Ladurée in Soho
Most people go to Ladurée for the macarons – sweet, meringue-based confections – but the restaurant/tea room has always been the draw for me. Located throughout Paris, the restaurant/tea rooms (as illustrated below) are the perfect place for lunch or a late afternoon pick-me-up but since I don’t live in Paris, my visits have been limited…until recently.
Two years ago, Ladurée opened its first US retail store on Madison Avenue in New York (they’ve since opened up another storefront in Miami Beach) but the long-awaited Ladurée restaurant and tea room (illustrated above) just opened this past February in Soho, and looks like the Parisian salon was moved over from Paris.
New Yorkers are a finicky and critical lot and the restaurant/tea room has gotten mixed reviews but I have nothing but great things to say about one of my favorite places to have lunch in the city. The service is warm, friendly (really!) and very attentive, and the food is delicious – but this is not the place to go if you’re in a rush. A meal at Ladurée is meant to be enjoyed in the French tradition, which requires time – something many New Yorkers don’t have, although on my second visit, our plates were cleared too quickly, which I suspect was due to the recent critics citing slow service as a problem.
My idea of a perfect lunch at Ladurée is the Club Champs Elysees: toasts with thin layers of tomato, eggplant, zucchini, pesto, arugula, mozzarella, parmesan, pine nuts, and basil served with their version of French Fries: half-inch thick perfectly fried fresh potatoes, and mesclun salad, followed by warm Tarte Tartin (a French apple tart) or Cake Au Citron (Lemon Cake). Total bliss.
My husband enjoyed the “day’s selection” of grilled lamb chops served with mint jelly, potatoes and vegetables which he declared “excellent” – man of few words that he is. The egg white omelet with fresh crisp green vegetables – asparagus, lima beans, and assorted peas – was the “fluffiest omelet ever” declared another guest at our table who washed it down with a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. The coffee is robust and served steaming hot in individual silver coffee pots with warm milk and assorted sugars. Trés chic.
The menu is extensive and contains options for everyone (including the popular Cream Cheese and Herbs Millefeuille served with mesclun salad for vegetarians, as illustrated above) and although a children’s menu is not offered (most French children eat what everyone else is eating), there are many options including mini burgers, small sandwiches, fruit salad, pastries, eggs, and of course, French Toast).
Don’t think twice about bringing children to this restaurant as little ones are seated in specially designed high chairs and are doted on by the staff. Our table was surrounded on both sides by young children during both my visits in the last few weeks. When two little boys spotted a green garden hose by the water fountain and unrolled it threatening to douse the garden diners, the staff very gently convinced the future firemen to surrender the hose, which brought sighs of relief from the other visitors.
Located at 398 West Broadway between Spring Street and Broome Street, Ladurée is in the heart of Soho and in an area known for its art galleries. Several years ago, the France-based company purchased the building and did a complete renovation turning the first floor into a retail store where the famous macarons are sold, along with two dining rooms: one of which is a light-filled pale green ornate room that looks like Marie Antoinette’s tea room in Versailles.
On a sunny day, the doors of the back dining room open to a beautiful tree-filled garden (which just opened on Mother’s Day) in which visitors may sit at a bar or at one of the many shaded tables to dine or enjoy a pastry such as the Kougloff – a brioche made with rum soaked raisins and perfumed with orange blossom and almonds, as pictured below. Or order a traditional Millefeuille (Praline or Rhum): caramelized puff pastry layered with cream, praline, nuts, or “rhum.” Unfortunately, the strawberry version is not on the American menu….yet.
The restaurant serves breakfast (8:00 am – 11:30), brunch (Saturday, Sunday, and bank holidays), tea, lunch and dinner (Monday – Saturday until 11:00 pm and Sunday until 7:00 pm). After your meal, stop at the retail store up front to take home a box of macarons (pictured below), pastries, or chocolates. The store also sells a beautiful black vinyl insulated large rectangular shopping bag for $27 – $30 (depends on the cashier).
To make reservations (highly recommended), use www.opentable.com or call 855-523-8733. Photos: Ladurée