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May 26, 2011

Ladurée – An English Tea-Room in Paris?

by soundlandscapes

ENGLISH TEA-ROOMS are unique and the benchmark that I measure all tea-rooms by is Betty’s in York. My English audience and particularly my audience in the North of England and Scotland will know exactly what I mean.

Paris has its quintessential cafés of course (see a blog piece I did some time ago) and two of the most famous are to be found in Saint-Germain-des-Prés – Les Deux Magots and the Café de Flore.

Both are hugely popular so be prepared to join the queue if you want a table.  Listening to the sounds inside the Café de Flore, there is certainly none of the calm, genteel atmosphere of the genuine English tea-room.

Inside the Café de Flore:

But these Parisian cafés are not English tea-rooms. What we need to find is what the French call a salon de thé … and not just any salon de thé.

Louis-Ernest Ladurée, was a miller, a prolific writer and an outspoken supporter of social reform. He founded a bakery on the Rue Royale in 1862, which was burnt down during the Paris Commune of 1871. After the fire, Ladurée replaced the bakery with a pastry shop and he commissioned the painter and poster artist, Jules Chéret, to design the interior. For the ceiling, Cheret took his inspiration from the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel and the newly opened Opéra Garnier. He adorned the ceiling of Ladurée with chubby cherubs which are still a feature of Ladurée today.

Today, Ladurée is still a pastry shop as well as a chocolaterie, confiseur and a salon de thé. It’s perhaps most famous for its double-decker macaron, two macaron shells stuck together with a creamy ganache as the filling which sell in their thousands.

Today, Ladurée has expanded and as well as its pastry shops and tea-rooms in the Champs Elysées, Le Printemps and the rue Bonaparte (where I took these photographs), it’s also present in Monaco, Switzerland, Japan, Italy, Lebanon, Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Luxembourg, Kuwait, and Ireland. It has come a long way from Louis-Ernest Ladurée’s first enterprise in the rue Royal all those years ago.

Inside Ladurée in the rue Bonaparte:

Ladurée is the closest I’ve yet come to an English tea-room in Paris. However, it’s a well-kept secret, but tea first arrived in Paris in 1636, twenty-two years before it appeared in England! Maybe I should be thinking about how Betty’s in York measures up to Ladurée in Paris instead of the other way round!

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