I first went to Paris when I was at university when, on a whim, some friends and I decided to book a weekend away. The trip had a big impact on me because this was the first time that I tried a macaron. I had stumbled across Pierre Hermé’s shop on Rue Bonaparte in Saint-Germain – a tiny shop which looks more like a jeweller’s than a pâtisserie and is completely silent inside. As soon as I tasted Pierre’s salted-caramel macaron, I became obsessed. Since that trip, I’ve returned to Paris numerous times every year; it’s where I go to get my brain working. For me, the French capital is made for eating and discovering new pâtisserie. While the city may seem like a slow place to change, the pâtisserie here has always inspired chefs from around the world. You really can’t go wrong
Du Pain et Des Idées looks like it has been there for decades, but it’s actually a fairly modern bakery. I always pick up a chocolate and pistachio escargot and a big chunk of their intensely dark and chewy sourdough – perfect for a picnic.Pierre Hermé is a legend, and everything here is done with such finesse. They make my favourite thing to eat in the whole city: an Ispahan croissant. It’s similar to an almond croissant but filled with a rose, raspberry and lychee gel, then covered with a rose glaze and freeze-dried raspberries. It’s unbelievably good – but be prepared to queue.
Jacques Genin makes incredible chocolates, but the mango and passion fruit caramels are pure sunshine. Pick them up at his pâtisserie or spend a couple of hours at the tea salon in the Marais. It’s a quiet space, which is rare for Paris, so make the most of it and order a hot chocolate and millefeuille.
Another favourite haunt is Des Gateaux et du Pain, the only female-run pâtisserie in Paris. Chef Claire Damon creates the most sophisticated pastries – try her elegant St Honoré (flavours change seasonally) – and her croissants are some of the best in town.
Éclair de Genie is the place to go – naturellement! – for éclairs. Historically, pâtisseries have stuck to classic flavours such as chocolate, coffee and vanilla, but owner Christophe Adam plays with ingredients like yuzu, rose and raspberry, and creates intricate designs.
Yann Couvreur is one of the newer pâtisseries and is based in Belleville, an up-and-coming area of Paris. The pastries here are different; the kouign amann is made with whole wheat and the classic frasier cake is covered with wild strawberries, so that no sponge is visible. Not every pastry is put out at the beginning of the day, so it’s worth loitering for a second round.
Don’t be fooled by Blé Sucré . It doesn’t look very special, but the croissants and lemon madeleines are among the world’s best. The layers they get on their croissants are incredible.
(7 Rue Antoine Vollon; +33 1 43 40 77 73)
Fou de Pâtisserie is on one of the oldest shopping streets in Paris, yet the concept is anything but traditional. Set up by the French pastry magazine of the same name, it stocks pâtisserie from all over Paris. If you’re short on time, it’s the perfect spot to pop in and sample treats from various chefs.
Rue Montorgueil is home to the city’s oldest pâtisserie, Stohrer. Founded in 1730 by Louis XV’s pastry chef, it is famed for creating the rum baba, which is still served today.
WHERE TO SHOP
Mora is a shop for pastry chefs, selling every piece of baking equipment you could wish for, along with beautiful copper pans.
A visit to E Dehillerin feels like you’re stepping back in time. Julia Child used to shop here, and it doesn’t appear to have changed since. This is where I go if I want to pick up gifts such as madeleine trays, which come beautifully wrapped in brown paper.
G Detou is an ingredients mecca, with two shops next door to each other – one for cooking and the other for pâtisserie. Head into the latter – packed from floor to ceiling – and pick up bright-pink rose pralinoise (almonds covered in rose sugar, traditionally cracked and baked into brioche), candied fruits, nut pastes and tonka beans. You can also get technical ingredients such as pectin, or candied chestnuts to give as foodie gifts.
58 Rue Tiquetonne; +33 1 4236 5467
Brocantes (roving second-hand markets) roll around the city, so look out for signs detailing their arrival. Bastille holds a large one a couple of times a year, which is worth a visit. You can pick up French linen, coffee bowls and cutlery, relatively cheaply – be prepared to dig around, but that’s half of the fun.
There’s a food market in every neighbourhood, so you don’t necessarily have to hunt one down. However, Marche Bastille is one of my favourites. It’s held every Thursday and Sunday, and you could easily spend a couple of hours here exploring the local cheeses, fish and piles of saucisses.
For a different type of market, try the historical Enfants Rouge. Here, you get a real mix of food stands from all over the world, from Japanese to Lebanese. It’s really atmospheric and there’s lots of seating dotted around, so it’s a nice place to have lunch.
If you’re in Paris for more than a weekend, book onto a market tour with La Cuisine a Paris. Led by one of their chefs, you’ll pick up some fresh ingredients before heading back to the English-speaking cookery school (which overlooks the Seine) to prepare a meal. Their croissant dough class would make an excellent gift for foodies, too.
You can imagine a writer from the 1960s locking themselves away at Pavillon de la Reine (doubles from about £330 per night) and emerging with something wonderful. Hidden from the street, you enter through a small door in the wall, which opens out onto a beautiful courtyard where the hotel is set. The location and service is incredible.
Find more travel recommendations in Jamie magazine every issue, or click here to save on a subscription. Words: Edd Kimber. Photography: Matt Munro.