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Fluffy sweet fight, or ‘Pierre Herme vs Laduree, in a horrifying and traumatic battle to the gory death’

March 1, 2010

Whichever way you look at it, pitting Herme against Laduree is hardly going to be a bloody, horrific and harrowing assault on your tastebuds, is it? I do not believe there’s such thing as a bad macaron. (But then, I’ve never had a liquorice one, so there’s ample room for conflict in my mouth, I suspect).

Pierre Herme just started peddling his delicious wares in London – the first time his macarons have been available outside of Paris and Tokyo.  I don’t have much of an excuse for not having tried them in those places, since I visited Paris last year and used to live in Tokyo, but whatever.  I have, however, been a frequent visitor to Laduree, so a comparison is clearly needed here.  French macarons are not that widely available in the UK, and I’ve never heard of anywhere outside London selling them. Yuatcha and Paul should be next on my list to try, I guess: I’ve heard a lot about the Yuatcha ones but not so much about Paul’s.

So this weekend, we went to Selfridges, where Herme has opened a counter in the food hall, to test whether it’s worth all the fuss, and see if they’re better than Laduree.  So, cue lots of photos of us munching what are essentially dollops of egg white, ground almonds and sugar, and a critique thereof . (The macarons, not the photos. No need to critique the photos, although I will say, yes, I could have framed everything better and shoving everything into my mouth with such gay abandon makes me look like I’m bulimic or something.  But Grosvenor Square is so lovely and deserted on a Saturday morning – aside from incredibly rich old ladies and the odd diplomat walking elderly pooches, which are invariably of the tiny and decrepit version, poor little tykes.)

Herme: chocolate and salted caramel

First up with the regular flavours: chocolate and salted caramel.  We needed to get some flavours that are easily comparable. As you can see, they’re really creamy inside: the salted caramel especially.  The Laduree equivalent, salted butter with caramel, is much gooier and more similar to actual caramel.  Look:

Laduree: salted butter and caramel

The chocolate Herme was delicious – very beefy in proportion compared to the Laduree one. However, I don’t have a photo of the Laduree one because I basically bashed the crap out of it on the bus home, and it got pretty mashed up. Still, take my word for it that it was quite tasty – it was bitter chocolate though, so a little different. In fact, I might have to give up judging the two chocolate ones against each other, because I really did demolish the latter. For creaminess, I’d have to go with the Herme one, but for richer cocoa, Laduree wins with the bitter chocolate.

Next, innovative flavours. Sorry, Laduree, Pierre Herme has triumphed over your chestnut and green apple with his strawberry and wasabi, and strawberry and balsamic.  Sounds revolting, no? Actually AMAZING – never had a strawberry macaron before, but putting them with savoury warmth and acid respectively is a winner.

Herme: strawberry and wasabi

Strawberry and wasabi doesn’t just have one filling either, it’s a few layers and possibly some jam-like substance – witness:

Herme: strawberry and wasabi

Looks so floral, huh?  SURPRISE!

Strawberry and balsamic, check it out, yo:

Herme: strawberry and balsamic

It’s all dark and sexy, and the top and bottoms are different colours, with opposing flecks of colour.  And here’s some gratuitous shots of us cramming shit in our faces:

So, to do Laduree justice, they do make a good chestnut flavour. Very creamy, but we did pick the more unusual flavours they had in stock, and they just didn’t compare to Herme’sgastronomic adventures. Laduree’s chestnut is very subtle, much like a good pistachio macaron.  I think they would be a good complement to the more unusual flavours, as a palaterefresher, but a whole plate of chestnut flavour would be a tad bland, and I think you need something stronger to contrast them with.

Laduree: chestnut

Lastly, green apple. This was a bit odd but still an interesting and pleasant nibble – quite lurid, and not the filling I expected. In a lot of Laduree’s fruit macarons, they use a more jellied filling rather than the typical buttercream. This was neither – it was more paste-like, but with a texture not unlike coconut ice.  It also has a really synthetic flavour – which I suppose I should have expected, it being called ‘green apple’ and not just plain old ‘apple’.  So the result was actually a flavour of apple sweets,  especially those sherbety ones that would also come with a ‘red apple’ swirl in them.  Quite citrussy, with a hint of watermelon (do I sound like a pretentious wine twat yet?) and reminiscent of childhood.  Interesting, but not sure if it worked.

Laduree: green apple (and Matt’s beard and perfect teeth!)
Laduree: green apple filling

Herme’s were more expensive (£6.56 for four, against Laduree’s £5.40 for four), but, on balance, I think the thought and technique that goes into Herme’s just wins out, for me.

However, for a few pennies more, you also have the added punishment of finding your way to Selfridges food hall, which is a bit of a pain in the arse.  Once there, one is also faced with additional temptations from Ella’s Bakehouse and Primrose Bakery, so unless you’re actually planning on becoming the size of a house, it may be better for everyone if you visitLaduree, where there are limited other fripperies on which to piss your money up the wall. (Because, let’s face it, French macarons are hardly necessary to your nutritional requirements, are they? What’s that? Testament to the greed of the western world? If you say so, dear). And it’s always more fun being in a shop that’s 5′ by 12′ and painted entirely gold.

But Laduree – your salted caramel/butter will always be my favourite.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. threadandburied permalink*
    March 2, 2010 8:34 pm

    Thanks Rupert. Yeah, they’re expensive little indulgences, huh? Paul is definitely next on the list – theirs are massive too!

  2. revansharding permalink
    March 2, 2010 10:50 am

    Paul’s citrus macaron is amazing. The chocolate one just tastes and feels exactly like a brownie, feels more of a novelty than its own sensation.

    Nice post. Must save my pennies for macaron!

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