Let’s race to South Kensington for the last audition of our week in London, for it is there that Joakim Prat just opened his boutique specializing in éclairs and pastries made with choux (cream puff) dough. This young French pastry chef has already passed through several Michelin-starred restaurants in London, which only sharpens our interest in his creations. How do these éclairs fair? Given they are ambassadors of the art of French pastry amongst our British neighbors, are they pampered and showcased as they should? The stakes are high, so we inspect them without further ado. And we shall be uncompromising.
We chose an assortment of three éclairs, amongst the plethora of flavors on offer: Chocolate, Pistachio, and Raspberry-Rose. All of these were fresh, having been made about half an hour before we visited the shop. They are made of an identical, classic finger-shaped choux dough, but feature varying fillings and decorations. We note that the color of the little cardboard logo changes depending on the color of the icing – a non-negligible effort in presentation, given the probable additional cost entailed.
Maître Choux’s éclairs have a length of 120 mm, a width of 30 mm and a thickness of 30 mm. The specimens we purchased weight on average 60 grams and cost 5.20£ each.
These pastries all share in common a fresh, non-soggy choux dough, with a pleasant buttery taste. They have a nicely textured surface, with a softer – though perfectly cooked – inside. Another thing they have in common is a barely sweet icing – a welcome change from the ever-present sugar icing, which consistently upsets the flavor balance of refined treat.
The chocolate éclair is decorated with small dark cholate disks, and what seems to be Dulcey chocolate. Its abyssal-colored icing is parsimoniously sprinkled with gold dust. In the middle lies a very unctuous filling, slightly acidic and with a strong cocoa flavor.
The pistachio éclair is covered with caramelized crushed pistachios, thus creating a pleasing visual effect, while increasing the complexity of its textures thanks to the addition of these crunchy and flavorful fragments. Two minute meringues also grace the surface of the éclair. The scent of pistachio is nicely present, and here also the icing is barely sweet – being in fact more akin to a supple, flavored batter than a conventional icing. A gentle taste of natural pistachio comes out in the filling, which is composed of an unctuous cream with a green, yet plausible, color.
As for the raspberry-rose éclair, it is decorated with a fresh raspberry, acidic and flavorful, whose heart is filled with a raspberry coulis – a sign of extra attentiveness which is not lost on us. A few decorative sugar pebbles are set on the icing. The filling differs from the two previous ones in that it is slightly more airy – thus gaining rigidity but loosing unctuousness. The flavor of raspberry comes out nicely in the filling, its acidity tempered by the cream contained in the latter. The perfume of rose, however, remains too discreet. We notice that the choux dough in this éclair has been slightly damaged on one side, and we regret that an imperfectly shaped éclair was not withdrawn from sale.
These little éclairs created by Joakim Prat for Maître Choux can compare themselves without blushing to the most reputed of their Parisian counterparts. Indeed, they are endowed with a choux dough which is fresh, nicely textured, and desirably buttery; with fillings which are rich in flavor; and with icings which brilliantly avoid the dreaded excess sugar. There’s no mistaking the chef’s savoir faire and control, qualities which clearly shine through in these creations. The chef focuses on a single product, but does so with talent – thus enabling Londoners to get a taste for what exquisite pleasures the art of French pastry at its most precise can offer.
Score: 4.3/5 Excellent
15 Harrington Road, London SW7 3ES
Open from Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm.
Tel: +44 20 3583 4561