I have been lucky enough to visit Angelina twice now, a renowned tea room which is a celebrated Parisian address for gourmet pleasures. Located under the arcades of the chic Rue de Rivoli in the very heart of the city, it’s no wonder that this is more than just an ordinary patisserie or tea room, but a luxurious brand with a worldwide prestige which promotes « l’Art de vivre à la française ». Since its opening in 1903, this salon de thé has been a venue for French aristocracy and devout gourmands alike, with many famous visitors such as Proust, Choco Chanel and many high-end fashion designers.
The fact that Angelina is one of the most prestigious places to dine in Paris means that queuing is part and parcel of the experience – but let me assure you that it is well worth the wait! It is impossible not to admire all the mouth-watering pastries behind the glass counter cruelly tempting those waiting to be seated. Upon entering, I was immediately blown away by the Belle Époque décor, whose elegance and charm made me think that Marie Antoinette could stroll in at any moment. The staff too are all impeccably dressed in a classical style befitting with the lavish surroundings. The place defiantly exudes an air of class as well as a romantic quality, combining an atmosphere of serenity with one of voluptuous pleasure.
One cannot come here without trying Angelina’s famous hot chocolate, Le chocolat chaud l’Africain, which has earned a reputation for being the best in Paris. It’s rich, smooth and velvety taste is to die for and lingers on the tip of your tongue long enough to satisfy your gourmandise until your pastry arrives. Accompanied by a little pot of crème fouettée (better known as crème Chantilly, or glorified whipped cream), the drink is in fact rather filling in itself!
However, the mouth soon begins to water again once pastries arrive. During my first visit, I had a financier – a light and moist petit gâteau made with almond flour with a light vanilla flavoured dusting. I was rather intrigued by its name, which I later found out has several theories about its origin. Legend says that a French pastry chef came up with the recipe during the 1890s to satisfy the taste buds of financiers in search of something sweet without getting their hands dirty. Whilst my financier was a rounded oval shape, another theory states that its name derives from its traditional rectangular shape, which is meant to resemble a bar of gold. To top off a gluttonous afternoon, I had some macarons which come in an array of different flavours, though I decided to stick to my favourites (framboise and vanille).
For my second visit I decided to try a true French pâtisserie, and spent ages umming and ahhing over which one to choose. The arrival of the waiter forced me to snap out of my indecision and choose the Millefeuille à la vanille Bourbon, a choice which I do not regret. Its literal translation being ‘a thousand sheets’, the pastry was made up of three layers of caramelised puff pastry, alternating with two layers of crème pâtissière. At first its size shocked me in comparison to my company’s more rich chocolate-based desserts, but the cream and puff pastry made it satisfyingly light. Another one of Angelina’s infamous specialities is its Mont Blanc, a cake combining meringue, light whipped cream and chestnut cream vermicelli. This is certainly a choice for anyone with a sweet tooth – even my chocoholic friend Mairead struggled and was close to admitting defeat!
For any foodies out there, Angelina is most definitely a place to visit. Though its prices are little on the extravagant side, it’s definitely worth it – not only for its gastronomic excellence but for the experience of dining in such dazzling surroundings. Not everyone is able to live the same life of luxury as the likes of Coco Chanel, though a trip here makes you feel like royalty, if only for an afternoon!
Angelina: 226 rue de Rivoli 75001 Paris*
* Angelina has several addresses in Paris – check the site for more info: http://www.angelina-paris.fr/#/home/