Browsing Tag

macarons

Hotels, Paris

A Left Bank Stay at Hotel Saint-Dominique, Paris

It’s been a few years since I stayed on Paris’ Left Bank, so what better way to rediscover the area with a stay at the stylish Hotel Saint-Dominique?

I always keep a close eye on the Paris hotel scene, but it was a pleasant surprise to stumble across this beautiful gem on rue Saint-Dominique in the seventh arrondissement.

Hotel Saint-Dominique is a four star independent boutique hotel with a focus on contemporary design.  It’s a small, cosy hotel with friendly staff and a number of thoughtful features to really make you feel at home.

As the name may suggest, Hotel Saint-Dominique is housed in a former 17th century convent built during the same period as Les Invalides for a religious order.  It also boasts a picturesque view of the Eiffel Tower from the street and is just a short walk away from the Champs de Mars, Les Invalides and Pont Alexandre III.

Our Junior Suite on the top floor overlooking rue Saint-Dominique was enormous and I loved the minimalist interiors with quirky design touches.

The super-comfy king-size bed with reading lamps is covered with high quality linen and a grey felt throw and cushions with a purple trim.

Other features include a long corner sofa, executive writing desk, air-conditioning, free wifi, loan of a mini iPad, Nespresso machine with plenty of espresso capsules and a separate kettle for making tea.  A highlight is the complimentary minibar stocked with Evian and Badoit, Granini orange juice and a can of Coke Zero.

I couldn’t help thinking that a room this size should have a slightly larger wardrobe than the multi-functional mirror one, but it did the trick for a short stay.

The suite is sophisticated and furnished to a high standard, but it also has a playful side with colourful bedside tables, cool rope-mounted photos of the Sacré-Coeur and a plush carpet trimmed with yellow crosses (or ‘bisous’, if you’re a romantic).

We were kindly welcomed with some delicious macarons and a delightful book – The Best Places to Kiss in Paris.  It was a lovely touch and totally in tune with our rose-tinted view of Paris – even after countless trips it still feels like the most magical city for us.

The white tiled bathroom has a cool urban feel and is an adequate size with a powerful walk-in shower, rectangular marble sink, fluffy towels, bathrobes and a full set of Azzaro bathroom products.

We weren’t so lucky with the weather during our trip, but happily the hotel has plenty of posh umbrellas, which kept us a bit drier on the walk over to the Jeanne Lanvin exhibition at the Palais Galliera.

On the way back to the hotel, we warmed up with a delicious bowl of soupe à l’oignon gratinée at neighbouring Bar du Central – a casual, stylish bistro just a few steps away.

That evening, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at L’Oiseau Blanc at The Peninsula Paris. Hotel Saint-Dominique doesn’t have a restaurant, however it has a reasonably-priced, tempting room service menu if you fancy a cosy night in.

Of course, the 7th arrondissement is filled with foodie delights that you won’t want to miss out on.  For a memorable dinner on the doorstep, visit Brasserie Thoumieux by Jean François Piège just a few doors down, or Stephane Jego’s much loved L’Ami Jean, known for its outrageously decadent salted caramel rice pudding.

If you’re in the mood for something sweet, rue Saint-Dominique has a number of excellent Parisian boulangeries and patisseries, including one of my favourites, Aux Merveilleux.

After a lovely, peaceful night’s sleep, we went down to the breakfast room for a leisurely Parisian breakfast.  I loved this bright, Scandi-style breakfast room with comfy seats and flowers on the tables.

The buffet was filled with a generous morning offering of fresh baguette, mini pastries, crepes, pancakes, granola, cured meats, cheeses and yoghurts.

Hot items are also included and are made to order.  I was in the mood for croissants and jam but the friendly French-speaking lady who was looking after us for breakfast cooked up a fresh plate of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for Steven.

Everything was nicely done and in the warmer months, it would be a delight to have breakfast in the pretty Parisian courtyard.

Hotel Saint-Dominique is the perfect base for a stylish city break with great design, an inspiring location and affordable rates.  It feels like a secret address in Paris where you can live like a Parisian on the elegant Rive Gauche.

For more information and booking, visit: www.hotelstdominique.com

Chérie City was a guest of Hotel Saint-Dominique

Photos by Chérie City and Hotel Saint-Dominique

Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, Lisbon, Restaurants

Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon

Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon is one of Portugal’s most elegant landmark hotels, perched on a hilltop overlooking the picturesque Parque Eduardo VII, Marques de Pombal and the chic Avenida Liberdade.

The five-star hotel’s1950s modernist facade belies opulent interiors and plenty of old world charm.  Arriving at the grand marble lobby, we received a typically warm Four Seasons welcome and instantly forgot the rainy start to our trip.

