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Le meilleur chocolat chaud à Paris? part quatre

Laduree - Rue Bonaparte

On Monday, Mr Frog and I sampled the last of his recommended hot chocolates – Ladurée.

The salon on Rue Bonaparte is not what you’d expect from a Parisian salon de thé – the ground floor is decorated in a Chinoiserie style with leafy bamboo and flowers painted on the wall, echoing Ladurée’s pastel pinks and greens. In contrast, the top floor is very dark and intimate. It is all blue, with dark carpet and thick, tasselled curtains and plush little armchairs printed in blue and gold. Warm and cosy, it is a perfect hide-out for a rainy winter day.

So would the chocolat chaud measure up?

The waiter came with the traditional two glasses of water, two china cups on saucers and two metal jugs of hot chocolate, and poured each of us a cup from our respective jugs. I smiled in anticipation as the liquid seeped thickly from the spout of the jug and pooled in the bottom of my cup, the volume rising steadily. It was reminiscent of Les Deux Magots – molten milk chocolate.

Then I took my first sip . . . nothing. I took another one, trying to savour the texture in my mouth, but it left me unmoved. At Café de la Paix and Les Deux Magots I hadn’t been able to keep the smile off my face, and even though Angelina could not match, it was worlds above Ladurée, and I still enjoyed my chocolate’s silky texture and taste.

The Ladurée hot chocolate had somehow managed to have all of the texture and none of the flavour of the first two. It tasted dusty and stale in comparison to the others. Little spots of fat glistened on top of the liquid, like in a soup that has used butter or oil, and I found it harder to drink as I continued.

It was like Cadbury chocolate in comparison to Lindt. As a child I liked Cadbury but, as an adult hooked on dark chocolate, Cadbury now tastes like wax to me. However, Lindt milk chocolate takes my breath away– like velvety cream as it melts on my tongue. I pause and savour Lindt, whereas I eat Cadbury very quickly to try and capture the same rapture.

The Ladurée hot chocolate was like this – although it was thick, I found myself taking bigger and bigger gulps as I chased the memory of more intense flavours at other cafés. If it weren’t for the texture, I would have found it very difficult to rank this chocolate above those that standard cafés sell for €2.50 – €4.00.

So I wouldn’t recommend this €6.50 hot chocolate – spend another €0.50 and go to Les Deux Magots, or if you would prefer something thinner and satiny, spend an extra €0.40 and go to Angelina.

That being said, Ladurée is still worth a visit – the salons de thé are a Paris institution. Although the salon at Rue Bonaparte isn’t very French, the salons on the Champs-Elyseés and Rue Royale have chic patisseries and comfortably elegant salons like Angelina, with dim lighting, moulded walls and carpeted floors. And the beautifully presented pastries and macaroons are easily a good enough reason to enjoy the ambiance.

But, if I was going out for a chocolat chaud, I’d go elsewhere.

Rankings so far:

  1. Les Deux Magots
  2. Café de la Paix (second because the price is higher, though the quality is just as good as the first and the taste is more intense)
  3. Angelina
  4. Ladurée

Le meilleur chocolat chaud à Paris? part trois

Yesterday Mr Frog and I continued on our quest to find the best hot chocolate in Paris.

Angelina, a salon de thé on Rue de Rivoli, is another place famous for its hot chocolate (as well as its Mont Blanc gateau, though I didn’t get to try that). I’d only ever peered in through the windows before, drooling over the beautifully arranged patisseries in the elegant boutique, white with mirrored counters.

So I was surprised to enter a rather comfortable salon. Yes, it’s still beautiful with murals lining the walls, which were reflected by mirrors of identical shapes and sizes on the opposite walls. But the lighting was dim, there was plain carpet on the floor, and the wooden tables and chairs cushioned with brown leather looked more like furniture you would see in somebody’s home than in a chic salon de thé (admittedly, a very stately manor home, but a home, nonetheless). It was cosy and homey, and I would have felt just as comfortable there in my runners and jeans as I felt in my post-work suit.

As for the chocolate – part of me wished that I had tried this one first. Because it was a lovely chocolat chaud, and if I had have had it first I would have thought it was wonderful. But I knew the instant I poured that it couldn’t match the others. After experiencing the indulgently thick texture of the hot chocolates at Les Deux Magots and Café de la Paix, I was disappointed to have a beverage that was clearly a liquid, and not a borderline solid, as the others now seemed to be in comparison.

