The French, and in particular, a certain social category of Parisian are an obsessive people. Particularly about pastries. During the last ten years, pastrychefs have come out of their flour-infested closets and are marketed like fashion icons, bringing out their summer and winter collections and hiring the hippest designers to outfit their showrooms. They're not called 'shops' anymore, apparently. Squadrons of tiny multilingual Japanese hostesses or, being polite, androgynous young men, await your presence, eager to show this season's collection. The clank of Cartier is palpable on expensively attired wrists and the muted buzz of conversation punctuated by the delicate click of the designer cake-forks.
All this, of course is because I went out the other day in search of tea and buns. I was informed that "La Pâtisserie des Rêves" the cakeshop of dreams, was THE place to scoff and more importantly, be seen to be scoffing. Thus, attired casually, I made my way to the rue Longchamp in the rather chic 16th. I was greeted by perfect and extensive dentition, a tour of the glass-encased delights and a stool so small I could barely sit on it without overbalancing. I waited patiently. Fifteen minutes passed, during which time, I had listened to half a dozen different conversations, heard about three divorces, two drug-related issues and a school refuser, but nobody seemed inclined to offer me a menu. Picked up my spoon. It was filthy. ‘Khallas’ I muttered. Armed with the spoon, I walked up to the desk, invited the slack-mouth behind the desk to consider the reputation of his establishment, the tardiness of his staff and the cleanliness of his kitchens in the strident and slightly booming tones of a rather ticked-off Englishman. Heads turned like stalks as I made my way with massive dignity out on to the street. Went to ‘Ladurée’ on the Champs-Elysees instead. Ancienne maison, marbled table, comfortable chair, silver spoon and 'religieuse' chocolate. Class will tell.