Without a doubt, world-famous pastry chef Pierre Hermé can be credited for revolutionising the art of French pâtisserie. Over the past decade, shrugging off the weight of tradition, he has created super-modern confections that rely on new ideas, techniques and flavour combinations, and his success has inspired a generation of pastry chefs.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, a new wave of chefs is pursuing another idea entirely: what they want to do is to recapture childhood emotions by revisiting the classics of French pastry and applying their contemporary knowledge to create modern versions of traditional dishes.
Whether your inclination is classic or modern, these artisans offer fresh and vibrantly flavourful pastries that are sure to hit your sweet spot.
A relentless alchemist of flavours, Pierre Hermé produces luxurious and whimsical creations that impress the eye as well as the taste buds. He is perhaps best-known for his macaroons, which come in a rainbow of quirky flavours, but you would do well not to ignore his take on traditional confections, such as the vanilla flan (€5) and his outstanding croissant and pain au chocolat. The sleek boutique on rue de Bonaparte can feel intimidating, but the staff are, in fact, quite helpful. • 72 rue Bonaparte, 6th, +33 1 43 54 47 77. Métro: Saint-Sulpice. Open Mon-Fri, Sun 10am-7pm, Sat 10am-7.30pm. 185 rue de Vaugirard, 15th, +33 1 47 83 89 96. Métro: Pasteur. Open Tue, Wed, 10am-7pm, Thu-Sat, 10am-7.30pm, Sun 10am-6pm. pierreherme.com
PAIN DE SUCRE
Behind Pain de Sucre (literally, "sugarloaf") is a happily married couple, Nathalie Robert and Didier Mathray, who first met back when they were working in the pastry kitchen at Pierre Gagnaire's three-star restaurant. It is rare that two creative types manage to cohabit in this kind of venture but it is a complete success in this case, as demonstrated by their high-flying pastries, which boast subtle flavours and perfect execution. Try the chocolate mint eclair or the baba au rhum, which comes with an extra pipette of rum so you can adjust its booziness to your preference. • 14 rue Rambuteau, 3rd, +33 1 45 74 68 92,patisseriepaindesucre.com. Métro: Rambuteau. Open Tue-Sat, 10am-8pm
After years of working out of his tiny private lab, and providing his chocolate and caramels exclusively to restaurants and hotels, self-taught chocolate whiz Jacques Genin opened his first public store in the upper Marais. The gorgeously designed, loft-like space houses a comfortable tea salon where you can enjoy classic French pastries, served fresh from the upstairs lab. Try the made-to-order mille-feuille (napoleon, €8), or the chocolate tartlet. • 133 rue de Turenne, 3rd, +33 1 45 77 29 01. Métro: République. Open Mon-Sat, 11am-9pm
Having trained in the art of pastry making both in Japan and in France, Sadaharu Aoki was inspired to combine the two sensibilities, slipping Japanese ingredients into French confections – a green tea opéra, a black sesame eclair, an acidulated yuzu tartlet – and applying the Japanese eye for detail to the presentation and packaging. But Aoki is just as good with unadulterated French classics, a point well made by his caramel tart, or his chubby chou à la crème (cream puff). • 56 boulevard de Port-Royal, 5th, +33 1 45 35 36 80. Métro: Les Gobelins. Open Tue-Sat, 11am-7pm, Sun 10am-6pm. 35 rue de Vaugirard, 6th, +33 1 45 44 48 90. Métro: Rennes or Saint-Sulpice. Open Tue-Sat, 11am-7pm, Mon 10am-6pm. 25 rue Pérignon, 15th, +33 (0)1 43 06 02 71. Métro: Ségur. Open Tue-Sat, 11am-7pm. CARL MARLETTI A true gourmand who loves to discuss his pastries with his customers when he mans the sales counter on Sundays, Carl Marletti is adamant about the freshness and quality of the ingredients he uses. Indeed, hispistachio religieuse (€3.70) is made with a brightly-flavoured pistachio paste