The enormous open-plan lobby has a number of comfy seating areas to relax in and striking artworks from the hotel’s impressive contemporary art collection.  It leads on to the cosy Ritz Bar with outdoor terrace, the hotel’s elegant Varanda restaurant and the Almada Negreiros lounge, complete with a trilogy of Centauros tapestries commissioned by the owners in 1956.

The hotel has 282 rooms and suites and almost all boast a private balcony.  Our Deluxe Room was very spacious and homely, designed in a contemporary classic style with neutral tones, dark wood furnishings and blue highlights.

Room features include a large working desk, comfy seating area, large flatscreen TV, CD/DVD player, private bar with premium spirits, complimentary wifi, morning papers and overnight shoe shine.  The large private terrace with outdoor furniture is a real treat and offers stunning views over the city.

We were kindly welcomed with a bottle of fine local Port and some delectable Portuguese custard tarts (the first of many) served on a traditional tile with tiny shakers of icing sugar and ground cinnamon to finish.  There was also a colourful bowl of fruit and a large bottle of mineral water in the room, which perked us up after an early morning flight.

I adored the king-size bed with sumptuous linen and had a peaceful, uninterrupted sleep each night.  At evening turndown, large complimentary bottles of mineral water were placed by the bed, a Four Seasons Lisbon bookmark was placed inside my bedside book and the room was prepared for sleeping with our slippers placed on cotton mats.

The large marble bathroom features a separate shower, deep soaking tub, double sink and two full sets of L’Occitane bathroom products.  There are also plenty of large, fluffy towels, face cloths and plush embroidered Terry bathrobes and slippers.

Each morning, we enjoyed a sumptuous buffet breakfast in the hotel’s elegant Varanda restaurant.  Four Seasons hotels are noted for their bountiful breakfasts and this one was a true delight.  We were swiftly seated and served large pots of fine English breakfast and freshly-squeezed apple juice.  

A la carte dishes are available, but we were tempted by the array of tasty hot items, eggs cooked to order, pancakes and crepes with maple syrup or berry compote, mini pastries, smoked salmon, bagels with a choice of cream cheese and gourmet cereals.

I particularly liked the healthy ‘create your own yoghurt’ station with a choice of plain yoghurt, fresh fruits, granola, muesli and all kinds of seeds to garnish.  When in Lisbon, it’s essential to sample at least a few Portuguese custard tarts and luckily we were able to tick that off our list first thing in the morning.  What’s not to love about cakes and tarts for breakfast?

On our first full morning, the hotel kindly arranged a private car tour of Lisbon, so we could take in the city’s best sights in ultimate comfort.  Our initial plan was to take a motorcycle and sidecar tour, but with rain showers threatening, we went for the safer but equally enjoyable option.

Our wonderful driver and guide knew the city inside out and shared historical and present day facts throughout the four-hour tour.  We set off to Lisbon’s oldest district Alfama and briefly stopped at the Castle of São Jorge and Church of Santa Engrácia.

We took lots of photos over the city from a high viewpoint and looked out for authentic Fado bars and colourful tiled buildings.  We then drove along the coast and up through vibrant Chiado and Bairro Alto, spotting cool boutiques, bars and stylish terrace cafes.

We spent an hour in Belém, Lisbon’s historically significant area where the great Portuguese explorers sailed away from on their voyages of discovery.  We managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the Berardo Collection Museum, Jerónimos Monastery, the Belém Tower and the famous Pastéis de Belém to pick up some freshly-baked Portuguese custard tarts – regarded as the best in Lisbon.

After touring the city, we arrived back at our room to find a selection of teas and sweet treats to perk us – a thoughtful and kind surprise.  We’d worked up an appetite and after a short rest, we were ready for an indulgent lunch in Varanda.

Chef Pascal Meynard prepares a daily buffet-style lunch in Varanda and it really is a spectacular and luxurious affair.  To start, guests can help themselves to seasonal salads, canapes, cured meats, artisan cheeses, fresh sushi, chilled shrimp and lobster (my favourite) and home-made soup.

To follow are delicious main dishes such as medallion of beef with shallots and potatoes, traditional Portuguese salt cod, grilled John Dory with polenta and a carvery leg of lamb.

It’s worth leaving plenty of room for dessert, as the selection of cakes and pastries are out of this world.  We enjoyed bite-size servings of crème brûlée, millefeuille, fruit tarts, rice pudding, lemon meringue pie, éclairs, macarons, chocolate truffles, pâte de fruits and the most incredible apple crumble, which the restaurant is famed for.

After lunch, we enjoyed a few hours of pure relaxation in the hotel’s fabulous spa.  We made good use of the sauna and steam room and took a dip in the stunning indoor pool.  The poolside lounge is the perfect spot to unwind on a lounger with views of the garden and complimentary herbal tea and dried fruits.  The hotel also has a fantastic fitness centre and rooftop running track with great views over the city.

