Creme de la creme

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

I AM just back from France and feel­ing fool­ishly fat, my cheeks all plumped up like a squir­rel’s — I look as if I am hoard­ing macarons and madeleines.

All good in­ten­tions about stick­ing to my usual healthy diet, es­chew­ing dairy and say­ing non, merci to naughty pas­tries, fell at the first crois­sant. It was not any old break­fast roll but a cre­ation of rasp­ber­ries, rose cream and ly­chees known as Is­pa­han and de­vised by Pierre Herme, a chap known as the ‘‘Pi­casso of pas­try’’ for his dar­ing com­bi­na­tions of flavours (olive oil and man­darin or black se­same and green tea macarons).

This overindul­gence took place at Le Royal Mon­ceau Raf­fles, the de­light­fully flam­boy­ant Philippe Star­ck­de­signed prop­erty lo­cated an easy stroll from the Arc de Tri­om­phe. The ho­tel serves the Is­pa­han crois­sants on its su­perb daily break­fast and week­end brunch buf­fets at its Miche­lin one-star La Cui­sine din­ing room.

It’s the only place in Paris you can be served Herme’s cre­ations (al­though you can take out from his six shops); ho­tel guests can even or­der a set of seven macarons from room ser­vice (‘‘a few grams that will leave your senses quiv­er­ing with plea­sure . . . tempt­ing colours and ten­der in­te­ri­ors’’ is the lure).

At Laduree on the Champs-El­y­sees, the queues for the shop and the tea­room snaked along the block; this patis­serie caused a sen­sa­tion sev­eral years ago with its licorice macarons, which frankly look hor­rid. I fi­nally snared a ta­ble and or­dered a re­ligieuse rose, which should be a nun in a pink habit, but is a sin­ful assem­bly of choux pas­try, rose fon­dant and cream that looks a bit like a cer­e­mo­nial hat with a sil­ver pearl on top. The only thing that saved me from ut­ter ruin in Paris is that I am one of just 10 ac­knowl­edged peo­ple in the world who hates choco­late; I sus­pect the other nine are fib­bing.

It’s not just Paris that is full of sweet treats. Nor­mandie is booby-trapped with full-fat cream, but­ter and salted caramels at ev­ery turn. In Rouen, Au­zou does a lively trade in yel­low boxes filled with macarons and fea­tur­ing a pic­ture of the fam­ily grand­mother, a mac­aron maker par ex­cel­lence, ap­par­ently; the shop’s lit­er­a­ture says the chewy del­i­cacy has been around since Henri II’s queen Cather­ine de Medici in­tro­duced the Floren­tine del­i­cacy to France in the 16th cen­tury.

I thought I’d be safe in sea­side Hon­fleur. I can re­sist fairy floss. But the ice- cream shops were sell­ing sum­mery scoops of vi­o­lette and rose petal. Gulp.

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