Are you appalled or aroused by the idea of an éclair that costs £5? Intrigued, maybe? Bit of all three? For accuracy’s sake I’ll tell you it costs £4.80, but still. The woman tells me that they’re handmade in the kitchen downstairs. I was hoping that éclair elves mined them from the World’s only pastry seam. You can’t have everything, as the world continually conspires to remind me. She says there are more expensive éclairs in London, at Pâtisserie des Rêves, just along the road, for instance, or a place in Knightsbridge that she can’t name.
The new Pierre Marcolini shop on Marylebone High Street is very sixth arrondissement. It is beautiful and bijou and you feel more like a peasant than you really are when you’re in it. There was a red carpet onto the street the weekend it opened earlier in June. And you are as likely to hear a French voice in Marylebone these days as you are in downtown Tel Aviv, i.e., very. I’m going to Paris in September and I’ll let you know if there are any Parisians left there. I’m all for the free movement of people, I am. Still, you don’t hear UKIP boring on about the economic migrants of South Ken.
I left it for a few weeks before buying one because I think £4.80 is wrong for a pastry. I had to work up to it. In the end I told myself it was for ‘research’. Yes. I checked the Pâtisserie des Rêve’s and they do sell cream cakes for £6.90 but they’re twice the size of Monsieur Marcolini’s. As calories go, PdesR’s are better value. But life isn’t all pounds and pennies and the length of your éclair. (I measured and 13cm is the answer).
They are beautiful to look at, you can’t argue with that. Beauty has a price all of its own. Mine had gold leaf winking like stars on it. What taste sensation does your £4.90 buy you? I reverentially removed it from its container. I thought it came in a crystal casket hand-carved by the children of the elves that had mined the contents, but it was just a plastic box. That’s ok. The pastry was, just like gold, heavier than it looked and I examined it from several angles. It looked like something a mother of the bride might wear as a tiny hat. I took a bite. I didn’t nibble, I wasn’t polite about it, I bit a third of it off. It’s taste was subtle. The icing on the top added nothing, no texture, no flavour. It was ten hours since I’d bought it and the pastry, too, was soft. The gold was only there for decoration. But the custard at the centre was beautiful. Not sweet, exactly, at least not over sweetened, but the caramel flavour was elusive. It was dense and the definition of silky. Maybe not £4.80’s worth, but it was a few seconds of a rare pleasure in a cruel world.
Pierre Marcolini, 37 Marylebone High Street, London W1