It’s safe to say that this place needs absolutely no introduction. I’m sure there isn’t a person in the developed world who hasn’t heard of Ladurée macaroons and so to spend my Saturday afternoon in their tea room was the most wonderful belated birthday surprise* 🙂
I’d met my best friend in London for a day of eating (what else!? 😛 ) and mid afternoon she suggested going to Ladurée in Harrods. She’d been before and said she loved it. I was a little hesitant at first – I really wanted to go but I told her honestly that I wasn’t really a huge fan of patisserie style places – I love cakes/cookies/donuts and all other similar types of desserts but I personally never choose cream/pastry (particularly puff or choux) over other sweet things. I’m not even a fan of cream, mousse or the taste of fancy fondant icing (though I love how pretty it is!). I’d seen pictures of cakes at Ladurée, and like any other French patisserie, all of the items were incredibly beautiful; brightly coloured and crafted to perfection, but the main features were cream, pastry and luminous icing – three of my worst nightmares. (Ok – three of my worst dessert nightmares – I’m not that dramatic!). I was keen to try their macaroons though. Again, they wouldn’t be my first choice of dessert, but I love how cute and dainty they are, and if you’re going to have one macaroon it surely has to be Ladurée’s. Plus there’s something about them that feels so special. Maybe it’s just the fact they’re about a pound a bite.. two pounds if it’s a big bite! I’d actually been treated to Fortnum & Mason macaroons the week before which I found way, way too sweet, so I was excited to see how these compared.
If you’re planning to go then be prepared to queue! We ended up going there quite late (just before 5 – I imagine the peak time would be around 2 or 3) but the queue was still long and we probably waited for around half an hour. We didn’t notice though as we chatted non-stop, though there was a girl with her boyfriend in front of us who seemed outraged by the wait which provided us with some amusement! The first thing I noticed when we stepped inside was how bloody beautiful it was. It was absolutely perfect! Over hyped or not, there’s no doubt that it feels so special from the moment you set foot in there. Exactly as I’d imagined it to be, there were beautiful pastel colours all around, a perfectly symmetrical display of wines and pretty pastel boxes, macaroon towers and a huge glass cabinet displaying all of their beautiful patisseries. We were taken to a table on the ground floor. My friend said she’d been seated in the upstairs area when she’d come before, which I imagine has a beautiful view of the place but we weren’t lucky enough to get in there this time! It’s pretty cosy (that’s polite for cramped!), as everywhere is in London, but it’s beautifully decorated with plush seating and fancy tableware. Sorry I didn’t get many photos of the inside.. I was preoccupied with chatting to my friend and distracted by the food 😛
We were presented with two beautiful menus in pastel green (food) and pastel blue (drinks). As expected they have a huge range of teas but they also do coffee, milkshakes and soft drinks. My friend ordered an iced tea and I got a classic Breakfast tea.
The tea comes in signature metal teapots with beautiful tea cups in their trademark pastel colours. The teapots aren’t the greatest design though – they’re scorching hot as I found out the hard way! There’s a folded napkin over the handle, which (just about) enables you to pour the tea if you have an exceptionally strong forefinger!
My friend said I could get whatever I wanted since it was my birthday, but I just couldn’t decide! Shocker I know. I went up to the counter to look at the cakes, which was the best decision, as when I see things I know instantly what I want. I went for the most chocolatey item I saw – again, shock. I chose it based on looks, but on the menu it’s Le Savoureux (Cazette dacquoise, hazelnut cream, pear marmalade and milk chocolate mousse). It was a rich dark chocolate and hazelnut dome, topped with ganache and filled with a tart pear filling which complemented the rich, dark chocolate perfectly. There was a soft base and a layer of solid chocolate in the middle which was amazing! It looked so beautiful that I felt bad ruining it, but because the centre was so soft it completely collapsed as soon as I started eating it anyway.
