It seems the glory days of the macaron (or “macaroon” if you want to Anglicise it) are long gone and a new French fancy has taken the mantle of most Instagrammed treat.
The humble éclair has been given a makeover of Caitlyn Jenner proportions: gone is the sticky splodge of icing, replaced by silky ganache, floral appliqués or gold leaf, and that questionable crème filling now contains 68% Ecuadorian dark chocolate or Tahitian vanilla. They are also somewhat more petite than their predecessors, despite being more expensive.
While Christophe Adam’s L’Éclair de Génie continues to blaze a trail for fancy éclairs in Paris and Japan, the good news is the trend has crossed the Channel, with London’s first dedicated choux boutique having opened in South Kensington in April.
Maître Choux is the genius of Joakim Prat, who held three Michelin stars at his last workplace, Joël Robuchon, where he was head pastry chef. Thus MC’s claim of being the only patisserie in the UK with three-star experience is somewhat justified.
Much like L’Éclair de Génie, the main focus is on perfectly light pastry and unique, contemporary flavours.
Of course there’s the traditional dark chocolate éclair, which perhaps bears the most resemblance to the original format but packs a rich, velvety punch in the crème filling. Another former fad, salted butter caramel, was delicate and light, but despite being topped with sea salt flakes we found the flavour a little lacking (LDG’s was more impressive). But the star of the show was the violet and berry – the latter ingredient adding a tangy twist and ensuring the floral notes remained subtle but detectable.
Call me a traditionalist, but the topless éclairs just didn’t feel right and were a tad disappointing. We tried the Tahitian vanilla cream with strawberries, which despite being crammed with jammy fruit, crème pat, fluffy Chantilly cream and strawberry chunks, left me wishing they were all presented on a solid biscuit base rather than half a thin pastry case.
With prices ranging between £4.90 and £5.20, it’s a rather decadent way to spend your lunch money, but for a couple of quid less you can still experience MC’s signature flavours and crisp pastry with their choux buns.
These are simpler, spherical versions, filled to the brim with tasty crème and topped simply with a circle of crisp, colourful chocolate. The perfectly-pitched sourness of the Italian lemon was a standout, as was the raspberry which, if cut precisely in half, magically presented as a dollop of ruby red jam surrounded by classic crème.
As a nice little parting gift (or perhaps indicative of our total spend) we were given a few complimentary chouquettes, which are slightly squishier, sugar-coated, unfilled choux buns. A tasty alternative to madeleines, they can be purchased in multiples of 10, making them a significantly more affordable morning tea buy if you don’t have a spare £35 to spend on fancy pastry.
Éclairs priced between £4.90 and £5.20, choux buns between £3.00 and £3.20, and chouquettes are 10 for £3.50.
Maitre ChouxVisit Site
Opening times: Monday – Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am – 7pm.
15 Harrington Road, South Kensington, SW7 3ES.
L’éclair de génieVisit Site
32 Rue Notre Dame des Victoires, 75002 Paris, France