Not to indulge your sweet tooth in Paris would be a crime. Every street corner, it seems, hosts a bakery or cake shop with a window full of glorious gateaux, charming chocolates, beautiful baguettes and other tempting treats. It pays to be selective in the face of all this bounty – here's our pick of Parisian patisseries, bakeries and chocolatiers to die for.
Patisseries and bakeries
Set up by Christine O’Sullivan and Chris Wilson in 2014, Broken Biscuits started out by supplying Paris’s hippest coffee shops with gorgeous baked treats, and a year later opened up their own small space on the charming and peaceful Passage Rochebrune. Inside you’ll find a narrow wooden table that faces the cobblestone street outside, providing the perfect background for the meticulously-crafted cakes and pastries on offer.
Created by a Japanese patissier trained at Dalloyau in Tokyo, this small tea room is reminiscent of a (French) grandmother’s kitchen with its chequered tablecloths, enamelled cast iron stove and resolutely simple, traditional cakes placed on the counter top. The old-fashioned hot chocolate is served in a large earthenware bowl, and you can help yourself to whipped cream.
Rachel is the force behind Rachel's Cakes, which for years has been providing Parisian restaurants with unrivalled cheesecakes, bagels, buns and other pastries. Acclaimed for her baking all over the city, in autumn 2014 Rachel stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight, opening up her very own restaurant.
Generously sized ganaches, crunchy nougat, velvety truffles… Any attempt to describe Pierre Hermé’s products unfailingly degenerates into a rapturous ode to gluttony. Hermé donned his first chef’s hat at the age of 14, and trained with such renowned artisans as Gaston Lenôtre.
If Hansel and Gretel had a cake shop in Paris it might look like Bogato (a name that sounds like ‘ beau gateau’ in French, as in ‘pretty cake’). Everything here is about temptation, from the quaint wooden furniture to pastry chef Anaïs Olmer’s brightly coloured cupcakes, towering under glass bells on the counter like sugary art installations.
Arnaud Delmontel is as much a baker as a pâtissier. Visit his semi-legendary shop on Rue des Martyrs, and you’re just as likely to end up buying a crispy baguette – voted the best in Paris in 2007 – as one of his famous cakes. The La Renaissance baguette (€1.15) is the star of the show, but you’re well advised to try the honeyed rye bread and the truffle breadsticks as well.
Expect queues at this Montmartre bakery, winner in March 2010 of the 17th Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris. As well as gaining plenty of new customers, Baker Djibril Bodian also picked up a cash prize of €4,000 and a contract to keep President Nicolas Sarkozy in bread for a year.
Looking for your dream patisserie? Look no further than cake-maker extraordinaire Philippe Conticini’s contemporary boutique/tea-room in the 16th, La Pâtisserie des Rêves (The Cake of Dreams). Conticini is known for his innovative cookery book on Nutella, and surprises abound in his shop too, where you’ll find new interpretations of traditional gateaux.
On rue Saint-Dominique, lies the minimally decorated Gâteaux Thoumieux - but this little corner of paradise doesn’t need mouldings and gilding. Expect only to have eyes for the sugary treasures made by chef Sylvestre Wahid and his pastry chef Alexis Lecoffre (whose brunch at Brasserie Thomieux is still in our hall of fame). This glamorous pâtisserie does a beautiful selection of viennoiserie (croissants, pains au chocolat, brioches), fruit tarts and about ten individual cakes.
Hugues Pouget cut his teeth in the kitchens of some of the city's biggest restaurants and hotels – Le Bristol, Guy Savoy and the Il Palazzo (where he created an all chocolate buffet) – before opening his own boutique with his childhood friend, marketing specialist Sylvain Blanc. Against the shop’s muted décor, the lively colours of the seasonal patisseries.
