We are having a long spell of dreary cold grey days. I don’t mind the cold, but the grey is downright gloomy and, if winter officially starts in December then we haven’t even got there yet. However, it is not all bad; there is Parisian hot chocolate. My dearly beloved has decided, and I agree, that it’s time to indulge in hot chocolate. We have found a lovely café called Le Comptoir des Belettes at number 37 Rue Lamarck in the 18th. It’s on our route on the walk from home up to Montmartre. The petit dejeuner, brunch and lunch menus are tempting, kind on the wallet and the food is tasty. They also serve super hot chocolates.
Order the chocolat chaud à l’a ancienne and it will be delivered to the table in 2 parts: a jug full of steaming hot, lightly frothed milk to pour onto the deep pool of warm dark chocolate “mud” in the accompanying bowl. Stir, sip and savour. This café is our perfect stop for a Sunday brunchy-lunch followed by a walk up and around Montmartre to deal with the calories.
On the topic of hot chocolates I felt it was my duty to conduct a little research for you. The holy grail of drinking chocolate in Paris is Angelina’s. This is the name of a patisserie and tea room that was established on Rue de Rivoli in 1903 .
I’ve often noticed long queues outside the restaurant. It is right in the heart of the tourist strip on rue de Rivoli (at number 226) over the road from the Tuileries gardens and along from the Louvre. I arrived at Angelina’s a little after 11am and didn’t have to wait at all; admittedly it is off peak season for tourists now. I was ushered into the elegant dining room where even at first glance you can pick the tourists (like me) in ones, twos and family groups amongst the Parisian regulars. I could just imagine Coco Chanel here – apparently it was a favourite of hers – the décor is just as you would imagine in a scene with her sipping hot chocolate and she would have been smoking. I ordered the chocolat chaud à l’a ancienne (called “L’Africain”); this is the famous one. It arrived in a little white jug along with a small pot of whipped cream (Chantilly cream) and a carafe of water. The thick glossy chocolate pours silently, silky smooth into your cup and coats the side when you take a sip. It tastes every bit as rich and delicious as it looks. If you are brave there is a pancreas-pelting array of patisserie to go with your hot chocolate. The signature one is Mont Blanc a concoction of meringue, Chantilly cream and sweet chestnut paste. I could not go that far and settled for a simple pain-au-raisin (a pastry swirl with raisins).
If you love chocolate, and want a taste of la Belle Epoque this is the place to come. In my view it’s worth every calorie consumed and centime spent on this indulgence, (believe me, there are plenty of each!).
I shall also mention that Angelina’s on rue de Rivoli is next door to the wonderful French – and English – bookshop Librairie Galignani. Beautiful books sit on tables and fill wooden bookshelves, wooden ladders reach the top shelves, and worn leather armchairs invite you to peruse in comfort. A perfect morning for me would be to spend time in the bookshop (I did) before retiring to Angelina’s for hot chocolate.