Yesterday was a great day at work. Not only did I find a forgotten fiver in my desk drawer, but I was lucky enough to be invited along to Pierre Hermé for a tasting at their London Boutique. I had heard of Pierre Hermé a few times before from Parisien friends. I knew he had a reputation as a superstar pâtissière, but I had no idea of the delights that were to come.
We were greeted by our contact, the impossibly beautiful, impossibly French Matilde. She told us about Pierre Hermé’s history. Sometimes known as ‘the Picasso of Pastry’, PH studied under Gaston Lenôtre and previously consulted for Fauchon and Ladurée before setting up his own boutique in Tokyo 16 years ago. The past 2 years have seen the first 2 British outposts. I was pretty surprised to hear that his first shop was in Tokyo, but I think something of the very simple branding of the product, and the complex fruit and floral notes of his monthly Jardin D’antan collection probably reflects those Eastern influences. Below is the picture of PH that we were shown which I found inappropriately hilarious. It looks like the caption might read “Chocolate macaroons?? I dunno, maybe add some foie gras?”
Anyway, on to the actual tastings. Firstly, it’s worth noting that the macaroons really are remarkably beautiful. The shop had a macaroon Christmas Tree decoration, and the beautiful shine and colouring in the macaroons looked incredible when assembled into a structure in that way. Even under the glass counter they glistened and sparkled, all ranges of colours and contrasts. Another thing that is instantly noticeable is that they are significantly fuller than most macaroons (I’m looking at you Ladurée)- with a sizeable hunk of ganache between each shell. YUM.
The salted caramel macaroon was a perfect mix of sweet and savoury, and the almost bitter taste of very dark caramel worked beautifully with the tang of sea-salt. The signature ‘Mogador’ macaroon (Milk Chocolate and Passion Fruit) was a beautiful yellow flecked (apparently by hand) with dark brown, and tasted of intense passion fruit, whose sharpness was tempered by the smooth milk chocolate. It was delicious, although admittedly the name is a little too Lord of the Rings to be instantly appealing. The one macaroon I regretted not trying was the Dark Chocolate and Foie Gras variety. I really didn’t believe it could work, but after trying his White Truffle macaroon (below) I realise I should have trusted him enough to request one. My colleague did try this one, and she assured me that it was beautifully rich, and perfectly balanced between sweet and savoury.
The best macaroon I tried was genuinely unlike anything I have ever tasted before. The White Truffle and Hazelnut macaroon. My initial reaction to this is that it was probably a bizarre and thoughtless mashing of luxury ingredients. I was wrong. This macaroon is (necessarily) seasonal, and it LOOKS festive, shining like snow in white and silver. As soon as you lift it to your mouth the fragrance of the white truffle hits you, and- I admit- I was nervous to see how this would work with the sweet Macaroon. The answer is: incredibly. The closest I can come to describing it is to see imagine eating a mouth meltingly sweet piece of garlic. But of course it is so much sweeter, and so much more subtle and complex with the truffle flavouring. It was genuinely astonishing. Admittedly, it probably isn’t for everyone, and my colleague had a small retch at her first bite. For me, it was perfection and I know I will be returning for a box for Christmas day.
Thanks to the lovely Matilde and Jenny for such a wonderful morning. And to PH I guess, for making the best macaroon I’ve ever tasted.
(Photographs courtesy of the lovely Sarah Blaize-Coar @sassyblaize, image of Pierre Hermé from telegraph online).