Angelina Cafe: Paris’s Best Hot Chocolate and more… much more.
Pouty lips and a slinky, slender body — It-Girl allure seems a common birthright for les Parisiennes. I’ve been visiting Paris for scarcely five days, but I’ve already hoofed it from la rive gauche à la rive droite and back again countless times. I’ve walked down a hundred boulevards and climbed dozens of staircases. I must be on the fast track to being a body-double for Marion Cotillard, right? But between me and the lean Parisian figure I crave stands the Angelina Café.
On the Rue de Rivoli, nestled among the posh hotels and chic boutiques opposite the Louvre, lies this guidebook perennial. Of all cafes in Paris, Angelina Cafe Paris is sweets heaven; you may sit down for a proper dejeuner, but dessert is clearly the main event. For every calorie I’ve burned there’s one with my name on it lying in wait within its decadent specialties.
It’s a fairy’s café, romantically and whimsically decorated. A high ceiling, mirrors, gilt frames, and a large pastoral mural make the main dining hall feel spacious. But actually, the seating is quite tight. Packed around me sit weary Louvre walkers, models, and Japanese honeymooners. There are girlfriend-getaway groups of un certain âge wearing newly purchased couture and guilty-pleasure smiles.
I spy a few mother-daughter outings. The little girls sit scanning the room, aware of the specialness of this lunch. Seeing them I feel a sharp, reflexive kick to my homesickness trigger. It’s a weekday afternoon edging toward tea-time, and a queue has formed at the door. You get the feeling this is par for the course here, as the wait staff and mâitre d’ work assiduously, communicating unremittingly, almost dancing around you as desserts and drinks fly from the kitchen; Angelina shows no signs of slowing down.
[pullquote]Paris is about indulgence, joie de vivre, living in the moment, is it not? It’s not about calorie counting or speed walking to burn off your travel experiences. Paris IS indulgence, and this is why I’ve come– to dive in. I’m putting guilt on hold. [/pullquote] One suspects the lunchtime menu is intentionally light. For example, you’ll find gazpacho soup and salads like smoked salmon and Niçoise with balsamic vinaigrette. No one is there for the salad. Not even the models. One delight recommended by so many guidebooks is L’Africain, a fabulously rich hot chocolate drink made nearly legendary here.
Angelina cafe Paris otherwise offers the expected drinks menu, including an airy cappuccino and a down-to-earth espresso. I’ve lost track of how many cups of strong coffee I’ve had today, but I must have at least one more. My fickle palate shies away from L’Africain, which leaves me contentedly focused on my dessert, the Mont Blanc. And it’s almost here.
I can’t help thinking meanwhile that Louvre tickets permit exit and re-entry on the same day. I think I’ll tackle the Mont Blanc as a sweet interlude between galleries next time I come. The damage done at the Angelina, calorically speaking, can probably be burned off by a couple of solid hours of walking around the Louvre’s seemingly endless exhibits. And there’s always the option to peruse its halls while power-walking… What? Wait a minute.
I think I may be going too far. As much as I want that slinky little figure, this is no time to worry about it. Paris is about indulgence, joie de vivre, living in the moment, is it not? It’s not about calorie counting or speed walking to burn off your travel experiences. Paris indulgence, and this is why I’ve come– to dive in. I’m putting guilt on hold.
And there’s no better time for this kind of resolution. With the arrival of my Mont Blanc, my meal at the Angelina has now truly begun. The creation comes elegantly layered: chestnut puree icing, whipped cream, and meringue. As I burrow through the summit and delve my spoon inside to scoop out its whipped cream, I own a guilt-less smile.
I devour its dome and quickly hollow out the mountain until I pierce the meringue bottom, which is crunchy white snow. From peak to base, this dessert has stunned my typically olive-loving, savory-savoring palate. I usually shy away from the sugary delicacies like these, but the meringue is so flavorful I find it easy to forget it’s not much more than a cloud of sugar.
When I look around once again, I feel as though I’ve been lost in a reverie. I observe that there are other desserts being served, but with at least one on each table, the Mont Blanc clearly dominates. Cranking out what must be hundreds each day, the Angelina even sells them from a bright display case at the front of the establishment. The souvenir-loaded take-away section has its own queue and cadre of busy staff.
I can’t help ogling the desserts I didn’t choose on the way out. So many delicacies, so little time. This dreamy café’s other offerings will have to wait until my next visit. Hopefully one day I’ll bring my mother here…or a daughter (even more a pipe dream since I have none as of yet). And as for the calories, the indulgence was worth it—down to the last spoonful. Angelina Cafe, Paris, Rue de Rivoli, 226, across from the Louvre, Metro: Concorde or Tuileries * All photos by Karen Regn © All rights reserved
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