to the afternoon sessions, learnt a bit about Negotiating skills and mentoring and when we were done, I headed out the door.
To Fortnum & Mason and then to Ladurée. Let me bore you with the details of seeing my macaron competition first, and then F&M later, ok?
Now, onto the shop and my visit. Before I went in, I slowly scanned the shop – through the windows, slowly savouring my first visit ever to a macaron house. I knew that would buy them, regardless of what they cost. See, I haven’t really tasted many macarons apart from my own and I desperately needed to calibrate, to measure, to judge mine and where better to do this?
As soon as I got into the gold-walled cave that housed the world famous macarons on the corner of Burlington Arcade, I started taking photos, startled to discover that you could buy jars of confiture and caramel, and sandwiches too!
Before I could fill my camera card with horribly coloured photos, the shop attendant alighted me to the fact that photographs were forbidden inside the shop but permissible outside.
The macarons were sold by weight and could be purchased singly. If you required them boxed up, the smallest size of box contained 8 macarons of your choice and cost about 11 British pounds. Sure they would be out of this world, I went for that box. According to the assistant, the two most popular flavours are the caramel and pistachio so I got some of those as well as rose and chocolate.
I didn’t take any of the apple or liquorice ones.
These went to the till, were weighed and I received a bill. When the lady asked if I wanted a bag for my little container, I smiled and said yes. I wanted everything that came with my purchase – the bag, the receipt, and if possible the hand that served me! She smiled.
After the experience of making macarons at home, I think they are very well priced: the effort, the technique and the quivering heart, not a matter to be scorned or treated lightly.
For a while, going back ‘home’ on the tube, I wouldn’t eat them. I wouldn’t even open the bag, flaunting my purchase for the discerning.
When finally, I opened up the box, somewhere between Aperton and Uxbridge, I was….
….slightly disappointed in them.
I began with a caramel one. While the glossy, flat-topped shell was pretty to look at, the filling of soft toffee-texture caramel was disappointing. It was sweet. Too sweet. I expected something cool and refreshing and maybe even a bit creamy and salty when I took my first bite. Alas, that was not to be. Nice but not at all exceptional. It reminded me of something, which I can’t put my finger on.
I enjoyed the rose flavour the most. The filling was everything the caramel lacked – cool and invigorating yet delicately infused and perfumed with the rose flavours – not overpowering. The aftertaste and notes remained pleasant and not at all ‘soapy’, perfect with English tea, which sadly I lacked but still, my favourite of the pack.
The pistachio was green – as pistachio typically is. I can’t say I tastes one distinctly nutty flavour but it was the chocolate which I considered a gross failure. It was cocoa-flavoured as opposed to chocolatey, and I couldn’t eat a whole one.
I thought that was fine and my kids (at least 2 of 3) would enjoy them. Daughter #1 on offer said ‘I like your macarons, I don’t really like this one with the filling’. She didn’t even try it. As for the son, whom I saved several for as he was fast asleep when I got back, he saw them, skipped excitedly and after a bite, abandoned that which he barely began.
My husband said they were just good cookies, nothing exceptional!
My verdict? My macarons are better – when they work. And I’m not being pompous.
I did enjoy the whole experience a LOT and the surprise of seeing Ladurée when I didn’t expect it.
And Fortnum & Mason too.
That was an adventure in itself – the flagship store loaded on 3 floors – a bar, restaurant and I suspect a tearoom….all in one beautiful building.
They had loads on offer – cheese and meats. From home….
And from away,
And far away!
I saw some Medlar jelly but didn’t buy any. I came home with a pack of French sorrel instead – i still have to find a recipe for that! Do you have any to share?
And packs of flavoured rice pudding mix, which I will be making soon!
Sligro’s selection of bugs and deep-fried insects!
Altogether, we had a great time but I am glad to be back, in good time to avoid the closure of UK airspace today, as we walked in the door at midnight Saturday!
I may just have to head to Paris to try out for myself Pierré Herme’s macs, and the Parisien Ladurée ones too…..What do you think? and do you have any recipes for French Sorrel as it is called? Enjoy your week.