Patisserien and chocolatiers

Paris is a box of chocolates

In Paris seduction lurks on every corner – in the form of patisseries and chocolatiers. Mademoiselle Lili dives into this sweet life and asks where all the lovely calorie bombs end up.

Recently, destiny brought me to Angelina (226, rue de Rivoli) for the first time ever. My morning appointment was late, and when I stepped out of the Métro station “Tuileries” and into the icy cold and, for the first time ever, didn’t spy a long line outside the city’s most famous tea salon, I said to myself: It’s now or never! There are people who supposedly travel specially from LA or Tokyo to Paris to try what is purported to be the best hot chocolate in the world, and wait two hours to be seated. On this winter morning, the practically mythical L’Africain warmed my heart too. It is shamefully thick, so lavishly creamy and with such a seductive perfume that one ecstatically closes their eyes and forgets the world around them. Even beanpole Coco Chanel is said to have satisfied her chocolate cravings here.

For me it is still one of Paris’ greatest mysteries how these many sweet gourmet palaces that are constantly bombarding our eyes and senses with high-calorie temptations can survive in a city where the people are so much slimmer than elsewhere, and where the fashion designers dream up creations that are only wearable by a Size zero. Do Parisians have a faster metabolism? Who buys these countless graceful petits fours and macarons, these éclairs and truffles, these devilish little tarts and heavenly cream cakes from Ladurée or Pierre Hermé, from Fauchon or Lenôtre? And how do French women inside and outside the confectioneries stay so slim and beautiful?

Chocolate for breakfast. For Patrick Roger (108, Boulevard Saint-Germain) this is completely normal. The chocolatier is the artist among them – his boutiques resemble jewellery galleries, his truffles works of art, he even creates life-sized chocolate sculptures that are displayed in Musée Rodin or at Christie’s. The Maître Chocolatier hands out these treats in the morning like wafers at a Holy Communion. “First taste and then speak”, he says. So: Close your eyes and open your mouth. Delicate praline squares with a crispy hazelnut filling or spicy and fruity peppered mint and lemon grass melt in your mouth, both titillate the taste buds: one like a dramatic tango; the other like an upbeat salsa. Patrick Roger is unashamedly a seducer. “Forget having a guilty conscience. I eat 500 to 600 grams a day”, he says. And he doesn’t look as if he needs to wear slimming knickers like Bridget Jones. How he manages this is his own professional secret. 

Christophe Vasseur’s bakery Du Pain et des Idées (34, rue Yves Toudic) serves Parisian breakfast classics in a gourmet upgrade. The customers get up really early to line up for the “snails”, escargots, filled with chestnut cream, pistachios or chocolate. Yann Couvreur (137, Avenue Parmentier) used to be the chef patissier at the luxury hotel Eden Roc in St Barts. Since last year, he has been brightening up the mornings of Parisian hipsters with coffee and puff pastry roulés, not to mention divinely beautiful and fine patisserie works of art. It is precisely these places that I prefer to avoid for most of the year. But now it’s winter I occasionally treat myself to an extra portion of dolce vita. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet developed a Parisian metabolism.