Fine cuisine is one of the cornerstones of French culture, and travelers looking for a rare and satisfying meal can do no better than lunch as Mariage Frères.
While visiting Paris, a trip to Mariage Frères tea emporium is an absolute must. Their teas are superb and the selection fantastic. Their aromatic teas are unparalelled in the world. They have been copied, but never equalled. And though the prices may be a more than you would normally expect to pay for tea at the supermarket, the difference is as great as that between Folgers and Starbuck’s espresso.
They have several locations in Paris, but only two not only purvey the teas, but also have tea rooms that serve lunch - brunch on Sunday. The Left Bank restaurant is upstairs from the shop; the Right Bank restaurant is downstairs. The rooms are cheerful French country rustic, welcoming and comfortable.
The dishes are all built around tea flavors, using them to add savory notes to dishes much in the way of spices or herbs.
Since the flavors of tea rise subly and play delicately on the palate, the dishes are often straightforward. Fish is a favorite base, and vegetables are simply prepared, whether steamed or sauteed, keeping their flavor pure so that the tea can blend and shade it.
For Americans tired of the elaborate sauces and complex concoctions, a lunch at Mariage Frères is like a cool breeze after a muggy day. The simplicity of the recipes demand the absolute highest quality ingredients. This is a decidely French kitchen where you could take both the fussiest child or gourmet adult and be sure to find something they would eat happily.
One of the dishes we enjoyed during out meal at Mariage Frères’ Faubourg St. Honoré shop was a salmon tartare prepared with a green Matcha tea. I confess that I have never really enjoyed raw fish, though I have tried many different kinds of sushi and sashimi. Another member of our party insisted that she didn’t like salmon in any form. When the dish arrived, I tried it out of obligation and was delighted. The texture was fresh and the flavor delicate. I enjoyed it so much that my companion who dislikes salmon felt the urge to give it a taste for the experience. She took a bite and then another and declared that while she didn’t like salmon, she loved this dish.
It is not only the main dishes that are flavored with teas. The mashed potatoes with green tea was superb. Fortunately, Mariage Frères sells tea-flavored salts and powders in the shop so you can experiment in your own kitchen when you return.
The drink to accompany these meals is of course, tea. When the first Mariage Frères tea room opened in 1986, its goal was to show how tea, like wine, could accompany the varying shapes of a meal with its own complementary palette of taste. Each dish calls for a different type of tea, which means the waiters are trained like wine stewards to know how a given tea will enhance the flavor of a dish or dessert. Each order of tea is brewed on the order, allowed to steep at the perfect temperature for the kind of tea for the number of minute calculated to deliver the optimum flavor. Only then is it brought to the table.
The desserts deserve special mention. Mariage Frères invented the tea-flavored chocolates and jellies now found all over the world. Likewise, they led the way in innovating the creation of tea-flavored pastries such as the Earl Grey madeleines. In addition, there are a selection of tea sorbets.
The lunch dishes are moderately priced for fine French food. Entrées run from 20-30 euros. The desserts are all priced the same at 11 euros. The pots of tea are for the most part 8 euros, though special teas may cost more.
For those traveling in Paris who want to experience a superb truly French meal, to enjoy a eating experience unique in the world, and yet to want to dine confident that all members of their party will find something to their liking, then a lunch at Mariage Frères is a must for your next trip to Paris.
Mariage Frères Tea Room and Restaurant
13 rue des Grands-Augustins, Paris 6e
Phone : +33(0)1 40 51 82 50
260 Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris 8e
Phone : +33(0)1 46 22 18 54
Lunch from 12-3 Afternoon Tea from 3-7
Open 7 days a week