French sweets: 3 eateries to satisfy your sweet tooth

We check out the confections from three French outlets — two from France, one made in Singapore

1. Angelina
1. Angelina
17 Jun 2015

1. Angelina

#01-82 CAPITOL PIAZZA, 15 STAMFORD RD, S178906. TEL: 6384-0481.
Open daily 11am-9pm, last orders 30 mins before closing. www.angelina-paris.fr/en/

If you’ve been to Paris, you might have dined at Angelina, the famous 112-year-old tea room known for its rich hot chocolate and dainty desserts. The brand new 60-seater branch at Capitol Piazza is Angelina’s first Southeast Asian franchise.

Almost everything, from the classic French décor comprising period chairs and marble-topped tables to the desserts, is replicated from the Paris outlet. But within the stark modern surrounds of Capitol Piazza, this salon seems to lack the old world grandeur of the Parisian original, and the slightly half-hearted period décor comes across somewhat garish. There's also a mezzanine level, though that was being used for storage when we visited.

We think the best seats are in the indoor “al fresco” area a little removed from the main tea room, where there’s lots of natural light and it's a bit quieter, away from the droves of tai-tais and families buzzing about the week-old joint. A team of local chefs, who trained for two weeks in Paris, prepare only the hot food. All the sweets here are baked and frozen in Paris, then flown here.

1. Angelina: Decent Savoury Grub
1. Angelina: Decent Savoury Grub
17 Jun 2015

1. Angelina: Decent Savoury Grub

The menu is extensive, including some 30 savoury items like a pretty tasty French Onion Soup ($17) and Foie Gras Terrine ($28). But if you’re here for the desserts, zoom in on the 12 classic French pastries flown in from Angelina's kitchens in France. You can also get them to-go at the adjoining retail shop that sells French jams and chocolates.

1. Angelina: The Sweets
1. Angelina: The Sweets
17 Jun 2015

1. Angelina: The Sweets

Paris-New York ($13, pictured left)
Light buttery pecan cream with a crunchy pecan praline centre fills a chewy choux pastry. A delicious, well balanced and almost butterscotch-like treat. Surprisingly, freezing and transporting the sweets here from France doesn’t affect its quality.

Mont-Blanc ($13.50, pictured right)
Angelina’s signature dessert, apparently part of its menu since 1903. Squiggly mounds of sweet chestnut purée hide a crisp meringue base topped with fluffy whipped cream. Pleasant, if a little too sugary. Oddly, it's served in an unglamorous paper cup.

1. Angelina: The Sweets
1. Angelina: The Sweets
17 Jun 2015

1. Angelina: The Sweets

Opéra ($13)
A yummy take on the classic layered cake. Sheets of coffee-soaked biscuits and crunchy hazelnut praline are alternated with milk chocolate mousse. Delivers creamy, chocolatey spoonfuls interspersed with salty-sweet crunchy bits.

1. Angelina: The Sweets
1. Angelina: The Sweets
17 Jun 2015

1. Angelina: The Sweets

Hot Chocolate ($12)
Even in Paris, we found this molten hot chocolate jelak beyond words. It’s so thick it’s almost like a pudding. The same super rich 60 per cent dark hot chocolate is served here. Made using chocolate blended from four different African and Papua New Guinean beans, it’s poured out of a small jug and stirred with some whipped cream to temper the drink. This is often hailed the “best hot chocolate in Paris”, but we find the flavours flat, overly sweet and the texture too cloying, especially in this warm weather.

BOTTOM LINE: The desserts are good, but the setting is slightly cold and charmless. At about $30 for a drink and dessert, it's a bit steep, though the savoury menu of French classics is worth checking out for a leisurely brunch.

2. Tarte By Cheryl Koh
2. Tarte By Cheryl Koh
17 Jun 2015

2. Tarte By Cheryl Koh

#01-12 SHAW CENTRE, 1 SCOTTS RD, S228208. TEL: 6235-3225. Open daily 10.30am-7.30pm.
Last orders at closing. www.tarte.com.sg

Joining the stretch of Les Amis Group-owned F&B outlets at Shaw Centre is three-week-old Tarte, a small, bright takeaway shop selling dainty French-style tarts devised by Cheryl Koh, 36, head pastry chef at neighbouring fine-dining restaurant, Les Amis. The petite space here was previously a stairwell between the group’s La Strada and Caveau restaurants, but they decided to turn it into a dessert shop. “They said, ‘Hey, your tarts are really good, why not sell those?’” Cheryl says, adding that she’d first served them as part of the dessert menu at Les Amis, where they became popular favourites. Now, using the same high-quality ingredients like imported butter, nuts and fruits, the tarts are available to-go in pretty pink and blue takeaway boxes at this little shop. There’s no seating at the boutique-like hole-in-the-wall, but you can dine-in next door at the refurbished and comfy Caveau, a wine bar and café that serves up decently made cuppas of Nylon Roasters coffee in the day.

The tarts are simple and sublime. We particularly love the tart shells, sweet shortcrust enhanced with lots of voluptuous Isigny butter from Brittany, and French almond meal for a light biscuit-y bite and gorgeously rich fragrance. The fillings, mostly fruit-based, are great too. There are some eight flavours on offer at any time (sold out pretty quickly on weekends) and they come in two sizes: individual 8cm small ($8-9) ones and a 16cm regular ($30-$34) one, the latter good for up to five servings. The tarts are made fresh several times daily, and the best time to head down, according to the team, is in the morning or right after lunch.