Twenty years ago, Frédéric Vaucamps opened ‘Aux Merveilleux de Fred’ in Lille, where he perfected his recipe for ‘merveilleux’ – mini-meringues coated in chocolate whipped cream, then covered in chocolate shavings. They were an immediate hit and he has since opened many more stores in Lille, Paris and even London. Yet while other patisseries feel the need to ‘keep up’ with trends, Fred is still doing what he does best – merveilleux come in classically French variations; Speculoos, white chocolate, coffee, nuts, caramel and cherry. Bliss.
A green-tea croissant or a sesame éclair, anyone? Japanese cake guru, Sadaharu Aoki, mixes flavours from the East with traditional French pastry ingredients to come up with some of the most surprising (and delicious) cakes in Paris. For those less adventurous, his traditional mille-feuille (vanilla slice) and fraisier (strawberry cake) are perfection incarnate. Or if you fancy something new, try inventions like the Kimagure (choux pastry, vanilla cream, matcha and azuki beans); or the Saya (strawberry mousse with pistachio crème-brûlée and strawberry macaroon). Tables are available if you want to eat in. In January, don’t miss his ‘galette des rois’ filled with matcha, black sesame and azuki paste!
Had Willy Wonka decided to launch a biscuit chain it may well have looked like La Cure Gourmande. There is something irresistibly over-the-top about the shop’s turn-of-the-century-style tins, boxes and baskets, brimming with cookies, bonbons and chocolates. From the moment the vanilla scent hits you, you’re hooked; then the seller suggests you try the biscuit of the day.
With the bright colours of his décor, Christophe Roussel brings a certain modernity to the often kitsch art of chocolate-making. Novel spins on the usual product range are the order of the day here. You’ll find not only several varieties of hot chocolate to sample in store...
After doing time on the high-end patisserie scene in Paris, Jean-Marc Rué finally went independent in 2007, opening his own shop with his wife Keiko Orihara (a renowned chocolatière in her own right). Plumped in a residential corner of the 15th, Monsieur Chocolat caters to a clientele of regulars, who come for the chocolate bars with dried fruit or the salted caramel...
Chocoholics from the nearby Assemblée Nationale pop into Michel Chaundun’s cavern of cacao throughout the day. But whether you’re a famous politician or not, everyone gets the same treatment – a welcome smile and an enthusiasm for chocolate so communicative that you can’t help but want to try a square truffle, a Fidgi (a dark chocolate filled with passion fruit ganache) or a Veragua...
After learning the ropes with chocolate wiz Michel Chaudun, this young chocolatier has become somewhat of a star in Paris’s Saint Germain quarters. The first things you notice in the boutique are the perfectly shaped figurines and animals (often made from moulds created by Jean-Charles Rochoux in the shop basement) and the giant eggs behind the counter...
Voted the 'best chocolatier in the world' by critic Mort Rosenblum, Jacques Génin's creations could previously only be tasted in top restaurants. But now his impressive boutique allows you to taste sur place or take a bag home. The signature eclairs and tarts glisten in glass cases, and the millefeuilles are made to order for perfect freshness...
Roger is shaking up the art of chocolate-making. Whereas other chocolatiers aim for gloss, Roger may create a brushed effect on hens so realistic you almost expect them to lay (chocolate) eggs. Other locations: 91 rue de Rennes, 6e; 199 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 8e;45 avenue Victor Hugo, 16e; 12 cité Berryer, Village Royal, 8e.
Salons de thé
A spin-off of its big Russian brother, which has long been a fixture of the Moscow dining scene, this salon de thé has gone from strength to strength since setting up shop in 2010. Situated on the ground floor of the department store Printemps, it offers an excellent choice of sweet bite-sized treats concocted by the chef Emmanuel Ryon...
If you want to taste the ingenious creations of the young pâtissier Christophe Michalak, you’ll first have to swallow the prices: €16 for a cake and €9 for the tea that comes with it. You aren’t only paying for the quality, but also for the setting – all comfortable armchairs and hyper-courteous staff. The range of cakes is limited and changes regularly, so it’s worth asking the staff...