Decorative and delicious choux pastry in mouthwatering flavours
Eclairs are not the most obvious candidate for an elegant makeover. I associate them with a sort of childlike indulgence – filled with cream and just waiting to be stuffed into your face. But at Maître Choux, the eclair has been taken to a whole new level. As regular readers will know, I am quite the fan of a high-end doughnut (be it in London or Washington), but on discovering Maître Choux I was excited to branch out.
Finding myself in London on the weekend of Storm Ciara, I braved wind and rain to venture out into South Kensington in search of choux pastry. Maître Choux is only about five minutes walk from the V&A (an essential stop on any visit to that part of London), but in heavy rain and confronted with hoards of umbrellas it felt a lot further. I am not an especially tall person, but I seem to be just the right height for the average umbrella to reach eye level and be perilously close to my face. Battling these conditions I managed to walk right past Maître Choux, whose frontage was not quite as colourful as I had imagined. But on looking down at the selection in the window there was plenty of colour on which to feast your eyes.
Dripping wet and frazzled, I went inside and ordered three eclairs to go. The shop itself seems pretty small, and the staff gave every impression of (appropriately) being at the end of a long and dreary day. I plumbed for raspberry (such a vibrant colour I couldn’t resist), pistachio (a favourite flavour in my household) and rosewater (with a rather tempting meringue topping). These were gently placed in a rather cute box, which I then rather unceremoniously crammed into my backpack. With the light fading and the rain getting even heavier, we headed for the coach home, to savour our treats in a warm and cosy house.
They certainly did not disappoint! The raspberry was deliciously tart, light and refreshing. The literally gilded half-raspberry on top did not add much, but it was nice to get a hit of real juice. The pistachio was wonderfully subtle, and the undoubted winner in my books, with a rich, smooth filling, a sticky and shiny glaze, and pistachio crumbs alongside droplets of meringue for decoration. The rosewater was not quite as exciting – I felt it could have benefited from a slightly more intense flavour, especially when paired with the sweetness of the meringue. But it was still enjoyable. I ranked them exactly as I had expected: 1: Pistachio, 2: Raspberry, and 3: Rosewater.
Where they perhaps fell down is on value for money. These three eclairs cost just shy of £17, for something that is no more than three bites each. They are a brief, ephemeral experience. But for something that is a rare treat and a very enjoyable one, I think it is probably worth it. They are pretty tiny, so be prepared to want more than one of your favourites.
The chef behind Maître Choux, Joakim Prat, wants to do for choux pastry what Hummingbird Bakery did for cupcakes, and once you’ve sampled his wares, I think you’ll agree with me that he has every chance of success. Swap out cupcakes for something lighter, more elegant, and altogether easier to eat – you won’t regret it!
Have you tried Maître Choux yet? What is your go-to baked treat? Let me know in the comments below, and share what you think I should try next!