The first weekend in May was May Day Bank Holiday here in the UK and my friend Carrie and I decided to take advantage of the long weekend and take a little trip to London.
I used to go London a lot, but since moving to Somerset I haven’t been so I was itching to spend a little time back in the Capital (I’m tempted to use the term ‘Big Smoke’ but I’m not going to. Because I am not yet 80).
Anyway, besides eating lots of delicious food, drinking some yummy cocktails, pounding the streets (plus the obligatory having your face in someone’s armpit, at least once, on the tube, coupled with the potential danger of getting your head trapped) and getting inspiration for future recipes, one of the places we (mainly me) wanted to go was Ladurée – home of the original french macaron.
I love macarons. I have a Pinterest board dedicated to them. I think if I was only allowed to make one thing for the rest of my life, it would be macarons (I’ll just need to partner up with someone who wants to cook veggies for the rest of their life). I used to make them all the time, but having believed that I had it sussed I became a little . . . cocky, and possibly a little slap-dash and from there on in every batch of macarons I made failed and I lost my macaron mo-jo. Despite picking myself up and producing a near perfect batch, so that all was right with the world once again, I haven’t made any in a while. However. I have always been curious as to how my macarons would stand up to other, potentially more prestigious, macarons.
About a month ago my family and I tried some from Waitrose, and the general consensus was that mine were better. But how were they going to fare next to ones from Ladurée? There was only one way to find out.
There are branches scattered throughout London, but Carrie and I had planned to visit the one in Covent Garden, as it was open until 10.30pm. We would have our dinner and then stop by on the way back to the hotel for a little nibble. However. We were later going out for dinner than planned, plus the half an hour (ish) wait for a table meant that 10.30pm came and went and we still hadn’t finished eating. I was a little disappointed, but it wasn’t the end of the world.
However my subconscious had other plans and I spent most of the night dreaming about macarons, so the next morning I looked up the other branches to see if there was one closer to Paddington station than Covent Garden. The only one that was remotely feasible was in Harrods.
Now, I am not a fan of Harrods. For two reasons:
- It is 100% geared towards tourists. Fortnam & Mason has a better food hall, Selfridges is more laid back and has considerably less blindingly white surfaces, and then there is LIberty’s which is always pleasant to wander around.
- I nearly always, always get lost in Harrods. I used to have to go there quite a lot for work and I always got lost. Usually trying to find either the Ladies or an escalator. I think it is a cunning ploy so that you buy more. Then the exit will magically appear before you as if it was there all the time.
So imagine my slight trepidation at having to make a dash through the ground floor (without Carrie, who stayed outside with our luggage) on a mission to get macarons. I only had twenty minutes. So I could not lose my way.
There I am, power walking through Harrods like I’m on Challenge Anneka (minus the blue and yellow jump-suit and the helicopter, sadly) – the men’s department (darkish), the cosmetics department (blindingly white and bright), the food hall (a normal level of light, but full of people who I elbowed out the way. Joking. But I wanted to), the watch department (really dark. What is all that about? Is it so people can see the dials glowing in the dark?), round a corner, down a short corridor – the whole time wishing I could leave a trail of breadcrumbs like Hansel & Gretel, so that I can find my way back. Eventually I make it. I pause to catch my breath, because a wheezing mass of human would not look good when you are trying to select dainty macarons. And I bet elegant French ladies don’t wheeze.
I would have loved to deliberate over the flavours more, but I still had to get myself back to Carrie (which I managed successfully, without the need for breadcrumbs or having to stop and ask for directions), so I went for flavours that I had made at home plus a couple of different ones.
Back at home, we settled in for the tasting. The chocolate, vanilla, red berry and Marie-Antoinette were nice. The chocolate one was a lovely rich chocolate flavour and the Marie-Antoinette was lime (to be honest I picked it because it was blue), however from everyone else, they all came with the statement “yours are better.” When I asked for clarification it was said that mine have a crisp shell and then a soft slightly chewy middle, whereas these were kind of soft throughout.
However. The pistachio one was declared on a par with mine.
And the salted caramel? Oh my goodness, I could have eaten a whole box of them. The caramel inside was lovely and rich and buttery. It was everybody’s favourite.
So, the conclusion.
Well, it can be summed up thus:
My sister said “please can you start making macarons again?” and Carrie has suggested that I phone Harrods and ask if I can have a macaron counter.
I’ll take that. Yes I will.
So if you find yourself in London with a craving for macarons, than pay Ladurée a visit. I mean, they are not as good as mine, but they are still delicious and look pretty and you get a lovely box to keep things in once all the macarons are gone. Plus, there is none of the nail-biting angst that comes with making them yourself. Alternatively, you can order them on-line.
Although if I do end up working in Harrods, I’m going to need some serious orientation so that I don’t get lost every time I need the loo.