Friday, February 12, 2010

Eclairs: the new cupcakes?

There's nothing a food writer likes more than the sniff of a new food trend so when my colleague Scandilicious sent me a link to a write-up of an eclair tea at a new hotel called The Arch I knew we had to get down there double quick.

Their eclair menu had apparently been suggested by the guys at Gorgeous Group who are consultants to the bar and included savoury as well as sweet variations. I'm ashamed to say we ordered the lot - purely in the interests of research you understand - and proceeded to scoff our way through them.

Highspots were the Crab and crème fraîche eclair and the Strawberry and Veuve Clicquot eclair (presumably London's first sponsored eclair as it was offered paired with a glass of Veuve Clicquot). I couldn't pick up the champagne in the splendidly kitsch pink filling and thought they might as well have gone for broke by serving pink champagne but it was appealingly fresh and summery. A perfect Valentine's tea if you could get over there on Sunday though given the time it took for our eclairs to arrive I'm not sure how they'd cope with a rush.

Attempting to sharpen our critical faculties under the sugary onslaught, we also rated the Chocolate and Green Tea eclair (though reckoned they could have upped the matcha), quite liked the Coconut and Kaffir Lime Leaf one (nice idea - not quite enough coconut) but thought the Amalfi Lemon and Biscotti and White Chocolate and Violet ones were unnecessarily encumbered by their chewy biscuitty toppings (the lemon one,as you can see above, inexplicably imprinted with an image of Van Gogh's sunflowers). Sig also tried the foie gras and Sauternes eclair (I don't eat foie gras) which she said was terribly rich.

Possibly they're just trying a bit too hard. Part of the appeal of eclairs is the contrast between the crisp pastry (full marks on that score), creamy filling and shiny icing. They didn't really need all the extra bits and pieces and could have just had a great range of multi-coloured eclairs Pierre Hermé macaron-style. (Just to verify that we swung by Selfridges to check them out ;-).

Still all credit for being the first (so far as I know) to do them and for relieving us from the tyranny of cupcakes. I'm sure they'll catch on.

A final thought. The bar is actually a bit corporate and masculine for such a frivolous tea. I'm not sure they don't need an eclair boudoir. Painted pink, natch.

We ate at the Martini Bar as guests of The Arch.



  1. Such a great idea, an eclair boudoir! Agree, the martini library (though a wonderful name) was a bit corporate. Can so see this eclair afternoon tea taking off, thanks for asking me along yesterday :)

  2. Probably a bit corporate, because that is their intended clientele. Sounds excellent though, I would love to try some of those.

  3. Savoury eclairs - weird and wonderful! I agree that they seem to be lacking the glossy icing. I wonder if it'll catch on!

  4. Actually you can make them quite easily yourself, Verity. Just make profiteroles and fill them with a savoury filling (though obviously icing would be less good with fish ;-)

    Sure you're right about the clientele Luigi but eclairs are quite girly - particularly with all those bits and bobs on top.

    Scandilicious and I will report other sightings . . .

  5. I guess their savoury eclairs are simply some clever ideas for choux fillings but making the choux buns in the traditional sweet eclair shape.

    I love eclairs, but have never been a fan of the cupcake craze, so perhaps shall have to check it out. Will add to my ever-growing list!

    Thanks for the report and heads up!

  6. Fiona, I love eclairs simply for their classic sweet cream filling (or even better creme patissiere) and dark chocolate icing. However, I think to take this further and adapt it to other things is going a bit too far and in my opinion a bit 'gimmicky'. The best thing about an eclair is that it's a lovely simple afternoon tea kind of treat. I don't think it is necessary to make it so elaborate. Foie gras and Sauternes eclair? For me, this is not what an eclair should be about.

  7. I definitely approve of savoury eclairs, and savoury cake too. I am really not a fan of sweet cream filled confections, but the thought of a smoked salmon & cream cheese or crab & creme fraiche? Delicious!