In the famous scene in the 2006 film, Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, where the queen, played by Kirsten Dunst, sat surrounded by macarons while her subjects starved outside the Palace of Versailles, the luxe almond confections were supplied by Ladurée, the historic French pâtisserie. Since then, Ladurée has gone from being the single iconic bakery in Paris’s Rue Royale to a chain with a presence in 21 countries, including the US, UK, Japan and the UAE. (Of course, in real life, the pâtisserie was born only some 70 years after Marie Antoinette’s death in 1793.)
Now, with a master franchisee deal with Noida-based CK Israni Group, Ladurée is kickstarting its foray into India with its first salon de thé in Delhi’s upscale Khan Market.
“I remember the first time I walked into Ladurée in Paris,” says Chandni Nath Israni, co-founder of the CK Israni Group. “It was magical. That’s why this is a passion project for me.”
Through the pandemic, they developed a four-storeyed kitchen (they call it a lab) in Noida, imported their raw materials, worked on creating interiors, which marry the brand aesthetic with some unique Indian elements, and most importantly, developed a menu. “The very first thing I asked our lab to perfect was the French toast,” Israni says, “for that was what made me fall in love with Ladurée the first time I went there.”
Wicker ceilings, Indian marble table tops and enormous green marble planters add local touches to the restaurant, otherwise resplendent in peachy pastels that the brand worldwide is known for. On the menu are signature Ladurée staples like croque-monsieurs, vol-au-vents and, of course, pillowy double-decker macarons. The story goes that in the middle of the 19th century, a chef at Ladurée decided to sandwich a ganache filling between two macaron shells. The resultant macaron was an instant success and their recipe has not changed since.
The menu in Delhi also has Indian accents like rose cake with candied rose petals and soaked in fragrant rose syrup and chicken tikka sandwich. “The tikka sandwich is my favourite,” says executive pastry chef Leinekugel Godfroy, who took Ladurée to Moscow and Kazakhstan before taking over the Ladurée lab in India five months ago. “At Ladurée we develop new menus for every season and I’m working on a secret India-themed special edition for Diwali.”
Ladurée has a ten-year agreement with the Israni Group and plans to explore diverse models keeping in mind the changing landscape of the F&B industry. “We’re planning to start a premium delivery service soon,” says Karan Israni, co-founder of the group. “But I personally feel that after two years of being at home, people are now raring to go to restaurants. Look around us in Khan Market today; all the restaurants are packed to capacity.” They are also launching Ladurée pastry carts for private events and are working on special gift hampers for the upcoming festive season.
Compared to the original Ladurée store on Rue Royale in Paris, the Delhi space, spread over three floors (the ground floor is just the patisserie) feels expansive. However, like many of its international stores and restaurants, especially the ones in shopping malls, Ladurée Delhi lacks the sense of history that makes this luxury pastry maker, around since 1862, so iconic. For more than its minty, peachy pastels and the ceiling painted with cherubs (no doubt owing their chubbiness to the sweet treats on offer), Ladurée pioneered the concept of salons de thé, Parisian tea rooms that were as much venues for refined conversation as they were places to eat and drink.
Whether Ladurée Delhi will grow into such a venue remains to be seen. But at Rs 300 and only 60 calories a pop for a macaron, Delhiites should ready themselves for a historic sweet that will trim not only their waistlines but their wallets as well.