Image credit: Gresa Rustemi. Description: a wide variety of colourful French chocolates and desserts on display.
Pierre Marcolini, five different locations
Pierre Marcolini is the sheer embodiment of luxury. Often one finds they have trouble reviewing a whole chocolate box, even if it’s only twelve or so, because they’re just so large and rich. Here they’re about half the normal size, but remain an equally decadent experience. Marcolini is one of the few chocolatiers to master the entire production process for his products: from sourcing all the raw materials to final assembly, including sorting the beans, finding the best vanilla pods from Madagascar, the finest hazelnuts from Italy, pistachios from Iran, pink peppercorns from Morocco, almonds from Slovenia and lemons from Sicily, through to maturation, preparing ganaches and tempering. He even roasts his beans himself.
Leonidas, three different locations
Leonidas is consistently one of the most widely available chocolate shops and still treats every customer as if they were choosing diamonds instead of pralines. This shop is fantastic, with many thoughtful pre-package gift ideas for any occasion. We were able to try about 20 different chocolates, even sharing each chocolate to get to taste them all; I was overwhelmed. Top tip: Don’t miss the manon white chocolates stuffed with hazelnut praline!
Boulangerie L’essentiel is a bakery we accidentally stumbled across near the Hotel du Bel Air. They had raspberry croissants that originally caught our attention. However, that was just the beginning. The butter croissants are outstanding and the choquettes were quite devilishly tasty. We made this our morning ritual in our time in Paris. The pain aux raisins do not disappoint either! They offered hearty- sized pieces with just the right amount of flakiness and juicy raisins with the added factor balanced but subtle savouriness.
“With Jacques Genin you will likely leave 10 lbs heavier and £100 poorer, but it’s worth it. Really, it is. First, you need to orient yourself – are you in a candy store, or at Tiffany’s?”
Chocolate Alain Ducasse
Chocolate Alain Ducasse is hands down my favourite chocolate shop in the world. You can almost feel the aroma in the street, and when you open the doors you can see where they’re coming from. It is a superb place, with different choices of chocolates and prices, with beautiful shapes and great flavours. There are a lot of delicious chocolate bars and confections here. The box of praline truffles is the show stopper. It is possibly the best box of chocolate I have ever eaten. The flavours are perfectly balanced, rich and complex. They are just a bit sweet but with a touch of savory too. It doesn’t hurt that the store itself is beautiful.
With Jacques Genin you will likely leave 10 lbs heavier and £100 poorer, but it’s worth it. Really, it is. First, you need to orient yourself – are you in a candy store, or at Tiffany’s? Here’s all you need to know: the stuff behind the bullet-proof glass is edible, and you should eat it. Sample everything. Trust me – they don’t mind. Unfortunately, the experience will ruin every other candy store for you. Caramels will never taste the same. Nor will truffles. Or pate de fruits. And that’s why you’ll come back.