This delicate French fancy threatens to miss the mark by opening its doors to the chaos of Covent Garden Piazza. It’s a good job its macaroons are so tasty and so very en vogue.
Ladurée is an odd sight in Covent Garden market, its pastel green entrance breaking from the norm of bright lights and bold colours. Overlooking the action of big crowds and street performers is Ladurée’s outdoor seating, which is fully continental, with elegant white table clothes and smart waiters running around. It seems to long for a quieter setting, and despite being sectioned off by rope, disruptive tourists are undeterred in using the café as a shortcut.
Inside Ladurée, the pastel colour continues with a delicate pink, which is met with white marble finishes and gold trimming, making it all very elegant. Pretty little boxes of sweets for sale line the windows, and a glass display cabinet hosts those famous and beautifully crafted macaroons and pastries that have homes at Harrods and twelve other worldwide tearooms.
This café extends upstairs and the first floor is the piéce de résistance. Blue lace curtains, trim bay windows and a marble top bar running the length of the first room continue the impressive look, whilst the next area is subdivided into three quaint tearooms, each holding plush, period furnishings, bird print wallpaper and the cutest tea cups and saucers on each table. Extra seating is found on a small balcony set above the café entrance, which is charming, but ruined somewhat by all that noise from the street performers below.
French service staff are charmingly polite and welcoming, and they're dressed in smart, tailored uniforms, which add to the continental vibe. Indeed, the café emits an air of Parisian sophistication, and the use of white and pastel colours makes this a light and airy café. This all means that the outside noise and chaos is a great shame and somewhat detracts from the desired experience. Despite this, Ladurée attracts a crowd of older diners and plenty of pre-theatre custom.
The macaroon is having a bit of a revival, taking off where the cupcake left off. And macaroons don’t come much better than at Ladurée. Mini macaroons (£1.20 each) can be bought at the counter to go or in the café, where larger macaroons (£4.03) or a selection of mini macaroons (£3.84) are served up. The salted caramel macaroon stands out from the crowd; a delicate balance of sweet and savoury held inside a crispy, smooth meringue case. The vanilla flavour is sweet and refreshing and the raspberry is held together by a sharp, coarse jam. There are also typical French pastries served up here, like the mille-feuille praline (£5.60) and the éclair chocolat (£4.60). In fact, there are dessert options aplenty, with a heaving ice cream menu to boot. The chocolat liégeois will satisfy any chocolate itch with its blend of chocolate sorbet, iced chocolate, Chantilly cream and caramelised almond flakes.
This Parisian café also dishes up food for all occasions, but at a cost. For example, a full breakfast costs £9.50 and the cheapest option on the eggs menu is £8. Lunchtime comes in the form of club sandwiches, salads and omelettes. The club Champs-Elyse’s (£15.50) is spectacular in its combination of Mediterranean flavours, packed with aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes, olives, pine nuts, mixed salad, mozzarella, rosemary and basil. Salads are just as continental with the Bonaparte, Casanova and St Germain all making an appearance. And a whole host of omelettes range in price from £15-£17. Authentic dishes are also on the menu and are exceptionally high brow, so expect foie gras (£19.50) to start, and pan fried scallops with wild black rice (£24), rack of lamb with gingerbread and chick pea puree (£24) and poultry vol-au-vents with wild mushrooms (£24) for main course.
Hot drinks and a civilised spot of tea are the order of the day at Ladurée, and ideal for washing down a macaroon or two. The average cup of tea here costs £3.35, but there’s certainly nothing average about it. The menu boasts smoked and unsmoked china teas, some infused with violet or orange blossom. There are also darjeelings, Ceylons and assams, making this quite the destination for tea fanatics. Coffees choices are also refreshing, with the café Viennois (£3.20) served with a dollop of Chantilly cream on the side being well worth a try.
The Last Word
The posh nosh and high price at Ladurée mean that this is a classy venue in stark contrast with its location. But those unfazed by the Covent Garden commotion will really enjoy a bit of self-indulgence in this delicate Parisian tearoom setting. And the macaroons are to die for.