Therapists from Four Seasons Bali were in residency at the spa during our visit and I was lucky enough to experience their expert skills with a soothing Harmony Massage.  It was the first time I’ve tried an authentic Balinese four-hand massage and it was simply heavenly.

On arrival, one of the friendly, caring therapists washed my feet in warm, scented water and I was given a choice of four different massage oils.  The massage was simple yet effective, with repetitive wave movements that lulled me into very deep relaxation.  When the treatment was over, I was taken to the tranquil relaxation room to finish my spa journey over a cup of herbal tea.

Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon is perfect for those looking for a luxurious, comfortable stay in a central, upmarket part of Lisbon.  The friendly, efficient staff made our stay so enjoyable, particularly Concierge who helped to make our plans run seamlessly.

With fabulous food, a tranquil spa and plush rooms, it’s tempting to linger in this stunning hotel, but of course the delights of Lisbon are not to be missed.

A Deluxe Room at Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon starts from €425 per room per night.  For more information and booking, visit: www.fourseasons.com/lisbon/

Chérie City was a guest of Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon

Photos by Chérie City and Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon

Afternoon tea, Guest posts, South Africa

Afternoon Tea At The Twelve Apostles – Cape Town, South Africa

Rebecca Brett swaps afternoon tea in London for the sunny backdrop of the Twelve Apostles mountain range and the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Town…

Afternoon tea in London is a quintessential treat that takes one away from the stresses and strains of every day life for a little luxury. No soggy sandwich or homemade soup can compare; the likes of The Ritz, Claridges, The Berkeley and the Sanderson make lunch special with fine teas, dainty finger sandwiches and sweet pastries.

I’ve been to my fair share of teas in London, escaping the hustle and bustle of city life, and usually the grey and miserable weather, for an afternoon of genteel refinement and a jolly good feeding. When I was invited to afternoon tea during my trip to Cape Town I wondered if the Capetonians could capture the magic of what so many places in London do so well.

Afternoon tea was to be taken at The Twelve Apostles, a five star hotel and spa nestled between the unspoiled natural beauty of The Twelve Apostles mountain range and the Atlantic Ocean. We’d driven past the hotel on our drive to the beach in the morning of our reservation and were very excited at the prospect of sitting up at the majestic hotel later that day.

We arrived at The Leopard Bar, a huge room with plush seating, a bar and a balcony with spectacular views of the sea. At first we were seated inside but how could we resist more sunshine and the cool breeze from the ocean so, without a fuss, we were moved to the balcony.

Once outside, we were served a bottle of Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2010 (R260 – approximately £18) to start our high tea. Of all the places in the world, it felt like there was nothing better than drinking Champagne with the sun beating down on us in Cape Town , certainly a huge difference to previous experiences at home.

A trio of nibbles was served next – assorted olives, spiced nuts and corn kernals, were perfect to prevent the bubbles from going straight to our head on our empty stomachs.

Those worries were short-lived; soon after the snacks were quickly demolished, a huge stack of sandwiches and sweet treats were delivered to our table. The savoury plate was a classic sandwich selection of smoked salmon and cream cheese, egg mayonnaise, cheese and tomato, beef and horseradish and a special creamy chicken sandwich with flaked almonds.

The sandwiches were all very nice, nothing out of the ordinary aside from the chicken and almond. The marriage of flavours and textures were incredible and an idea I’ll definitely be using back in Blighty.

The desserts were very special, there were strawberry cheesecakes, shortbread biscuits, macaroons, eclairs, cupcakes, chocolate brownies, carrot cake, fruit tarts and scones with cream and jam. Phew. We had quite a feat ahead of us to get through them.

With the sweets we were also served tea, a redbush (or rooibos if you speak Afrikaans) which is native to South Africa and can be served with or without milk. Rick went for a slice of lemon while I went with milk and sugar.

As the afternoon went on, our waistlines expanded with the decadent selection of desserts and as the sun shined down on us the sweets strained under the immense heat. Before completely melting we managed to make our way through most of the sweets.

The fresh fruit tart was sweet from the ripe fruit, the macaroons crisp on the outside and impeccably chewy in the middle, the shortbread better than any I’ve eaten from Scotland and brownie bites full of huge chunks of nuts and chocolate. The only let down were the scones which were a little dry and crumbly.

But how can you complain when the views are beautiful, the service impeccable and bubbles flowing. Even though it was gone 5pm by the time we’d finished eating, the sun was still very strong so we decided to retire to the lounge and take our tea inside to cool down. Inside the room was very busy with young stylish guests having cocktails, families relaxing with tea and snacks and the waiting staff seamlessly working their way around the room.

I’m a Londoner and I love London but nothing can compare to the exceptional afternoon experience that we had at The Twelve Apostles in late December. The food was delicious but perhaps the extra ingredient of sunshine made it extra special for us. There was nothing quite like taking in the breathtaking scenery around us while devouring sandwiches and sweets.

