Friday, 25 April 2014

London's Best Macaroon

So I set myself the arduous task of finding London's best macaroon. As food trends go, this one seems here to stay. Unlike the unwarranted hype of the cronut or the weather dependent deliciousness of gelato, macaroons have it all. Looks, flavour, portabililty and all year round desirability. Yes, it's all there in one snack sized package. And luckily, Europe is the hub of macaroons so I thought I would take advantage of the locational fortuity and scope the field.

In London all the macaroons shops live with the posh people out in the West. So one moderately sunny day I took a walk from Knightsbridge to Picadilly Circus to encompass four macaroon stops, picking the top three from each and conducted my own study which involved three separate sessions of me sampling a little bit of each, with sip of tea between each bite to cleanse the palate. Yes, I know. Very scientific. I did after all, spend a mind numbingly boring semester studying biometry at Vet school. Just an excuse to eat lots of macaroons? How dare you! Leave this page at once, you don't deserve the ocular feast I have prepared below.

And here are the results from best to worst.

1. Pierre Herme
At first I didn't like Pierre Herme. I bought a few back in December when they had their Christmas range and was completely unimpressed. But since sampling different flavours which change and looking through the variety they have in both Paris and London I have done a complete 180. These babies are a front runner by far. They're creamy, soft and supple and have so much flavour without being oversweet. They come in pretty colours and the flavour combinations are very interesting and on most parts - work well. Mint and red berries was my favourite. The Jardin des 8 with all those fancy flavours I think got a bit lost in it's conception, when you have too much going on, there's nothing to make you go "Wow, that really does taste like _______". It's just a mash. But regardless, top points for bravado. I will be making this my go to place for macaroons from now on.

Flavours (left to right): Jardin des 8 tresor which includes lotus seed, red date, wolfberry, rosebud, dried orange peel, dried longan fruit, chrysanthemum and osmanthus (yes, that was just the FIRST macaroon). Olive and Mandarin. Mint and Redberries
Best flavour: Mint and Red berries (though I have yet to try his signature macaroon, the 'Ispahan' which has lychee, raspberry, rose and white chocolate). 
Cost for three: 5.55
Location: Stand alone store in Knightsbridge and counter at Selfridges

2. L'Orchidee
Slightly small and not as soft and gourmet as Pierre Herme but otherwise a great combination of interesting flavours, nice biscuit base and creamy, centres. Slight smaller but also cheaper so you do get decent value. Only thing is that it's a little store in the middle of Westfield so not as nice of a 'shopping' experience I guess. Stratford store has a much better variety if you're planning a visit.

Flavours in the bottom right photo: Popcorn, salty caramel, watermelon, mojito, tutti frutti, wild orchid
Best flavour: Popcorn
Cost for three: 5.10
Location: Stratford and Shepard's Bush Westfield

3. Fortnum & Mason
These only narrowly beat Lauderee and that is mostly due to flavour. Though not imaginative at the very least they are interesting. My favourite has always been lavender but I found the violet one pretty good and the red velvet ceamy and pretty to look at. The dissapointing thing is the lack of care in their creation. Sometimes a bit wonky in shape with the cream mushed up to one side - sadly they do not present themselves very well even though F&M is supposed where the royalty do their shopping. Go to Pierre Herme, Kate Middleton, if she is reading this.

Flavours (left to right): Red velvet. Lavender. Violet
Best flavour:  Lavender
Cost for three: 4.50
Location: Piccadilly Circus, their Kings Cross mini store does not anything besides teas and picnic baskets.

4. Lauderee
I remember the hype in Sydney when Lauderee opened it's mini cafe in the Westfields. Though the shopfront is much nicer here in London (without the unjustifiable line) and even more so in Paris, I still find a visit to Lauderee disappointing. Their flavours are very traditional and even though I picked their most interesting flavours, my taste buds still fell asleep halfway. You'd think that the Marie Antoinette tea flavour would taste more fancy and less like a digestive. At least it was a pretty colour. Licorice was probably the best of the lot but even though - no where near as good as Pierre Herme. Like F&M macaroons, the shell was a bit dry and not as a chewy. Also, they were a tad too sweet.

Flavours (left to right): Orange Blossom. Marie Antoinette Tea.Licorice
Best flavour: Licorice 
Cost for three: 5.25 pounds
Location: Piccadilly Circus

5. On Cafe
This one was the wildcard of the bunch, much smaller in production, I found a few of them in a small section in the Harvey Nichols. I mostly liked how well decorated they were and the Asian flavours but after drooling over the sakura and cherry flavoured ones online I found the flavours that were available in store to be a lot more stock standard. This a great example of all looks, no substance. They were so dry and the consistency was all wrong. Maybe they had been sitting there for awhile but still, not impressed. Also the salted caramel and charcoal tasted like Milo and the triple critus tested like lemon (not the worst thing but at least add something else to it). Even though they were the cheapest they were also the smallest as well, not going back.

Flavours (left to right): Salted Caramel with Charcoal, Triple Citrus, Green Tea and Red Bean
Best flavour: Salted Caramel and Charcoal (but only becaue it was the prettiest)
Cost for three: 3 pounds
Location: Counter at Harvey Nichols

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