from Sicily, and he makes small batches of mille-feuillethroughout the day, for optimal crunch. • 51 rue Censier, 5th, +33 1 43 31 68 12, carlmarletti.com. Métro: Censier-Daubenton.Open Tue-Sat 10am-8pm, Sun 10am-1.30pm JEAN-PAUL HEVIN Jean-Paul Hévin is a Meilleur Ouvrier de France – the highest distinction an artisan can aspire to – who's primarily known for his work as a chocolatier, and his purist's approach to the craft. But he also offers a range of all-chocolate pastries that would make a chocoholic dizzy – the chocolate tartlet and chocolate macaroons are especially well done. The rue Saint-Honoré boutique has a salon de thé upstairs, where you can enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and a pastry. • 231 rue Saint-Honoré, 1st, +33 1 55 35 35 96. Métro: Concorde, Tuileries. Open Mon-Sat 10am-7.30pm. 3 rue Vavin, 6th, +33 1 43 54 09 85. Métro: Notre-Dame des Champs, Vavin. Open Tue-Sat 10am-7pm. 23 bis avenue de la Motte Picquet, 7th, +33 1 45 51 77 48. Métro: Ecole Militaire. Open Tue-Sat 10am-7.30pm. jphevin.com LA PATISSERIE DES REVES The poetically named "pastry shop of dreams" is the joint creation of Philippe Conticini, one of the most celebrated pastry chefs in France, and Thierry Teyssier, who owns boutique hotels in Morocco and Portugal. While Teyssier designed the colourful shops, Conticini and his right-hand man Angelo Musa – a world pastry champion – took charge of the edible R&D. The result is a beautiful line of classics that includes a daisy-shaped Paris-Brest with hidden pockets of liquid praline (€4.80). The location in the 16th features a very pleasant salon de thé. • 93 rue du Bac, 7th, +33 1 42 84 00 82. Métro: Rue du Bac. Open Tue-Sat 9am-8pm, Sun 9am-4pm. 111 rue de Longchamp, 16th, +33 1 47 04 00 24. Métro: Rue de la Pompe. Open Mon, Tue 8am-8pm. LA BAGUE DE KENZA For a nice change of pace, head over to La Bague de Kenza, the ideal place to get acquainted with Algerian-style pastries. These aromatic delights are filled with nuts, figs or dates and flavoured with honey, rose water, orange blossom, mint, citrus or vanilla. Gazelle horns, skandriates, almond cones, baklavas … Don't worry if you don't know the names, simply point or ask for an assortment. The rue Saint-Maur branch is attached to a salon de thé, where you can sample some of the pastries with a glass of piping hot mint tea. • 106 rue Saint-Maur, 11th, +33 1 43 14 93 15. Métro: Parmentier. 136, Rue Saint Honoré, 1st, +33 1 42 86 85 23. Métro: Châtelet-Les Halles. 70 rue de Turbigo, 3rd, +33 1 44 61 06 39. Métro: Temple. 31 rue Linné, 5th, +33 1 45 87 02 04. Metro: Jussieu. 173 rue du faubourg St-Antoine, 11th, +33 1 43 41 47 02. Métro: Ledru-Rollin. 233 rue de la Convention, 15th, +33 1 42 50 02 97. Métro: Convention.
BIE SUCRE Fabrice Le Bourdat spent years honing his skills at prestigious palace hotels before he and his wife decided to open a pastry shop of their own in the charming Ledru-Rollin neighbourhood, not far from Bastille. In their small and unpretentious shop, his confections are sold at very moderate prices, and his thinly-glazed madeleines (€3.20 for four) have garnered a cult following. • 7 rue Antoine Vollon, 12th, +33 1 43 40 77 73. Métro: Ledru-Rollin. DES GATEAUX ET DU PAIN It is rare to find a woman at the helm of a pastry shop, but Claire Damon is a lot more than the token female chef in this selection. Damon's creations demonstrate haute-pastry skills and cleverly injected doses of creativity, capturing the spirit of classics and casting a contemporary light on them. The pastry case reveals an eye-catching procession that passes taste tests with flying colours, including her now-signature violet and blackcurrant Saint-Honoré in its mauve dress (€5.40). • 63 boulevard Pasteur, 15th, +33 1 45 38 94 16,desgateauxetdupain.com. Métro: Pasteur. Open Mon, Wed-Sun 8am-8pm