One of the most Parisian of experiences is to have tea and a pastry at one of the Ladurée locations. There is nothing quite so enjoyable as it.
And though these shops are most famous for their macarons, that tiny little French cookie-cake that has become a cult hit, Ladurée actually got its start as Paris' first tea salon.
Ladurée's locations in Paris offer an elegant pause in your day of shopping and sightseeing — Photo courtesy of Paige Donner
Back in 1862, there were no proper places where ladies could go to socialize. The Parisian cafés of that era functioned more like pick-up joints. So well-heeled, high-born womenfolk of the city had just plain nowhere public to go when they wanted to enjoy each other's company.
Enter Ladurée, the city's first tea salon and a haven for well-heeled women. This is how Ladurée first became established, at the original location on Rue Royale, just near Paris' Madeleine Church.
In the century and a half since, it has become a Parisian establishment. It was these pastries, too, that were chosen to be featured in the film "Marie Antoinette" in all their pink icing perfection.
So, since lunch, tea or brunch is a must while you are in Paris, the only real question that must be made is at which Ladurée location will you indulge? All are beautiful, but there is something both cozy and ultimately chic about the St. Germain-des-Prés Ladurée, the one nestled just on the corner of Rue Bonaparte and Rue Jacob, in the heart of timeless St. Germain-des-Prés.
The Blue Room, an upstairs lounge at Ladurée Paris Bonaparte — Photo courtesy of Ladurée
Part pastry shop and part tea salon, there are a few tables that the locals always ask for. One is the table that looks directly out onto the passersby walking along Rue Bonaparte, and it's a table for two. Another is to be seated upstairs in the Blue Salon, whose luxuriousness firmly places you somewhere between 18th-century Versailles boudoir and contemporary St. Germain-des-Prés.
Afternoon tea is the favored meal at this iconic address, but if you are hungry for a true tea-party delight, come for a late breakfast or brunch and order the French toast. It comes in two versions: nature and façon Ladurée, the latter meaning "the house specialty." In that version, the perfectly golden and lightly sweetened French bread is served with rose-flavored whipped cream and a raspberry coulis, which is lightly sweetened puréed raspberries.
One can actually hear squeals of delight, though subdued in order to observe proper etiquette, from the patrons enjoying this quintessential Ladurée dish!
French toast à la Ladurée, served with rose-flavored whipped cream and raspberry coulis — Photo courtesy of Paige Donner
The tea selection here is stocked with wonderful staples such as Eugénie (named after Empress Eugénie, of course, Napoléon Bonaparte's first wife), which is a tea infusion of red fruits. It pairs wonderfully with the many pastries they have on selection there, such as the Marie Antoinette or the Religieuse, which comes in chocolate, coffee or pistachio flavors. Another they are famous for is the rose-raspberry St. Honoré.
Of course, too, it's impossible to leave Ladurée without taking some macarons to go. They have featured monthly flavors that keep the selection always fresh. And the design on the keepsake box, which holds 14 macarons, is also changed every month. Its design is often inspired by historical or culturally rich themes.