The other huge difference is the price – while at home you would expect to pay £40 upwards each for the privilege, in Cape Town this whole afternoon costs less than £40 for two and that’s including the Champagne too!

Tea by the Sea is served daily from 2-6pm and costs R220 (approximately £16) per stand.

The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, Victoria Road, Camps Bay 8005, Cape Town, +27 (0) 21 437 9000

For more information and booking, visit: www.12apostleshotel.com

Rebecca Brett was a guest of The Twelve Apostles and writes the blog, Bon Appetit.

Photos by Rebecca Brett (The Leopard Bar by The Twelve Apostles).

Hotels, Hotels - Design, Paris

La Maison Champs Élysées by Maison Martin Margiela

The prestigious ‘Golden Triangle’ in Paris is lined with opulent palace hotels, but La Maison Champs Élysées, designed by Maison Martin Margiela, proposes an alternative vision of luxury.

Surreal, irreverent and poetic, La Maison Champs Élysées is a wonderland full of surprises for discerning fashion, art and design lovers.  This is Maison Martin Margiela’s first hotel collaboration and the Belgian fashion brand has designed the public spaces and 17 rooms and suites as part of the Couture Collection.  Themes presented in Margiela’s long career are prominent in the designs for the hotel, which undoubtedly celebrates ‘the art of living’.

Just last year, this Haussmann Parisian townhouse was transformed into a fashion-led boutique hotel. A member of Design Hotels™, La Maison Champs Élysées is nestled on a quiet street, just a few steps from the Avenue Montaigne, Champs Élysées and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Built in 1866, No.8 rue Jean Goujon was originally the townhouse of the Princess of Essling and has passed through the hands of various French nobility. It was later named La Maison des Centraliens, after its former inhabitants, the alumni of the École Central des Arts et Manufactures.  In fact, the 5th and 6th floors are still used by La Maison des Centraliens.

On first impressions, La Maison Champs Élysées looks more like a contemporary art gallery than a hotel, with the welcoming staff tucked neatly inside a tinted mirror parallelepiped at the centre of the room.

The Maison Martin Margiela-designed rooms are accessed from a separate lift and we were kindly assigned a spectacular Couture Suite on the fourth floor.  Each suite is denoted by the name of a writer, rather than numbers, which may come as a surprise given Margiela’s penchant for numerically appointed clothing labels.

Our suite was like the apartment of our dreams – an irreverent mix of styles and eras.  The stripped-wood floors creaked authentically and the plain white walls were illustrated with a trompe l’oeil design, depicting the faded glamour of a palace from centuries gone by.

It features a minimalist sitting room with two Dali-esque oversized chairs and a brand new iMac, separated from the bedroom by large sliding partitions.  The bedroom is a cultural den with more art books and French classics than you could possibly read during a stay, unless you’re a literary machine like Karl Lagerfeld!  What a rare treat to be surrounded by shelves of beautiful books when away from home.

The natural, textured Vosges bed linen is pure Margiela and gives the feeling of being enveloped in one of those signature white cotton seat covers.  The bed is one of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept in and I loved the silver boxes that opened to become reading lamps.

Generous complimentary amenities include free wifi access on an iMac, free movies and a complimentary minibar on the first night.  These small but significant touches make your room feel like a home away from home, which is undoubtedly a godsend for frequent travellers.

The spacious bathroom was covered in tiny beige mosaic tiles and included a deep bathtub and a separate shower around the corner.  We had use of generously-sized verbena bathroom amenities, plenty of fluffy towels, embroidered terrycloth bathrobes and two pairs of slippers in white and black (another reference to the monochrome theme).

The separate toilet at the other end of the hallway was covered entirely in stacked magazines – a witty take on reading in the toilet, perhaps?  Another humorous touch was the eggs dotted around the suite, acting as doorstops.

At turndown, there was a plate of macarons waiting on the table as an evening snack.  That evening, the bed was our island as we watched film after film, flicked through the selection of books and enjoyed the use of the minibar.  You can even hook up a keyboard and use the internet in bed!

In the morning, we had a tour of the hotel to explore the other guest rooms and see the full extent of MMM’s creativity.  The suite designed entirely in black is impressive and boasts a cabinet full of artworks and oddities, however I did prefer our all-white suite.  The boutique rooms are peaceful and cosy, with the same great bathrooms, but they don’t have the Margiela design stamp.  For the full avant-garde experience, a Couture Room is the way to go.

However, there is a whole world of interesting design touches to discover in the public areas.  Restaurant La Table de Huit, overseen by Chef Benoît Hilaire, is bright and calming with MMM’s signature cotton covered chairs.  Hilaire’s menu focuses on a personal interpretation of French classics with a modern freshness.

Walking past the restaurant towards the lift for the boutique rooms, the silver corridor felt instantly cold and clinical, as though entering a futuristic science laboratory.  A faint buzzing noise and a large illuminated diamond installation provided an eerie sensory experience.

