World-famous Parisian patisserie chef Cedric Grolet will open a London boutique at the Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge in early 2022. Grolet, who is best known for his trompe-l’œil fruits which aim to both emulate their natural equivalents and go beyond them, had teased a shot of him in the city to his 2 million followers on his Instagram page on Sunday 3 October, posing on a tube platform in front of a Hyde Park Corner London Underground sign.
In a departure from his strategy in Paris, the new space — a patisserie “theatre” whose capacity is bolstered by an adjacent 60-seat cafe — will serve both his optically dazzling fruits and ornately decorated “flowers.” His two current shop windows in the French capital, by contrast, aptly reflect his balance between French tradition and more avant-garde patisserie. Where the Opera space has seating, dynamically transitions between breakfast, lunch, and snacking, and brings a haut-precise soft luxuriousness to traditional viennoiserie, his “Le Meurice” boutique on Rue de Castiglione — yards from the Tuileries — is an angular, minimalist showroom devoted nearly entirely to putting his fruits on a white marble pedestal.
Changing with the seasons, his boutique currently offers pine nuts, figs, cacao pods, quinces, and a young Thai coconut. Each is composed of various textures and forms of its imitation, raw and cooked, with the quince, for example, comprising a molten middle made from jellied quince stock, infused with the peels and seeds of the fruit; quince dice cooked in the quince stock, half of which have been candied; a quince marmalade made without sugar; and a mousse infused with quince paste. Grolet is known for using as little sugar as he can, up to the limits imposed by its role in leavening, retaining moisture, and stabilising mixes.
These photogenic patisserie — and his equally famous “Rubik’s cube” cake — are likely to wow Londoners. Where Grolet may find a challenge is in entering a city where paying as much as €17 for a single item is not even close to the norm, and the appreciation of patisserie tradition and innovation is not as embedded in the eating culture. But with Philippe Conticini having made his return, and both Grolet and Yann Couvreur on their way, perhaps that will begin to change.