Although it was thinner, Angelina’s hot chocolate was still lovely and rich, served in a jug with a pot of whipped cream on the side. I loved stirring the cream into the chocolate and watching the liquid marble as the cream melted, but this didn’t thicken the result as I’d hoped it would. It did create an interesting experience though – the flavour was milder and more velvety at the top of the cup, and grew darker and more intense as I progressed. It was like all of the chocolate had sunk to the bottom, like the sediment in wine.

So yes, it was a beautiful hot chocolate, but it takes third place under Les Deux Magots and Café de la Paix. The price was €6.90, compared to Les Deux Magots €7, but I don’t think the difference in price is enough to make up for the difference in quality.

I’m glad I went, but I don’t think I’ll be going back.

Well . . . maybe just once to try the Mont Blanc gateau.

Le meilleur chocolat chaud à Paris? part deux

  • Fondue – melted cheese or chocolate into which bread or fruit is dipped
  • Derived from the verb fondre – to melt

After getting rather tipsy at The Frog and Princesse, Mr Frog and I went to Les Deux Magots, a café reputed for having the best hot chocolate in Paris.

After my experience at Café de la Paix, I was interested to see whether Les Deux Magots could deliver.

Les Deux Magots

We arrived around midnight and were greeted by an older, portly man in a black, three-piece suit with a white shirt and a silky bow-tie, who instructed us to sit “anywhere”. At this time on a Wednesday, there were only two other occupied tables.

Les Deux Magots

As we waited for our hot chocolate, I looked around the room. The café is brightly lit with rows of red leather booths bordered by white pillars. At the top of one of the central pillar sit Les Deux Magots, two Asian statues which have been there for over a century.

After starting as a drapery in 1813, then becoming a wine merchants by 1884, Les Deux Magots was refurbished and transformed into a café in 1914, and it became a haunt of many figures of the literary world – from Oscar Wilde to Ernest Hemmingway to moi!

Mr Frog was cruelly forcing me to speak in French when our chocolats chauds arrived. Our waiter lowered a tray holding two tea cups, two glasses of water, and a large china jug of hot chocolate.

I poured and inhaled, trying not to swoon as the chocolate oozed into my cup. I stirred it with my spoon and, like oil, the liquid held the pattern of the swirl as I took my first sip.

The chocolate invaded my mouth, clinging to every surface. I suddenly found myself thinking of my childhood Easters, when I would break up my largest Easter eggs in the same bowl and devour them, piece by piece, over the coming weeks. It tasted like I held melted them all and was drinking the result straight from the bowl. This beverage wasn’t like the milky concoctions you find at Starbucks – it was pure liquid chocolate. Fondue.

So, which chocolat chaud was better? It’s hard to say – they both had the same gooey texture, and rested on the back of my teaspoon rather than dripping off. Although they were both intense, the chocolate at Café de la Paix was darker – I needed two glasses of water to get through it. At Les Deux Magots, I easily managed with one. And I still think the hot chocolate at Café de la Paix would go very well over vanilla ice-cream, whereas I wouldn’t dream of diluting the one at Les Deux Magots with anything.

I suppose it depends on what you’re looking for – Café de la Paix was much larger and luxurious, and Les Deux Magots was more intimate. The service was more attentive at Café de la Paix, though that could have been due to the late hour at which we visited Les Deux Magots. And, at €7, Les Deux Magots is slightly better value for money. Let’s just say I’d be happy to try them both again.

Le meilleur chocolat chaud à Paris?

Last night I had hot chocolate at Café de la Paix at the Intercontinental Hotel.

Located right outside metro Opéra, it was very expensive (luckily I wasn’t paying, but Google told me the chocolat chaud is €8), and very beautiful – bathed in yellow light, the ceilings were painted, there were golden columns around the room, the tables were set with white linen tablecloths and sparkling glass-wear and the chairs were backed with deep-red velvet or leather, depending on the section.

When I was invited to have a hot chocolate on a Sunday evening, I was expecting a more casual affair, so I tried to walk behind my friend so the waiters wouldn’t see my sneakers. No one commented, but I did feel as though I should have dressed up.

We sat on leather armchairs in the bar/lounge, and ordered two hot chocolates.

We were served with two teacups on saucers, a bowl of sugar cubes, two small, stainless-steel teapots and two long glasses of water.

