Posts Tagged ‘macarons’

Afternoon tea with a twist at L’Atelier des Chefs

I have been walking past L’Atelier des Chefs near Oxford Street for years, never daring to step in, wondering how the workshops were. Their adventure started in France in 2004. Cooking lessons were more for professionals at the time, very formal. Nicolas and François Bergerault were pioneers of a new movement –  bringing these skills to everyone. From the success of their Lyon workshop will follow 19 other addresses in France and another 2 in London…

Priceless. There are many cooking schools in the capital, will you say. Yet, The Atelier des Chefs retains its difference, even after 10 years of experience. If only for their signature session: Cook, eat and run. 30 minutes either during your lunch break or right after work, thought for all those whose routine is close to a marathon: a real break, the chance to do something for yourself, gain a skill and finish on a delicious meal too which you can choose to bring back to your desk or home. Priceless.

Thai, Italian, curries, burgers, French, Spanish, pasta, fresh bread, sushi, Japanese, pastry, macarons or even how to use your knives : the list is amazing. Even kids can join – what a wonderful initiation to taste and a brilliant way to make them think further than just devouring what is on their plate. I also love their idea of preparing Gastropub classics or their Sunday roast session. Take a few friends along –  what a nice change form the usual pub lunch!

It is, however, the Afternoon Tea  that won my heart. With a twist –  between English and French delicacies. In two hours only, in a superb kitchen bathed in natural light by the glass roof, you will make scones, macarons, soda bread and cherry & kirsch truffles. It is as much for beginners than for those who have already tried but are looking to make these perfect. You will learn how but most importantly why. The best way to make meringues glossy, the difference in kneading dough for scones or soda bread, what a gentle touch will bring here, a rougher one there. And it’s like a puzzle, things falling back in place, understanding why what you have been doing before did not work, giving you a different approach. Because you can watch the TV programs, read the books and magazines all you want –  nothing will ever replace a 1 to 1 with a real chef.

I loved the very professional yet very warm atmosphere. Age, lifestyle, experience did not matter: the chef made sure the group could share ideas, memories. Amazing how much information you will absorb. There is a thought schedule but also time for chats. And for trial and errors too: sometimes, you understand a movement but cannot quite reproduce it. You will be shown 5, 10 times with different explanations until you feel confident. That will put any shyness you might have had aside –  you are now ready to ask a thousand  questions.

It all finishes on a real feast shared with much enthusiasm as you can guess. There is tasting along the cooking but as the treats bake and feel the air with gorgeous aromas, your appetite sharpens. The soda bread is nice and salty, very crunchy served with potted crab and our homemade mayonnaise (the first I ever attempted to do, spiced with Cayenne pepper). The scones are biscuity on the outside, cloud-like inside. The macarons, filled with our salted caramel cream, could – without lying –  be sold in a shop and made us really proud: light meringue, the right amount of almond, not too chewy. I remain in awe of the chocolate truffles, filled with cherry and kirsch: they were SO easy to make and really are heavenly, especially as they had been refrigerated and in this hot weather you could go for quite a few in a row. The team served us a glass of sparkling Chapel Down (I will tell you more about this soon: the only British bubbly that I took for a champagne at a blind tasting). Royal! There were still lots of treats left and we took them all to show off to our family…

L’atelier des chefs

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Meet Pierre Hermé, the macaron magician

Just a bite of one of his macarons and all the others look like very pale copies.

Divine. A little bite of heaven. Light as a cloud. Daring alliances of flavours.

His chocolates and his pastries alike are work of arts -  poetry in a spoonful. His newsletters are mouthwatering, the descriptions alone will make you dream.

To meet this amazing magician, come to the Belgravia boutique (13 Lowndes Street) this Friday November 04, from 16.30 to  18.00. Pierre Hermé will be signing the English version (finally!) of his book Macaron – a wonderful opportunity to learm more about him, his inspirations and his latest creations.

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