Monday 22 April 2013

Where to buy French macarons in Dublin: French Foodie and MR. FFID’s ranking

Firstly, what is a macaron? It’s a French confectionary made of a meringue shell with a buttercream or ganache filling. They’re colourful and come in many flavours, you even find savoury ones these days.

They originally appeared in France during the Renaissance when Catherine de Medicis brought some Italian pastry chefs with her into the country.

In the last decade, a Macaron-mania has developed in France and this elegant sweet treat, once mainly sold by luxurious food brands invaded every single bakery and even supermarket in France.

So, can we find real French macarons in the Irish capital? Mr. FFID and yours truly did a Dublin Macaron marathon, picked up a pistachio macaron and another flavour just to make sure (not because we’re gluttons) from 6 different locations in the city centre that sell French macarons.  We judged the macarons and marked them following 4 different criteria: look, texture, taste and value.  

Here’s our ranking:

Cocoa Atelier is a chocolate and macaron boutique on Drury street, this place looks a lot like the shops you find in Paris. It was the only shop where they didn’t have a pistachio flavoured macaron when we visited. I’ve seen pistachio macarons there before, and in fairness they actually stood out for their wide choice including some unique flavours: nougat, rose, gingerbread… We decided to judge their Gingerbread macaron since their passion fruit one arrived broken. I noticed that their macaron’s shells are more delicate and therefore more breakable than any other place: a pity! The passion fruit macaron deserved a 10/10 for its flavour!
Our verdict:
Look 8/10: regular shape, smooth shell
Texture 9/10: Lovely light and melt in the mouth texture, nice contrast between the crunchy shell and soft filling
Taste 9/10: Not too sweet, beautiful gingerbread aftertaste, divine
Value 7/10: €1.60 for a macaron, small and not cheap
Total 33/40

We like: Their pretty window display and their elegant shop
We like less: The macarons break easily (passion fruit macaron tasted simply amazing but arrived home broken despite our care).

Armelle’s Kitchen is a cake shop based in Kilcullen where French native Armelle and her Scottish husband Kenny sell their homemade baked goods. They deliver their macarons once a week to different stockists in Dublin city centre. We bought a pack of 2 pistachio macarons in Fresh Grand Canal, they also had vanilla, lemon and raspberry.  I had them before and the vanilla flavour would be my second favourite of their range.
Look 6/10: The biggest macaron and while a little irregular was the most homemade looking (Although the other flavours seemed to look perfectly smooth)
Clear green colour, filling looked creamy, didn’t look as breakable as some
Texture 8/10: The filling is very creamy and buttery (probably makes it the most suitable for Irish palates), very good contrast between the hard shell and soft inside
Taste 8/10: A delicious pronounced taste of almond and leaves a good pistachio aftertaste
Value 8/10: €2.99 for a pack of 2. Very good value considering its size and taste
Total 30/40

We like: The macarons are hand made in a small Irish business and the packaging is handy (macarons least likely to break)
We like less: Only a few flavours are available in Dublin city centre

The only real French bakery of Dublin’s city centre sells croissants, pains au chocolats, many pastries and French macarons bien sur! They’re small and there isn’t a huge choice, plus many had a cracked shell. We bought a pistachio macaron and a chocolate one: the pistachio was much better and creamier.
Our verdict
Look 7.5/10: Small, good colour but lost points because they were cracked like many others in the display. The filling looked appetising and creamy.
Texture 7/10: A little chewy but not dry at all, nicely creamy inside and perfect shell texture
Taste 6.5/10: Good pistachio flavour and good nuance of flavours between the almond and the pistachio.
Value 9/10: €0,90 Paris Bakery’s macarons are very good value, it’s the cheapest but overall doesn’t disappoint.
Total: 30/40

We like: The price and also all the amazing other cakes we saw in the display.
We like less: Many of their macarons had broken shells

Laduree is one of, if not the biggest macaron brand. This luxurious French company have many boutiques and tea rooms worldwide. In Dublin this is the place where you find the biggest choice of flavours. Their gorgeous packaging make them a perfect gift for any macaron lover. They’re the most expensive and as they are made in France they travel all the way here. Unfortunately we were sold slightly stale macarons, something I didn’t expect, they lost many points because of this. Sacrebleu Laduree!
Our verdict
Look 7/10: Pale green, misshaped in comparison to the others, the filling didn’t look creamy and looked like it could be dry
Texture 5/10: The shell cracked nicely at first bite but then it felt like an old and dry macaron (lost many points because of this)
Taste 8/10: Really tasted like pistachio and the flavour was very well balance with the almond.
Value 5/10: €1.75 The most expensive and these macarons were a bit old to be sold!
Total 25/40

We like: The pretty gift boxes 
We like less:  Macarons were a bit stale

This continental bakery located in Grand Canal sells many different kinds of bread, appetising cakes and also is a café. We salivated at the sight of many of their products but focused on their macarons. They didn’t have much choice of flavours so we got a pistachio and a chocolate one.
Our verdict
Look 9/10: Small but the most perfect looking of the lot, nice colour and the filling looked moist and the shell very smooth.
Texture 2/10: Very hard and dry shell unfortunately, dry filling and chewy texture
Taste 3/10:  Tasted like sugar more than pistachio (the chocolate one wasn’t any better)
Value 2/10:  €1.20 They looked so good and it’s such as shame they didn’t taste as good as they looked
Total 16/40

We like: The bakery had many beautiful breads and cakes on display
We like less: Their macarons really weren’t that good

It’s quite surprising that food heaven Fallon and Byrne don’t sell fresh macarons. I love the shop and usually find everything I want but their only macarons are either frozen (not available the day we visited) or the ones we bought: ‘Les Macarons de Pauline’. Well, I didn’t expect much from this pack of 6 macarons, although the packaging was cute. They aren't good, the frozen ones are better but not sold all the time.
Our verdict
Look 9/10: Perfect shape, nice dark green. Filling looking shiny and smooth shell
Texture 2/10:  Crumbly, dry and very artificial texture for the filling
Taste 1/10:  Didn’t taste like a good macaron, Mr. FFID couldn’t finish it, it’s a sign!
Value 0/10: €6.45 for a pack of 6. A waste of money, we couldn’t buy less than 6 and threw them away after 1!
Total 12/40

We like: The cute packaging
We like less: The macarons

So these are our rankings, it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it!  I'd usually place Ladurée as number 1 but we based our ranking on the day we tasted all the macarons. They weren't as good as they usually are. I regularly buy Ladurée and Armelle's Kitchen macarons but I should really go to Cocoa Atelier more often as they are outstanding. I'd buy some in Paris Bakery again but I'd be more tempted to buy their other amazing looking pastries. I wouldn't bother buying macarons in Il Valentino or  in Fallon and Byrne, they have better stuff to spend your money on.

Which ones have you tasted? What is your favourite place for French macarons?

*Le Petit Parisien didn't have any and Hansel and Gretel Bakery was closed (not sure if they sell any)

*Related blog entries
Paris Bakery here
Cocoa Atelier here
Armelle's Kitchen here