Angelina’s is one of my absolute favourite places in Paris. I can’t remember how many times I have been, but every time I go, I feel completely at home. For me, Angelina’s is the essence of vieux Paris. The Belle Epoque décor, the ambience, the waiters and waitresses in their traditional dress, the mirrored walls, the consistent background chatter, and, of course, the trays of cakes that are whisked precariously over heads to reach that stunning display cabinet in their shop. They describe it as being “L’art de vivre à la française”, and I cannot disagree.
I think it goes without saying that you have to queue to get in here, but it is all part of the fun. Everyone is excited, and necks crane to catch a glimpse of the menu to see what is on there (those who haven’t been before), or to see what the specials are (those who are all too familiar with the usuals). And to be honest, it’s not too difficult having to queue on the rue de Rivoli, under those beautiful arches, looking at the stunning window displays and bustling world on the street beyond. Standing here, you are taken back to another era, to turn-of-the-century Paris. It’s no wonder that Coco Chanel used to come here every day.
Service is rapidly efficient yet polite. Menus are swiftly deposited on your marble table, and you are given just enough time to peruse the decadent wares. Before you even have time to say that you are hungry and desperate for your cake, it arrives, with no word, just a knowing and professional glance, that you are about to have something rather spectacular.
The first time I went, I slightly overdid it, having a pain au chocolat, one of their famed hot chocolates (to myself, though I would now advise sharing!), and then a cake. As enjoyable as it was, I had to bid a hasty retreat to my studio for a lie down (luckily I didn’t have too far to walk). Since then, I have learned to limit myself (slightly).
This time I had a Babylone. This is a bourbon vanilla mousse on an almond meringue biscuit base, with a raspberry confit centre, decorated with a strawberry marshmallow, or guimauve (this simple childhood treat seems to have been given a more modern revival of late, in French pâtisserie). My sister had one of her absolute favourites – a tarte au citron (and yes, it had a vanilla guimauve on top, too!). Simple, but it hit the spot.
The most famous cake here (and which I hesitate to say, I have still never tried…) is the Mont Blanc. This comprises meringue, whipped cream, and their signature chestnut cream. They sell over 600 a day in their rue de Rivoli tearoom alone.
I also shared a l’Africain hot chocolate (always served with a little pot of whipped cream) with my sister this time. Chocolate is very much the emphasis here – they even have chocolate flavoured tea. They call the hot chocolate their signature beverage, and you only have to cast a quick glance around the room to see that almost everyone has one. They also do a white hot chocolate, which is rather special, too.
Perhaps something even more special this year, is that Angelina is celebrating its 110th anniversary. The window displays proudly and clearly show this, and you can even buy special edition versions of their glass jars of hot chocolate. I bought one, and think it will make for a rather stylish vase once empty.
If none of this tempts you to try Angelina, then I don’t know what will. This is always a unique place, but in such an important year for this quintessentially French establishment, I am glad I managed to make another visit now.
226, rue de Rivoli,
Open weekdays 7.30am-7pm
Open weekends 8.30am-7pm