by Janine Lea-Oesi,
Ladurée – synonym for quality and elegance – has three tea salons in the French capital. Make a point of treating yourself next time you visit.
There are several Ladurée tea shops in Paris and the brand is probably best known for its macarons, colourful rounds of meringue sandwiched together with flavoured filling. I have been to two of the shops, the large one on the Champs-Elysées and the smaller one in the rue Royale, near the church of the Madeleine. The shop in rue Royale is in fact the original which was started as a bakery by Louis Ernest Ladurée, who hailed from south-western France, in 1862 when development of the Madeleine area, under the auspices of Baron Haussmann, was in full swing. When the shop was burnt down Louis Ernest saw it as an opportunity to develop a bakery and a cake shop. It was not until some years later that Louis’ wife, Jeanne, had the idea of adding a café to the shop and so the Parisian thé salon was born. As it wasn’t socially acceptable at the time for women to frequent cafés, the thé salon provided a welcome alternative where they could meet freely, without fear of social disapproval. As for the macaron, that only saw the light of day in the mid-twentieth century thanks to Louis’ distant cousin, Pierre Desfontaines, who is credited with the original recipe.
Ladurée shops are done out in Second Empire style and are very ornate and elegant. Of the two that I have been to I much prefer the one in rue Royale. It is smaller than its counterpart on the Champs Elysées and I find the atmosphere more relaxing. Also, it is the original shop and so has an historical dimension lacking in the other store. In addition to tea and cakes, the shops also sell breakfast and light meals. Both are enormously popular so be prepared to queue unless you go mid-morning during the week. I have not visited the shop in rue Bonaparte.
Is it value for money?
Two things need to be considered here: the quality of the product being sold and that of the experience itself. On the first count I would say that Ladurée is perhaps on the expensive side but you do get a quality product. Their hot chocolate is renowned and I believe well worth the accolades and their range of teas is dazzling. As for the cakes, they are simply out of this world! A large part of the quality of the experience resides in the service and here I would say that I have been best served at the shop in rue Royale.