I have so much respect for the chefs who create something so delicate – I could only dream of having that kind of patience! I also chose some macaroons to try. After much deliberation I went for vanilla pecan, pistachio, chestnut, salted caramel and their ‘gold’ special. The waiter brought them over but got one of the flavours wrong so had to go back and swap it. I ate the salted caramel flavoured one before I even took the picture.. such a bad blogger. Don’t judge me though – there was a few minutes’ delay while he brought the other cakes over and it was looking at me! I was intrigued by the chestnut one. It would never be a flavour I would usually go for but I love roasted chestnuts at Christmas so I decided to be adventurous. It’s hard to capture chestnut as a flavour I guess as there’s nothing particularly distinctive about it.. the flavour was very subtle and not too sweet. It was good but it was probably my least favourite of the lot, and I can imagine it being one of the least popular flavours.
The ‘gold’ special was essentially (I think!) just a normal chocolate macaroon with a layer of edible gold. It looked absolutely stunning but given that 2.20 is the standard price for one of their macaroons (crazy right!?), I personally wouldn’t pay even more for their ‘special’ ones. It was absolutely insane though. Crisp on the outside, beautifully soft in the middle and the chocolate ganache was absolutely heavenly. I could’ve eaten fifty of them. If only my bank balance would allow it 😦
The others were equally amazing – not too sweet and crispy, chewy and soft all at the same time, with subtle flavours and perfectly balanced fillings. Predictably, the chocolate was my favourite, but the vanilla was seriously close – it had a subtle, natural vanilla flavour and the filling even had tiny specks of vanilla pod seeds inside – an absolute must for me for all things vanilla flavoured, though I don’t think you can see them since my camera is rubbish!
My friend went for the Plaisir Sucre (Dacquoise cake with crushed hazelnuts, crispy praline, milk chocolate thin leaves, chocolate ganache and milk chocolate Chantilly whipped cream. It looked amazing. So many delicate layers, some of them paper thin! The chocolate on top was so smooth and creamy too – everything about the patisseries they make scream luxury.
The base was slightly chewy and the other layers were softer/more moussey. It was okay but I preferred mine.. I think the base was a little too sticky and there was very little to distinguish between all of the other soft layers. That too collapsed as soon as we started eating it, but then at least we didn’t feel bad for demolishing it in a few bites!
Considering the price and the reputation of the place, I have to say that the service was pretty bad. Perhaps the language barrier didn’t help, but we had to order water three times before it turned up, and my friend’s iced tea actually came as hot tea (hence why I burnt my hand as I touched the teapot thinking it was weird that iced tea came served like that!). When we got the bill they’d charged us for 7 macaroons instead of 5. Obviously they had it taken off and ended up only charging us for 3 as an apology, but I don’t often check the bill so it would have been easy for it to go un-noticed.. not that anyone cares there, let’s be honest! I saw so many groups of people rush in, order a sandwich (over TWENTY POUNDS!!) and then rush out, leaving it half eaten.
Much as the experience was amazing, I really don’t think I could go there and justify paying twenty pounds for a sandwich, or thirteen for some soup! I know that some of the people who shop there are probably smoking fifties so they couldn’t care less but their meals and savoury food really didn’t look that appealing. Even if they were a ‘normal’ price I wouldn’t choose to eat there. Their sweet items are something else though – I think it really is something that everyone should experience at least once. Use any excuse or a special occasion to visit – order afternoon tea or a selection of their patisseries and macaroons and you won’t regret it 🙂 The place itself is absolutely beautiful, the experience of being there feels so special and I feel like the cakes there are pretty enough to be works of art! The macaroons really are the best I’ve ever had too. I can’t say I’ve tried a huge range of macaroons but they definitely lived up to their reputation and I challenge you not to get some to take away..! They also have three other locations in London – in Cornhill, Burlington Arcade and Covent Garden. I’ve walked past the one in Covent Garden but I feel like the one in Harrods feels extra special as you’re near the amazing food hall too – maybe it’s just me but nothing gets me excited for Christmas, Easter (or any other food-related event!) like the food halls at Selfridges and Harrods! 🙂
Link to their website: https://www.laduree.com/en_gb/ (go and watch their cute video!)
* My birthday is in November – it’s just taken me forever to get this post up, sorry!