I take my chocolate very seriously, so I wasn’t sure if this would live up to its reputation as I poured . . . and gasped at the thick darkness of the molten chocolate. This wasn’t a beverage! This should have been a sauce for ice-cream, or foreplay.  ;p

I inhaled the heady scent as I took my first sip, and actually moaned in delight as the chocolate coated my mouth and my throat. It was incredibly intense, and I soon understood why it was served with water – it was so rich that I started drinking it teaspoon by teaspoon.

A teapot of chocolate and two glasses of water later, I left very happy.

I’m happy to recommend this as the best hot chocolate in Paris, but if anyone has one they want me to compare it to, I’m happy to do the legwork.

Vin & Marée

One of the nice things about having a foreign visitor is that I have an excuse to do things in Paris that I wouldn’t usually do, one of them being eating out at nice restaurants.


Vin & Marée Suffren

I found Vin & Marée on La Fourchette. La Fourchette is a French website that has reviews and promotions for hundreds (maybe thousands) of restaurants in France. As we were planning to go to the Eiffel Tower on Friday evening, I looked for somewhere in the seventh arrondissement, and Vin & Marée was the best value place available – a seafood restaurant near the corner of the Champs de Mars with a promotion of 50% off your final bill (excluding drinks and the set menus, if you reserve a table at 7:00, 7:30, 10:00 or 10:30).

From the outside, the small blue restaurant looks like a Belgian mussels bar. On the inside, everything is very elegant with patterned white linen tablecloths and matching napkins twirled into cones at the diners’ places, and shining silver and glass wear.

When we walked in we thought we might have been too early – there were only two other diners, and the staff seemed to be setting up for the evening. But one waitress approached us, crossed our names off the reservation list and took us to a booth in the corner of the restaurant. When she discovered that my companion (this is his new title – I think it sounds very food critic-y) didn’t speak French, she offered him an English menu, and explained things in French to me, using a smattering of English words for him.

We started with aperitifs of beer and ruby port, and shared a bowl of complimentary mussels, very tender in butter and chives.

For our entrées, we ordered langoustines and scampi. The langoustines were served in a circle over a bed of salad and, although the salad was dressed lightly, the langoustines were just seasoned with some paprika and pepper and were beautiful and soft. The scampi was very interesting – wrapped in rice-paper and fried like a spring roll, it was too hot to eat immediately, but rather voluptuous (I know it’s a strange word to use to describe food, but when I think about the slight resistance of the curves of the shrimp before I bit through it, it seems the most appropriate) once it had cooled a bit. It was served with a mild tandoori sauce in a small pot with a spoon, which was so good that we scooped out what was left and mopped it up with the baguette pieces in our bread basket. The bread had a lovely hard crust, though was a little chewy, so probably a bit old.

For our mains, we both ordered baked salmon with a lemon sauce. The salmon fillet was like butter on my tongue, with a deliciously light herbed crust on the top. It was served with some broccoli and sauerkraut which left something to be desired, as well as subtly-seasoned whipped potatoes in a casserole dish on the side. Not being a lemon fan, I was a little tentative about the sauce, served in a small pot with a spoon, but I couldn’t taste any lemon in it. If I was going to compare it with anything, it would be a honey mustard sauce, and it went beautifully with both the salmon and the potatoes.

My companion finished with a coffee, at which point we started itching for the bill. Although the restaurant had been empty when we arrived, by 8:30 it was packed and by 9:00 we were starting to overheat. The tables along the booth were extremely crowded, with barely enough space for champagne buckets between them, and they needed to be pulled out from the wall so that patrons could sit behind them. There were a few specials boards throughout the restaurant, which the waiters would carry to each new arrival’s desk and rest on the champagne bucket as they chose their order, which left us feeling a little claustrophobic when this was done with the people next to us.

Usually I enjoy other people arriving – I love food, and it’s always exciting to see what other people are having. We even saw one table choosing the lobsters they wanted from a fish tank. And generally, I wouldn’t have minded it getting a bit crowded before we left, even if it was a rather long wait for our bill.

However, unlike Bercy, this time the other patrons were not French, but American. I don’t mean to insult any Americans out there, but hearing large groups of Anglophones getting louder and more boisterous as they order more drinks does take something away from the experience of dining out in a French restaurant in France. I suppose it was to be expected, what with us being so close to the Eiffel Tower, but it never even occurred to me. Because I don’t work near any monuments, my days are generally tourist-free, or at least, free from large groups of tourists.

That being said, although the food was incredible and the service was wonderful, it was a bit of a relief to be outside again. I would definitely go back there, but I might consider the 10:00, or even the 7:00 booking instead, and have a little more quiet time.

