The name aptly translates as ‘the pastry shop of dreams’ – for who doesn’t dream of cake? This small venue, which opened last week amid much excitement among the Twitterati, is the first London outpost of a boutique Parisian patisserie chain. It replaces a florist that was on the same premises for 45 years.
LPDR is owned by revered, award-winning pastry chef, TV personality and recipe book author Philippe Conticini. Together with Thierry Teyssier, a visionary hotelier and entrepreneur with a background in theatre, he opened the original branch in Paris in 2009.
Through exquisitely crafted sweet treats, and the bright candy-coloured décor in pink, orange and lime, they’re encouraging us to daydream, take a trip down memory lane and experience the delight and excitement we felt as children.
Contrasting with the vibrant colours are stylish, minimalist touches and clean lines, which together create a pristine, contemporary look of a designer boutique. There’s a striking central carousel display, showing off pastries inside sleek glass domes. Classic French desserts have been given light, modern treatment so that the flavours and textures are fluffier and less cloying than the traditional versions.
Paris-Brest, originally created in 1891 to mark the famous bicycle race, is made from a circle of individual choux pastry rounds representing a bicycle wheel. Filled with liquid praline, it has a beautifully nutty taste. Pretty millefeuille, made from caramelised puff pastry layered with vanilla crème patissiere, is not to be missed either. One favourite is ‘vanilla grand cru’, an unassuming but luscious square white sponge with an impossibly soft, melt-in-the-mouth texture. We were told that these three items are already best-sellers.
The grand cru also comes in a delicious chocolate version, decorated with edible gold. Special for Valentine’s Day is a set of two heart-shaped grand cru cakes that will have your amour asking for more. Conticini is credited with bringing choux pastry back in fashion, which has led to the recent rise in the popularity of éclairs. Here they come as chunky chocolate and coffee-flavoured sheets wrapped around pastry capsules.
The rectangular apple tarte tatin is based on a recipe by Conticini’s mother, herself one of the top French chefs of the 1970s. We fell in love with the well-balanced, sweet and tangy flavours of meringue-topped tarte au citron; and the St Honore, named after the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs, which is decorated with glistening choux nuggets and lashings of whipped cream. These signature desserts are priced £5.80 to £6.90 for small, and £32 to £39 for large size suitable for dinner parties.
Additionally, you’ll find seasonal fruit desserts, and smaller cakes such as almond praline financiers, madeleines (both £2.40), and chocolate brownies (£3.30). Fresh, crisp viennoiserie like croissants and pain au chocolate are displayed in a glass cabinet. We were impressed by the large brioches (£2.80), until we spotted even bigger, puffier, over-sized ones (£11.80).
Baked treats also include kouign amann (£3.30), a Breton pastry layered with butter and caramelised sugar rarely seen in London, Provencal iced ‘Calisson’ cookies flavoured with candied fruit and almonds, chocolate sables, and rose biscuits. There are shelves laden with attractively packaged caramelised nuts, baking sugars, jars of fruit confit and praline, confectionery like pretty pink bonbons, and Conticini’s recipe books (English versions will be available soon).
It’s no wonder the shop sold out of many of these items during the opening weekend, just like the original Paris store. (Even on our quiet weekday visit, pastries were flying off the shelves). Exclusively for London, Conticini is reimagining British classics like scones and victoria sponge, but these are still ‘in the study stage’ and not yet available.
Sara Falconer, the trainee manager for the next branch in Kensington (scheduled to open with a tearoom in May), told us that everything is freshly baked in their Chiswick production kitchen during the night, and delivered early in the morning. Staff are as sweet-natured as the cakes, encouraging customers to try from the generous tasting platters. Yes, we will be dreaming of La Patisserie Des Reves for a long time.
La Patisserie Des Reves, 43 Marylebone High Street, W1U 4QD. Tel: 020 3603 7333.