Forget cupcakes – in Sydney it’s all about the French macaron. They are everywhere and are definitely the pâtisserie du jour.
I first heard the news from My French Life™ in late June when I was asked to write a review: the venerable Ladurée was opening in Sydney, bringing their macarons with them. A quick Google search yielded few details about the opening, but it was clear the Sydney food blogosphere was atwitter.
Finally I found the location (the new Westfield shopping centre in the city alongside other A-listers like Chanel and Prada) and a tentative opening date of late July.
At last, in early September I heard stories on the radio of people queuing… to buy macarons. It was open! Heading into Westfield that first week, I arrived at lunchtime to see a massive queue, complete with security. Now these really were rock star macarons!
I asked two young women in the middle of the queue how long they had been waiting – 35 minutes. At that rate it would be over an hour before they could even get to the counter to be served! I decided to come back another day.
So Sunday morning I headed off again and arrived ten minutes after opening. Already there was a queue! A customer service assistant who was managing the queue welcomed me and indicated the wait would be 15-20 minutes for a takeaway, but there were tables vacant in the salon de thé if I would care to take a seat.
While the shop and the salon de thé are in an open area of the shopping centre (i.e. not very French) the experience and service are a little slice of France. The majority of waiters and sales staff are French. French language and French accented English waft around the shop. The menu is in French and English and offers a range of viennoiserie, Ladurée teas and a separate macaron menu, plus champagnes and coffee.
I order a coffee, and purely in the interests of research, a tasting plate of four macarons. I also take the opportunity to order my takeaway choices. Service is a little slow, but is pleasant and friendly. Like all rock stars, these macarons know how to make the fans wait!
Finally the macarons arrive and I fall instantly in love with the salted caramel. My other choices of chocolate and coffee are light in texture but rich in flavour. The orange blossom is so delicate in both looks and taste. I linger as long as I can to make sure I savour both the experience and the flavours, and even order a second coffee. But then it’s time to go, with my little bag of takeaways in hand. I’m feeling so French I can’t help but wish the French waiter a cheery “au revoir, merci et bonne journée” as I head off.
The little bag I’ve brought home also hits the spot. My husband declares the salted caramel a hit, and my daughter falls in love with the citron and wants to know when I can buy more. The chocolate and violette are also a success.
Ladurée might be a venerable house full of history and tradition, but here in Sydney it packs a rock star punch. Like all great rock stars it may cost a lot and keep its fans waiting, but like the very best rock stars it delivers and leaves its fans wanting more! I’ll definitely be back – but maybe after the initial hysteria has died down, when the true fans can meet and savour their hero without the crowds.
Ladurée is on Level 3 of Westfield, Pitt St Mall, Sydney.