It was a stark contrast to the ornate gilt staircase with an imperial eagle at the foot and the reference to Maison Martin Margiela’s fashion heritage with the untouched dressmaking mannequins.

The Black Cigar Bar is a sleek, scorched wood bar designed entirely in black, representing the negative contrast to the White Lounge.  In this relaxing, club-style space, fine whiskeys and Cuban cigars are the order of the day.  To create an exclusive experience, the Black Cigar Bar is reserved for Havana-smokers only and cigarette smokers may use the terrace.

The White Lounge is the perfect place to sit and relax over tea and a pasty or an apéritif.  MMM subverts the expected proportions of the room with low suspended lightbulbs, low mirrored tables and those anonymous cotton covered chairs.  The taxidermy birds in glass cases bring a touch of irony to an otherwise sober room.

Staying at La Maison Champs Élysées is a truly unique, aesthetically rewarding experience, yet the hotel remains free from fashion snobbery.  The staff are friendly and laid-back, leaving you to experience the hotel for yourself, yet responding swiftly to any queries.  Staying true to Margiela’s work, La Maison Champs Élysées offer a sense of comfort with a surreal flourish.  It’s the hotel that keeps captures the imaginaton!

Rooms rates start from 250 Euros per night.  For more information on La Maison Champs Élysées and booking, visit: www.designhotels.com

Cherie City was a guest of Design Hotels™ and La Maison Champs Élysées.

Exterior, lobby and bathroom images courtesy of Design Hotels.  All other images by Cherie City.

London, Patisserie, Stores

Pierre Hermé Paris Launches Macaron Day In London

Pierre Hermé brings Macaron Day to London for the first time, following the likes of Paris, New York, Toronto, Budapest and many other macaron-loving cities.

Initiated by Pierre Hermé Paris seven years ago, Macaron Day celebrates the pleasure of a macaron while raising awareness for serious causes.  For the inaugural London Macaron Day, Pierre Hermé Paris is offering each visitor to the Selfridges or Lowndes Street stores a free macaron, in return for a donation to Ambitious About Autism.

This national charity helps support children and young people with autism at TreeHouse School while also raising awareness and influencing policy.

On Macaron Day, Pierre Hermé enthusiasts and first-timers will have a rare chance to sample an extended range of flavours created by Pierre Hermé over the past decade – like an art retrospective (well, he isn’t named the Picasso of Pastry for nothing)!

Macaron Day will take place in cities around the world on 20th March, the day before Spring officially arrives (or on 20th June in Japan to coincide with Summer Solstice).  What better way to start the new season than with a delicious macaron and helping to sustain the good work done by Ambitious About Autism.

For more info, visit: www.pierreherme.com and Ambitious About Autism.

Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, Paris

Hotel Beauchamps, Paris

Hotel Beauchamps is a rare find in Paris’ chic 8th arrondissement, characterised by an array of sparkling five star palace hotels.  It combines elegant interiors, warm service and an enviable address with reasonable prices.

Hotel Beauchamps is tucked away on a quiet street on the ‘golden triangle’ of the Champs Elysées, avenue Montaigne and avenue George V.  A contemporary boutique townhouse hotel of 83 rooms and 6 suites, Beauchamps is part of the prestigious G.L.A Hotels, under the direction of hotel expert Grace Leo.

From the moment we stepped into the divine lobby at Hotel Beauchamps, we felt welcome and cared for.  The reception staff gave us a warm welcome and went beyond the usual check-in protocol, offering local tips, maps and assistance for anything we might require during our stay.

The public areas of the hotel are a beautiful hint of what’s awaiting you in your guest room.  The opulent lobby has a warm glow and and features gold leaf walls and red lacquered armchairs at the centre of the room on a plush circular carpet.

Most inviting is the elegant Library Lounge with large sofas, a welcoming fireplace, bookshelves filled with design books and interesting objets d’art.  The Library Lounge is filled with intriguing artefacts from around the world, curated by the hotel’s fictional well-travelled art collector, Balthazar Beauchamps.

It offers guests an alternative place to relax and socialise over a pot of tea or a night cap.  The shelves full of art and design books and warm atmosphere could keep you there for hours.

We were then led to the top floor and offered a choice of two rooms with different colour schemes and floor plans.  Our loft-style room was homely and bright with a cosy bedroom leading to a separate dressing room with a large built-in wardrobe and an incredibly spacious bathroom.

It was thoughtfully designed in monochrome and sand with highlights of chartreuse and a patterned saffron and khaki carpet.  I particularly liked the textural touches –  a fuzzy wool blanket and cushions in soft raffia and velvet.  Many of the rooms have attractive abstract paintings behind the bed, but the sloped ceiling of our room meant that this wasn’t possible.