2. Tarte By Cheryl Koh: The Sweets
2. Tarte By Cheryl Koh: The Sweets
17 Jun 2015

2. Tarte By Cheryl Koh: The Sweets

Pistachio ($9 for small; $34 large)
A pistachio orgasm comprising Iranian nuts in various forms. Swirls of smooth pistachio pastry cream studded with toasted pistachios surround a delicate, cake-like pistachio frangipane. Fiercely green and bursting with roasted, nutty lushness in every cloud-like, crunchy bite.
 

2. Tarte By Cheryl Koh: The Sweets
2. Tarte By Cheryl Koh: The Sweets
17 Jun 2015

2. Tarte By Cheryl Koh: The Sweets

Cherry ($9; $34)
A seasonal tart made with whatever varieties of in-season cherries Cheryl can find, served simply atop elegant vanilla-scented pastry cream. Ours featured fleshy Spanish cherries, with just the mildest sweetness and lots of juicy tartness. Simple but good.

2. Tarte By Cheryl Koh: The Sweets
2. Tarte By Cheryl Koh: The Sweets
17 Jun 2015

2. Tarte By Cheryl Koh: The Sweets

Dark Chocolate ($9; $34)
Silky, 72 per cent dark Valrhona chocolate makes a soft and smooth ganache that goes really well with the crispy, buttery, toasty pastry base. We love that the chocolate is intensely bitter and fruity, almost smoky. Even though the ganache is quite rich this doesn’t get cloying at all.

2. Tarte By Cheryl Koh: The Sweets
2. Tarte By Cheryl Koh: The Sweets
17 Jun 2015

2. Tarte By Cheryl Koh: The Sweets

Passion Fruit Meringue ($8; $30)
Clean, tangy passionfruit curd served with a little meringue flower on top. We love the bright and fresh flavours in this, like eating a particularly ripe and sweet passionfruit. Also excellent: the satisfyingly sharp Lemon Tart.

BOTTOM LINE: Luscious tarts with flawless crusts (they taste best eaten fresh, so call ahead to check). We only wish they were available past 7.30pm so we’d have somewhere great to go for dessert in Orchard Road.
 

3. La Cure Gourmande
3. La Cure Gourmande
17 Jun 2015

3. La Cure Gourmande

#03-09 Ngee Ann City, Takashimaya Shopping Centre, S238872. Tel: 6684-2983.
Open daily 10AM-9.30PM. Last orders at closing. www.facebook.com/lacuregourmandesg

Dotted across France are these quaint, old-fashioned biscuit-cum-candy shops — all 70 of them — that look like they’ve been around for at least a hundred years. Well, not quite. La Cure Gourmande was founded 26 years ago. It started out as a tiny bakery in southern France, Balaruc-les-Bains in Montpellier, an area famed for its healing thermal spas. “That was how we got our name,” recalls co-founder Edouard Hennebert, 46 (who founded the brand when he was just 20 years old!). “Patients would go for their spa treatments, then they’d come to buy our biscuits for a sweet ‘cure’!”

The Frenchman, who was recently in town to launch the brand’s two-month-old boutique in Ngee Ann City, says that the shop’s charming exterior is not just for show, but an attempt to “trace back the roots of your childhood” and revive the neighbourhood confections many French people grew up eating. He adds: “The biscuits I ate when I was a kid were phased out gradually. Some were too tedious to make, and didn’t look pretty enough for the big brands. But I missed those simple, nostalgic sweets that my grandmother used to make at home.”

3. La Cure Gourmande
3. La Cure Gourmande
17 Jun 2015

3. La Cure Gourmande

The outlet at the newly-revamped third level of Ngee Ann City stocks about 170 items baked in La Cure’s factories in France, including old-school French biscuits, nougats and cakes. It’s a venture with a Singapore-based retail consultancy, which plans to open another outlet here this year.

The local boutique carries the signature look of its sibling outlets in France, and has the same modus operandi: most products are charged by weight. So grab a paper bag or a dainty metal tin (that comes free when your purchase hits a certain weight), choose your confections and pray that you don’t get a heart attack at the cash register.

3. La Cure Gourmande: The Sweets
3. La Cure Gourmande: The Sweets
17 Jun 2015

3. La Cure Gourmande: The Sweets

Apple Cinnamon Biscuit and Apricot-Filled Biscuit ($5.50 for 100g)
You’ll be tempted to stuff your bag with every flavour when you’re standing before the attractive self-service biscuit counter. But exercise some restraint and pick just the fragrant apricot jam-filled bikkie, and the rustic apple cinnamon jam-filled biscuit. The biscuit itself is too thick, but at least the generous fruit filling kind of balances it out a little. Unfortunately, all the biscuits we sampled have a strange whiff of artificial flavouring. Moreover, at $5.50 for 100g, each piece (about a third of your palm) costs around $1.40.

3. La Cure Gourmande: The Sweets
3. La Cure Gourmande: The Sweets
17 Jun 2015

3. La Cure Gourmande: The Sweets

Plain Madeleine ($2)
There are five types of jam-filled madeleines, but we prefer this moist and buttery plain one which is less sweet, and has a nice hint of vanilla. A pity it’s a tad too oily.

BOTTOM LINE: We felt like an excited Charlie in a chocolate factory as we picked out colourful treats in this lovely shop. But after tasting them, we’re disappointed to say they’re middling confections sugar-coated with a pretty façade and romantic story.

Report a problem