French flair: The Shanghai branch of Angelina represents the Parisian tightly packed tea room. [Photo provided to Shanghai Star]
The tearooms once frequented by Coco Chanel and Marcel Proust are upping sticks and coming to Shanghai, Xu Junqian visits the Parisian outpost with sweet treats.
One thing the century-old Parisian tearoom Angelina has shown is that legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel not only had style and glamor but also boasted great taste in food, pastries in particular. One of the most popular tearooms in Paris, Angelina is famous for having once been frequented by celebrities such as Chanel and writer Marcel Proust. Now Angelina has packed up its French ambience, efficient service, and beautiful, comforting desserts and flown them to Shanghai.
At the flagship dine-in and take-out space in Shanghai, everything mimics the original tearoom designed from the beginning of the 20th century, in Paris, the height of "Belle Epoque". The paintings on the wall, for example, are exactly the same as the one that depicts the landscape of southern France, the hometown of the owner; and the small tables are intentional imitations of the ones that Coco Chanel once sat at every afternoon for hot chocolate.
The famous hot chocolate, known as L’Africain, is a luxurious mixture of four types of cocoa beans imported from Africa, blended in Paris and then shipped to Shanghai. It’s sinfully sweet, rich and thick as if putting a bar of melting chocolate directly on the tongue and the fresh whipped cream on the side makes a light, but equally gratifying contrast. It is also sold in glass bottles as takeaway.
The signature Mont-Blanc chestnut cake consists of three parts: the pureed chestnut on top, the vanilla cream like stuffing, and the meringue as base. Get all three layers in one scoop, not only for the different textures but also various flavors of sweetness. The dessert has maintained its popularity for a century, even in a country like France, perhaps the world’s most competitive place for desserts.
A much overlooked pairing, is the Paris-New York choux pastry and N226 chocolate flavored tea. The choux pastry is a mouthful of airy pecan-flavored whipped cream, while the tea, a blend of black teas from China and Ceylon, cocoa and rose petals, offers a more subtle fragrance of flowers and chocolate. Ordering these two items, featuring a muted sweetness, makes it easier for you to fit into your little black dress.
Breakfast, brunch, lunch and light supper are also served at the tearoom, "a hub of many cultures" and takes in "a mix of different styles of French cuisines", according to the management team. The semi-cooked foie gras terrine, is seductive and deceptive. It’s generously served at the size and shape of a toast, while the actual brioche toast is baked into a curved slice dipped with fig chutney. The flavor, however, is honest: strong, smooth and sublime. And you don’t actually need the toast for crunchiness.
IF YOU GO
Angelina Address: 102, Shanghai Center, 1376 Nanjing Road W, Jing’an district