The bed was soft and luxurious, with well-positioned reading lights and a flat screen TV straight ahead, so you can just lie back and relax after a long day of walking in the city.

The petite workspace with a comfy chair is great for getting on with work, or just a different seating space to the bed.  Complimentary high speed WiFi made Beauchamps feel even more like home, as we used it to find a nearby restaurant that was open on a Sunday night (harder than you might imagine in Paris).

The guest service experience goes even further, as Hotel Beauchamps provides an attractive leather file with the hotel’s signature seal, offering local tips, maps and walking itineraries, so you can get the most out of your trip.

When we arrived back in our room after a long walk around le Marais, there was a bottle of Plume Cabernet Sauvignon and a plate of delicious macarons awaiting us. We couldn’t resist devouring the macarons immediately – a delightful treat to keep us going before dinner.

Our spectacular bathroom was a real highlight, the kind of bathroom that you’d spend hours in getting ready and taking a long soak in the bath, which is exactly what I did that evening, after an indulgent 3-course dinner at the hotel restaurant Velvet, par Le Bistro d’Antoine (the sister of a well-known restaurant in Nice).

I loved the amber halo around the mirror and the plastic jewel-like stool, which added warmth to the chocolate brown and white bathroom.  We were also given embroidered bathrobes, slippers and plenty of fluffy towels to use during our stay.

The bathroom amenities are Contemporel – a brand created personally by Grace Leo, which features in all G.L.A hotels and in some independent hotels.

In the morning, we went down to Velvet for a delicious breakfast of waffles, mini pastries, muffins, mini baguettes, hot dishes, cheese, yogurt, fruits, tea and coffee.  Everything tasted fresh, well-made and was of a high standard.

My favourite spot in the hotel was a small nook between the entrance and Velvet – a hidden area away from the lobby where you can gossip away in secret or cosy up after an indulgent dinner.  I loved the gold and electric blue chinoiserie on the walls and could have easily spent hours lounging on the comfy sofa.

Hotel Beauchamps is a real hidden gem with a warm, homely atmosphere in a refined neighbourhood.  The attention to detail and comfortable surroundings make for a wonderful stay, and the location is unbeatable.

Rooms at Hotel Beauchamps start from 196 Euros.  For more info and booking, visit: www.hotelbeauchamps.com

Chérie City was a guest of Hotel Beauchamps

Cafes, Patisserie, Toronto

NADÈGE Patisserie – West Queen West, Toronto

There was one place that was top of my ‘Toronto to do list’ –  NADÈGE Patisserie in on Queen Street West.  Luckily, I came across NADÈGE, a glistening white beacon of decadence, as I was walking back towards the centre of town after my art tour of West Queen West with Betty Ann Jordan.

Run by Nadège Nourian (a fourth generation pastry chef born in Lyon, France) and her native Torontonian partner Morgan McHugh, NADÈGE draws in the crowds with its high-end pastries, gourmet sandwiches, Kusmi Tea and bijou macarons.

A world away from the gilded opulence of Laduree, Nadège Patisserie is like a pastry laboratory, all sleek and shiny, designed in clinical white with flashes of hot pink and the cool geometric logo.

Nadège studied at an esteemed pastry school in Normandy and has worked alongside top chefs in restaurants around the world, including Michelin star restaurant Hakkasan in London, before setting up her dream patisserie in Toronto.

The cakes and tarts are particularly impressive, like little works of art.  My favourite was the cosmic-looking angel cake with mini macarons resembling meteors that crashed into the cake (pictured below).

NADÈGE is also the perfect place to find sweet gifts, as you can buy adorable little tubs of chocolate-dipped madeleines, marshmallows, biscuits and chocolate tablets.

On my last day in Toronto, I returned to NADÈGE and spent my last few Canadian bucks on three macarons – Cassis, Chocolate Orange and Salted Caramel.

They really were excellent and lived up to the hype.  The cassis macaron was bursting with thick, gooey fruit paste and the chocolate orange macaron was a vibrant orange colour and was filled with a smooth, rich, dark ganache.

The Salted Caramel macaron wouldn’t please those who complain that Laduree macarons are too sweet, as it was a full-on sugar assault, but a delightful one, at that!

I would have liked to have sat on the patio to soak up the last of the Toronto sun with my macarons and a pot of Kusmi tea, but lunch at Luma was calling, so I saved my macarons to perk up my airport waiting experience.

The second outpost of NADÈGE is in Rosendale, on Yonge Street between downtown and uptown, so you can pick up some macarons without going out west.

NADÈGE Patisserie is a must for foodies visiting Toronto and I just hope that Nadège might remember us here in London and open a UK store.  Bring the macarons and we’ll bring the crowds!

All photos by Chérie City.

Nadege Patisserie on Urbanspoon

London, Patisserie

An Indulgent Visit To Pierre Hermé Paris, Belgravia

Heralded by Vogue as the ‘Picasso of pastry’, Pierre Hermé is known for creating exquisite pâtisserie, leading the way with innovative flavours and experimental pairings.

