When Q, RH & I did our own iteration of The Grand Tour back in 2011, our brief stop in Paris had a whole day just devoted to a self-designed Pâtisserie tour of the city, which took us to places like Pierre Hermé and culminated with a trip to La Pâtisserie de Rêves on Rue de Longchamp. There, we lingered over a small plate of shared pastries (Paris was our first stop, and we had to make sure we had enough money for the rest of our backpacking adventures) in their small but cheerfully sun-drenched salon de thé. I still remember our time in Paris like a particularly vivid dream where snatches of our time at La Pâtisserie de Rêves feature quite prominently - warmed by the sun, high on truly excellent pastries and laughing over the smallest things with excellent company, it's the stuff Patronuses are made of.
I first saw La Pâtisserie de Rêves on Marylebone High Street the first evening we went to The Marylebone, and was utterly outraged that no one had bothered to tell me they were actually here in London. How had I not known the store was but a fifteen minute walk away? How long had I been cruelly separated from the kind of pastries that could make people cry with happiness? I soon found, when I finally got to visit the store, that they've been open a little over a month already. A whole month! I could have gone down and eaten samples each day and come home with boxes of the stuff in that time.
Apart from year-round staples, Philippe Conticini has a whole range of confections that work with the fruits of the season that I'm just dying to try. Since the outlet in London is just a store, all the products get wrapped up to take away in specially designed boxes. The packaging from La Pâtisserie de Rêves seems particularly suited for sunny days in Spring. With all the cherry blossoms in London determined to bloom during this surprising spell of good weather, the sturdy but fun pink boxes seem all the more apt as an accessory.
Ah, the Paris-Brest. My favourite among all his creations, this flower-shaped pastry was historically shaped like a wheel to commemorate the Paris-Brest bike race in 1891 before Conticini re-imagined it for the 21st century, reducing the level of sweetness but upping the intensity of flavour of the praline cream and making the choux unbelievably light.
One of the other nice things about his Paris-Brest is the fact that each individual "petal" can be easily plucked away, making it exceedingly suitable for sharing with friends. I still hadn't celebrated AN's birthday with a cake yet, but this pastry was an even better replacement for when we met up late in the afternoon. Watching the sun go down while popping perfectly bite-sized bits of mind-blowingly good pastry in the company of a good friend, it was much like being in a very nice dream indeed.