Take a look at the Parisian shop frontage in the picture above. What do you think? High end luxury designer goods store? perhaps it sells outrageously expensive shoes or luggage?
Wrong, but you could be forgiven for thinking it.
This is the Left Bank, Rue Bonaparte outpost of Pierre Hermé, French Pâtisserie superstar. A chef the Guardian described as "The King of Modern Pâtisserie" and who Vogue described as "the Picasso of Pastry". The Vogue quote is interesting, a high fashion magazine offering an opinion on a pastry chef, but then in one obvious way, his creations mirror the fashion world, with seasonal "collections" and themes generating much excitement and long queues at his two small shops.
Whilst in Paris, I was determined to give his cakes a try, especially the macaron's which are held up as being particularly excellent. (Macaron being the traditional French meringue type domed pastry, not to be confused with Macaroon - the coconut based biscuit).
On our last morning in Paris I made my way to Pierre Hermé's left bank shop, and joined the pretty long queue at the counter whilst ogling the cakes under the glass. They looked utterly gorgeous, but had price tags to match - coming in at just under 7 Euros! per cake.
The macaron's come in two varieties, smaller bite size ones which you can purchase in an array of increasingly sized (and priced) gift boxes and larger individual versions at just under 4 Euros a macaron. (Roughly about the size of a beer mat to offer a crude comparison).
Decisions, decisions - left to my own devices I could have spent a fortune in there - but under my GF's watchful eye I eventually went for two of the larger macaron's.
On the left we have a Bitter Chocolate macaron, on the right cherry and pistachio. And I think you have to agree, they are beautiful to look at.
I was initially quite sceptical of how good these would actually be, partly due to the outrageous plaudits heaped on Hermé, partly based on the price, But this was before I'd taken a bite. Afterwards, I was completely sold and decided without a doubt they were well worth the money.
What did they taste like?
Both macaron's had the same light crisp meringue shell, but the filling in the case of the chocolate version was a cool, soft, slightly bitter chocolate cream, smooth and intense. Fantastic.
But the Cherry and Pistachio was my favourite, biting through the crisp exterior, cool soft pistachio cream sandwiched with a lighter cherry cream and slices of cherry layered throughout. Simply amazing - quite possibly the best cake I've ever sampled.
When your next in Paris, you have to visit Pierre Hermé and try these, expensive yes. Worth the money....yes.
I just wish they were available in London.
72 rue Bonaparte