Carrying forward the family trade of Alsatian bakery and pastry-making, albeit with a more libertine approach, Pierre Hermé trained at Gaston Lenotre and worked with Fauchon before setting up his eponymous company with Charles Znaty.  The first Pierre Hermé boutique opened in Tokyo in 1998, followed by his return to the gastronomy scene in Paris, where his creations were met with immense praise.

I was invited to try the new macaron flavours and explore the Pierre Hermé store in Belgravia.

My experience of a Pierre Hermé store has been limited to the counter at Selfridges, as the Paris stores have always had queues out of the door.  The Belgravia store is a petite jewel box of edible treasures, tucked away on a quiet row just off Sloane Street.  The loyal clientele are generally macaron enthusiasts on a pilgrimage, rather than passers by clicking away at the displays.

Macarons are the main feature of the boutique and exciting new summer flavours include liquorice and violet, apricot and pistachio and and pea and mint.  My personal favourites from the classic collection that I usually choose at Pierre Hermé are Rose and Mogador – milk chocolate and passion fruit.

The chocolates are just as exciting as the macarons and I couldn’t resist the Ouvre-Toi – sesame praline, sesame nougatine, enrobed with milk chocolate.  The Tsuki was also a pleasing new taste discovery – a dark chocolate with roasted and salted corn and orange fruit paste.

The Bonbons de Chocolat au Macaron are a delicious compromise between a macaron and a chocolate, for when you can’t decide.  I tried the Pietra – hazelnut praline, chocolat macaron biscuit and almond paste, enrobed in dark chocolate.  It was crunchy, dense and velvety, an absolute delight.

One of the pleasures of Pierre Hermé are the beautiful presentation boxes and this year they have collaborated with illustrator Soledad Bravi on a limited edition London Landmarks box.

If you’re after a gift that lasts a bit longer, Pierre Hermé offers a selection of rare aromatic teas and indulgent hot chocolate presented in colourful tins.

I also loved the boxes of chocolate-covered candied fruits and the candied fruit paste sweets that reminded me of Christmas.  Speaking of Christmas, a Pierre Hermé cookbook or one of the divine scented candles would make a wonderful gift.

Another exciting discovery was the selection of jams created by Christine Ferber for Pierre Hermé.  The delicious combinations include Strawberry and Pistachio, Violet Pears and Blackcurrant or Ispahan – Raspberry, Rose and Lychee – which I selected to take home with me.

I was kindly given a London Landmark box filled with seven classic and new macarons to take home.  The absence of the Rose macaron was the result of not enough will-power at the end of a long, rainy day!

I was also given an elegant box of assorted chocolates, which was well-timed for impressing my friend visiting that weekend.  The slim, rectangular chocolates are petite but with intense flavours.  One of my favourites was the Azur – bitter chocolate and lime and yuzu ganache enrobed with dark chocolate.

My third delightful gift from Pierre Hermé was a pot of Confiture Ispahan – a delicate combination of raspberry, rose and lychee.

The jam was the best I’ve ever tasted, bursting with fruit and fragrant rose.  It wasn’t overly sweet like other jams and had an ultra smooth, refined texture.  For me, it’s too exquisite to just slather on bread, so I’ve tried it on Madeleines and various cakes and on top of ice cream.  It would also make a perfect cocktail ingredient, so why try it as a Raspberry, Lychee and Rose Martini.

The staff at Pierre Hermé are so passionate about his creations and love to share their knowledge and experiences with customers.

The two London outposts are the only ones outside of France and Japan, so we can feel proud that Pierre Hermé has chosen to share his dreamy patisserie with us before the rest of the world.

For more info and boutique locations, visit: www.pierreherme.com

Thank you to Pierre Hermé Paris in Belgravia for such a memorable afternoon.

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Afternoon tea, Designers, Fashion, Guest posts, Paris, Patisserie, Stores

Café Pouchkine Pâtisserie at Le Printemps Paris

Moscow grand cafe culture meets with Parisian haute pâtisserie at Printemps’ pop up Fashion Cafe Pouchkine.  Coralie Aude Grassin enjoys a very stylish afternoon tea…

Paris combines two passions: fashion and gourmet food.  So much that pastry chefs have designed what could be called Haute Pâtisserie.  Each season brings a catwalk of tastes, colours and creativity.  A Parisienne would be as enthusiastic for Pierre Hermé’s lastest sweet collection as an elegant dress by Givenchy.

There is a new buzz in town – Café Pouchkine, a legend in Moscow, has opened a pop-up in Le Printemps, presenting exquisite ‘gâteaux à la mode.

I just could not resist having a look… well, being a cake-hunter, it was only professional to try them too!

