The macaron could well be the greatest invention in French cuisine, even though its origins are debatable. But where in London can you find the best macarons?
Some say the humble macarons roots trace back to the Italians, particularly with its name being derived from the Italian word ”maccarone”, which itself comes from ammaccare, meaning to crush or to beat. It could perhaps refer to the process of beating ground almonds, sugar and egg white into a precursor mixture for the meringue biscuit base, otherwise the macaroon with two o’s.
The modern day macaron however refers to the “Gerbet”. This we know was created by Pierre Desfontaines in the early 1900s, the 2nd cousin of Louis Ernest Ladurée, the founder of the modern day luxury patisserie, Ladurée, which unsurprisingly, remain as one of the world’s foremost purveyors of macarons. The “gerbet” is round in shaped, pillowy to touch, with two meringue macaroons sandwich a delicate filling which could be made from butter cream or jam or ganache.
The elegant design of the macaron, of the softly crunchy meringue and a custard-like filling is one of the most accomplished experiences in pastry. As one can appreciate, the sheer combination and iterations of flavours possible in the world of macarons is limited (almost) only by imagination. In fact there are entire blogs dedicated to the sheer fan fare around these simple pleasures.
As the macaron was invented in Paris, so it was natural to make the pilgrimage across the channel to try the very best. Fortunately for us (and thanks to cross country rail networks, I suppose), the Parisian-based patisseries have now set up shop in London. If you’ve always been curious about macaron fever, now is a great time to run out to savour one.
My recommendations are as follows:
There are those who view him as a god in this arena who has single-handedly revolutionised the art of pastry and producing arguably the world’s finest macarons. They are unique in that the slight crunch of the meringue biscuit is accompanied by a signature pillow-like puffiness – a sensation that belongs to Pierre Herme macarons alone. The sheer invention and creativity across the diverse range of flavours help to set him apart from his peers.
Where: Selfridges Food Hall, 400 Oxford Street, W1A 1AB
Tel: 0800 123 400
Tube: Bond Street
This is the classic. The original. The predecessor, still regarded as the benchmark which all macarons are measured against. You cannot go wrong with Ladurée, though in my humble opinion, patisseries have caught up and at times surpassed the original recipe, managing to replicate the lightness of the meringue and the classic buttercream fillings. Still, classic is never out of style.
Where: 71 Burlington Arcade, W1J 0QX
Tel: 020 7491 9155
Tube: Green Park
This flamboyantly quaint cafe while French accented in design, is firmly rooted in its South London surroundings. Macarons are their specialities, good enough to rival the Parisian brands, but in a more affable, and less poncy setting. The inviting (ceiling painted of blue skies and white clouds..) space has large communal tables if you wish to spread yourself and your laptop across it makes the charming setting a great place to unwind and appreciate the simpler things in life.
Where: 22 The Pavement SW4 0HY
Tel: 0207 498 2636
Tube: Clapham Common
About the Author: Kang blogs about restaurants on LondonEater.