With our discount, the total bill came to €43, which included two drinks, two starters, two mains and a coffee, all within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower. If anyone else comes to visit, I’ll definitely be taking them to Vin & Marée.

Partie de Campagne


Café des Deux Moulins

On a Thursday I work from 10:00 to 4:00, and I have a 1.5 hour break from 11:30 to 1:00. A few weeks ago, I remembered that my friend David (who I met through a Conversation Exchange – we had coffee and hot chocolate at Café des Deux Moulins, the café where Amélie works) actually works in the same building where I have my morning class.

Since then, we’ve been having lunch on a Thursday.

Bercy Village

The week before last we went to a French restaurant in Bercy Village called Partie de Campagne. It was lovely and rustic – the walls and floors were all exposed wood, along with the tables and chairs, which were not covered by tablecloths. The walls were decorated with rooster motifs, and general bits and pieces that you would find around a farm, like brass buckets, wrought iron coat hooks and even a wheel (if I remember correctly).

The seating was a little bit crowded, but with the warm light and the smell of food wafting in from the kitchen, it felt more cosy than uncomfortable.

We both ordered the dish of the day – Canard de Maghreb, for €9.50. The service was very fast, polite and unintrusive, and the food looked beautiful when it was laid in front of us – two slices of duck under a ladleful of gravy, with a small lettuce salad, potatoes and some sort of ham concoction on toothpicks on the side. The duck was okay, but when compared to the richness of the gravy (which we both mopped up with the sliced brown bread from the bread basked), it seemed a little bland. The salad was simple, served with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette, and the potatoes were lovely – a stack of sliced potatoes with cheese and chives, they were a cross between baked potatoes and potato gratin.

But what won me over was the ham things – we each had two toothpicks, each one threading through two pieces of ham which rolled around something. I sliced open one of them, and could see some sort of black jam. The combination was incredible – the saltiness of the ham contrasting with the sweetness of the (prune?) jam made my tastebuds sing.

As I have a friend visiting me in Paris at the moment, I decided that we could also meet for lunch during my break on Thursday, and we would go to the same restaurant.

This time I was left in awe of the service. Bercy is not a tourist area, so I was assuming that I would have to do all of the talking, as my friend speaks no French. As soon as the staff realised this, they assigned waiters to us who spoke some English who were very attentive, explaining dishes, offering suggestions and making jokes.

Unfortunately the duck dish with the ham concoction wasn’t on offer, so this time I went with the Formule Gourmand (the suggestion of the day – today a prawn and calamari dish, with a Café Gourmand – coffee with a trilogy of mini-desserts). My friend chose the Boeuf Tartare, and looked a little bit shocked when it arrived French-style – a cylinder of beef mince topped with a raw egg.

My dish wasn’t bad – the prawns were amazing, seasoned so well that I didn’t need to use any sauce, crispy with a salt-and-pepper crust. The calamari was a little chewy, and the plain rice was rather bland. Unfortunately the sauce they gave me seemed to be a tomato sauce, thinned out with tomato juice, Tabasco sauce and Worcestershire sauce, which really didn’t compliment the dish or make the rice more enjoyable.

My friend was very impressed, though, saying that he couldn’t believe that raw mince topped with a raw egg was one of the nicest things he had ever eaten. It was served with chunky potato wedges seasoned with chicken salt, and salad.

Then came dessert – a large plate dusted with icing sugar arrived, carrying a short black and three small deserts in matching white pots – chocolate mousse, crème caramel and slices of banana in a thick chocolate sauce. Not being a coffee drinker, I gave the coffee to my friend and set about attacking the desserts. The chocolate and banana concoction was heavenly, though anything chocolate and gooey is sure to win me over. I ended up eating some of the chocolate sauce with the chocolate mousse. Although the chocolate mousse was good, the other desserts were so rich that I was using it more as a palate cleanser than anything else.

And the crème caramel . . . excuse me while I drool. It was ridiculously sweet. The custard was lovely and firm and moist, but I could barely taste that over the generous amount of caramel sauce that had been ladled over it. Every time I dug in my spoon, more caramel would seep into the crevice I had created, and I felt my smile grow bigger and bigger with every bite.

All in all, I was very sorry to have to rush to class. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough change to leave a decent tip, so I’ll have to remedy that the next time I go there.

Although some moments at Partie de Campagne weren’t outstanding, the atmosphere, service and food highlights are enough to warrant a return visit. And how much was our meal? Two mains, one drink and one dessert for €32.50.