Master pâtissier, Emmanuel Ryon, is quite a star already, having won the international pastry competition as well as been titled France’s best sugar worker.

He loved the challenge of working with two cultures, marrying the very best of each. He looked for inspiration in art books among other sources – you can see how they have been carefully structured, each detail balancing another, the colours chosen to attract the light.

They even achieve the jewel status with a chocolate powdery note or a touch of edible gold. Even macarons have dressed festively, each of them combining two flavours like lemon with a heart of caramel…

The textures are sumptuous. Each cake plays on complex layers – moist, melting, smooth, finger-licking good. We fell in love with:

The Rose Pouchkine – those elegant petals hide a pistachio biscuit with an orchard fruit compote, a cloud like yogurt cream and melting pistachio…

The Moskito – velvety and very cheerful in taste with its variations around pistachios with a vanilla cream and a touch of marzipan.

Simply called red fruit and poppy seed spongecake, this one is an irresistible poem which speaks of spring – biscuit flavoured with Bourbon vanilla, poppyseeds, gorgeous red fruit jelly, unctuous cream made with Russian cream cheese.

And our favourite, the Rose du Tsar – you will spend as much time admiring its perfection as savouring each spoonful…Chocolate mousse on a light brownie base, fragrant blackberry and jasmine jelly, and golden chocolate gems… How precious!

Why not try them with an aromatic tea or a traditional hot chocolate, served in an old-fashioned silver pot?  Alternatively, you can buy a selection to take away and mind you, they survive the Eurostar quite well…

In celebration of Paris Fashion Week, Fashion Café Pouchkine has also created a range of delectable cakes inspired by the collections of designers including Chloé, Marni and Dries Van Noten.

But hurry, as Café Pouchkine is only to be enjoyed until March 26.

Café Pouchkine, Printemps Haussmann Mode Floor -1 64, Boulevard Haussmann 75009 Paris.

Open until 20.00 Mondays to Saturdays, 22.00 on Thursdays.

Photos by Coralie Aude Grassin.

Coralie writes the blog Tea Time in Wonderland.

London, Stores

Pierre Hermé opens first London store

Revolutionary Chef Pâtissier Pierre Hermé has already made waves on this side of the channel with his ‘adult macarons‘ at the Pierre Hermé boutique pâtisserie in Selfridges Food Hall and is now opening his first London store in the heart of Belgravia.

Pierre Hermé is known for his unusual and exotic macaron flavour combinations such as olive oil and vanilla, strawberry and wasabi, Venezuelan chocolate and apricot and pistachio.  Pierre Hermé are typically intense and sometimes sharp – a world away from Ladurée’s sweet, pastel-coloured treats.

Holding court at Lowndes Street, just off Belgrave Square, Pierre Hermé brings his signature macarons, selection of fine chocolates, seasonal collections and Pierre Hermé Paris products to the London store.

The London store mirrors the sleek, contemporary design of his Paris and Tokyo stores and it promises some of the most spectacular window displays on this side of Brompton Road.

Pierre Hermé opens on 1st September at Lowndes Street, Belgravia, London.

Afternoon tea, Designers, London, Paris

Marni and Brigitte go super sweet

Desserts and cakes are my major downfall and I would happily munch on a plate of steamed vegetables so I could finish with a small but perfectly formed piece of sugary goodness.  Well, ’tis the season to be jolly and what not, and I’ve spotted some incredible, artisan treats that look as amazing as they taste.

Macaroons already have a pretty stellar reputation, but they just got even more chic, as Consuelo Castiglioni has collaborated with Paris luxury pâtisserie, Ladurée, on a limited edition box of gold leaf Marni macaroons.

marni laduree

Consuelo applied Marni’s signature polka dots and flower motif to the gold and chocolate brown box, maintaining the label’s gauche appeal while reflecting the seasonal grandeur of Ladurée.

The Marni macaroons come in boxes of 8 and 18 and are available at Ladurée stores from 1 December, including London’s Burlington Arcade and Harrods.

marni laduree

Paris gourmet store Fauchon are also taking the trend for arty desserts even further with their sweet and sexy tribute to Brigitte Bardot.

Accompanying the Brigitte Bardot exhibition in Boulogne Billancourt, Fauchon have created ‘the BB éclair’ – choux pastry filled with almond and rose cream and a chocolate Brigitte lying on top.

Fauchon have perfected their new chocolate printing technique and their former edible muse was the Mona Lisa.

fauchon

Fauchon have serious competition from star baker Pierre Hermé, whose Paris stores always have queues out of the door, but has Hermé ever attempted a hot dog éclair?

fauchon hot dog

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hot dog on any menu or street corner in France, so I can imagine it would be hilarious to see well-heeled Parisians wolfing down these caramel and raspberry ‘dogs.

There aren’t any Fauchon outlets in the UK, so you’ll have to cross the channel for your Bardot fix, but I bet she will be worth it!