Macarons and long-awaited violet tea
Originally posted 5th November 2015 image gallery of additional images added 22/01/16 but taken earlier (at the same time as those on this post using my camera phone. I have updated a little following a return trip.
Being a huge fan of certain floral flavours since childhood days of pocket money Parma Violets, rose and lemon Turkish delight, rose and violet creams and the more intensely scented flower flavours in general.I had been intrigued by the idea of violet tea from the very first time I became aware it existed.
It was during the summer of 2010 and I had been searching the website for the Ladurée teashop at Harrods when the idea of the tea first fluttered it's eyelashes at me from the screen. I had already been seduced by the company’s macarons, having received, via my former husband, a surprise present of a beautiful lilac coloured, ribbon-tied box. The box was embossed in silver and contained an assorted of pastel coloured macarons from the shop. That rather reminded me of the gold tipped Sobranie Cocktail cigarettes I used to smoke with a long cigarette holder in my late teens. The sender, Ali was an old friend of my Kenyan former husband from the Kenya coast, whose British wife I had helped to navigate the UK visa system. Sadly neither marriage had lasted and both men had eventually gravitated to London, where Ali who had found himself a job working in the loading bay at Harrods.
It was during the first year of the dark days after our marriage disintegrated, I had very little money and my daughter was three. The box had arrived like a promise of another world, a world I was far more used to. I had wanted to make each precious macaron last and so we had cut each in half, sharing one a day for several days. Pistachio, Rose, Lemon, Orange Blossom, Chocolate, each one had been flavoured so intensely that the taste lingered on and on. Once empty the box, which was too pretty and contained too many rare good memories to throw away, found a home in my daughter's bedroom as a receptacle for hair bands, hair clips and bracelets. From where it occasionally winked at us via a flash of silver when the sun caught it through the open curtains, or an intake of breath straining for a half-remembered scent. In the intervening time I have had the opportunity to try several types of macarons; The home-made, market variety, sweeter, thicker and clearly flavoured with cordial that arrive as a mysterious surprise gift in a crunchy brown paper bag on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago. Some larger, sat-on stickier, sweeter, more toffee and chocolate ones that my daughter brought me back from holiday, which were from a shop in Norwich favoured by her friend. The Waitrose frozen variety that were too soft, too jammy tasting and made me discount frozen macarons as a concept. Or their very good and very reasonable but slightly too dry pistachio, strawberry and lemon varieties, and their intensely chocolaty ones (which are, we decided, good if you only eat one or two). I’ve admittedly steered clear of M&S and Tesco whose puddings are not generally to my taste, though I have tried macarons from Patisserie Valerie in Brompton Road, which I generally like. But in my opinion, as someone who has become somewhat of a self appointed connoisseur, and has rather a lot of experience of eating and drinking quite well, for macarons nothing compare to the quality, the flavour of Ladurée. The stars of memory and action aligned on the occasion of the half term a couple of weeks after my daughter's ninth birthday when we determined to visit with friends.
As you might expect from an established Parisian Grande Dame that came of age in the belle époque era (Ladurée has been around since 1862) entering the teashop is a little like entering a lamp lit, pastel coloured boudoir type world where everything is mostly macaron coloured or silver, except for the room at the rear, where we sat, which was mainly black and silver. The teapots and cutlery are well-used pewter and the crockery is white with co-ordinating mix and match macaron colour bands, twice rimmed in gold. The counter brims with cakes, pastries and boxes. On the day we went the clientele mainly consisted of glamorous ladies lunching, as well as the occasional glamorous, well-dressed man. The staff were young, attractive, attentive and friendly, although the service slightly eccentric at times (the macarons ordered separately for three arrived on two plates, and I had to remind the waitress I needed a teacup). The English of one or two of the waiting staff is clearly limited. The writing on the menu is also small and was hard for me to see I missed a few options. If your eyesight is not perfect and you sit in the, dimly lit, black section you would be wise to check the menu (online at Harrods.com).
We had already eaten lunch at the museum earlier and limited ourselves to violet tea, fizzy water and macarons (myself and the children are all passionate about macarons, which are small and £2.10 each). My friend (who has an intolerance to a proliferation of nuts) ordered chocolate éclairs. Please note, if you have a nut allergy this is probably not the place for you for tea, as nearly everything contains traces of nuts. I tried a little of my friend’s éclair, the filling was lovely if not as full as is generally the case in the UK, the chocolate icing was fine, the choux was light but slightly more structured than usual. This was a good thing and made it easier to eat and less flabby.
As to the macarons: I tried blackcurrant violet, Marie Antoinette tea and the ever sublime rose, my daughter tried the orange blossom, and raspberry, her friend rose and chocolate and orange blossom. We left with a small box each; ours included one orange blossom perfumed with bergamot, strawberry candy “Guimauve” (marshmallow). My favourite is the rose which has an almost meringue like consistency and a silky, creamy rose scented filling, and the bergamot flavoured orange blossom. They are my daughter’s favourites too, though she also liked the lightly marshmallowy strawberry candy. My daughter was not as enamoured with the filling of the Marie Antoinette, though she stopped short of refusing to eat it. Friends have argued for the merits other macarons. For me the consistency, flavour and lightness alone put the macarons at Ladurée in a class of their own. Until proven otherwise, and you are welcome to try, I’m maintaining my opinion. The violet tea was fabulous drunk black. I presume this is normal though I do not take milk normally, the children tried it too, my daughter liked the delicate but distinct violet flavour, we all commented that it smelled strongly like Parma Violet sweets. Ladurée is in Hans road on the side of Harrods. You cannot generally reserve tables; they very kindly made an exception for me (we were shopping in Harrods and I was walking with a crutch). Victoria Luckie MA is an independant international journalist who pays her way or declares explicitly otherwise and is not paid for publicity by Ladurée. All rights reserved.
Waitrose gluten free and much cheaper macarons (selection of makes).