The Ritz name is widely associated with ultimate luxury, especially in Paris and London. The Ritz Paris has just reopened after 4 years of refurbishment and serves an afternoon tea “à la Française” featuring many French cakes and Madeleines inspired by the works of famous novelist Marcel Proust.
The Setting ★★★★★
The legendary Ritz is located on the prestigious place Vendôme, in the heart of Paris’s first district. The hotel has always been a pioneer in the business of luxury and is still considered as a jewel of high-end hospitality, both in France and abroad. Marcel Proust came to the opening party in 1898 and wrote part of “In search of lost time” while staying at the hotel. Coco Chanel lived there and Hemingway claimed to have personally liberated the hotel at the end of world war two.
The hotel has remained faithful to its original baroque 18th style . I recommend taking a stroll in the hotel corridors, galleries and inner court in order to get a proper grasp of the Ritz’s revamped splendour.
The Ritz Paris (by day)
The Ritz Paris (by night)
The winter days are short, so the sun will set before the end of afternoon tea. This is a good opportunity to admire the Christmas decorations, which are especially stunning in the inner court.
The Salon Proust
The Ritz afternoon tea is served in the Salon Proust. The whole Salon is dedicated to the writer and many of his books are prominently displayed in the salon’s bookcases. The Limoges porcelain tableware has been designed in partnership with “Maison Haviland”. Each dish is decorated with a golden Madeleine, a reference to the famous “Proust’s Madeleine moment”, when the narrator of “In search of lost time” tastes a Madeleine dipped in tea and then recaptures memories of his childhood.
The setting is peaceful and relaxing. Marcel Proust had a table in a corner of the Salon from which he could observe the Parisian high society. He enjoyed watching without being seen to gain inspiration for his writing.
The Tea & Beverage Selection ★★★★★
There is a large choice of teas to choose from, with 35 teas of each kind: black, green, white, pu’erh, oolong, infusions as well as the hotel’s blends, connoisseur teas and Christmas aromatic blends all selected by the chef and his team. The staff is very careful with the tea brewing process: water, temperature, tea quantity… All has been thoroughly tested by the Ritz Paris tea sommelier for a perfect brew, and connoisseur teas are made using the gong fu cha process for the delight of tea aficionados.
I recommend the “Ritzy Earl grey” hotel blend, an excellent combination of “Earl Grey” and of the precious white tea “Yin Zhen”. The blend is remarkable, the Earl Grey’s orange-like flavour of bergamot really pairs well with the Yin Zhen’s soft sweet taste.
The “Pear Belle-Hélène” hot chocolate is marvellous: it is made with Venezuelan chocolate and served with cocoa grated almonds, small pieces of poached pears, dark chocolate shavings as well as whipped cream and milk to soften the drink (to taste).
As was the pastry chef’s intention, it is a dessert on its own. I recommend resisting the urge of starting with the hot chocolate as it will take away your appetite. This may prove difficult for you and even more so after watching the presentation video (in French):
“Tea à la Française” includes only one drink, which is unusual for an afternoon tea of this calibre. You can ask for a refill but you will have to pay between 15 and 22€ extra if you want to try out a different drink. As always in such situations, I recommend that each guest orders a different beverage to share.
The tea ends with a complimentary tea sample (we got the “Rooibos Vendôme”), packaged in a gorgeous box. You will be able to take a memento of your time in the Salon Proust home and “put on the Ritz” again in your own living room.
The Madeleines ★★★★☆
The pastry chef François Perret wanted to make his afternoon tea a unique “goûter à la française” so there are no sandwiches , a concept which relies exclusively on French cakes and sweets.
The writings of Marcel Proust have strongly influenced this afternoon tea. The Madeleine de Proust is the pastry chef’s main source of inspiration and is reminiscent of childhood memories.The tea starts with a Madeleine which is also an amuse-bouche, followed by a second one which is brought later to the table.
The first Madeleine is served in a cup. It has been soaked in clove-infused milk for 24h at a low temperature. The taste is powerful and refreshing for a perfect mise-en-bouche.
The second Madeleine is lily shaped and brought during the afternoon tea. It is made of roasted cocoa gruel, which gives it a powerful taste. I recommend eating this towards the end of the afternoon tea.
The Biscuits & Petits-Fours ★★★★☆
The Traditional Biscuits
The teacup which is placed at the top of the cake stand contains several traditional French biscuits which are even more delicious if you dip them in tea, coffee or hot chocolate.
The Cigarette Russe (third picture below) and Chocolate Boudoir are the tastiest, especially if you dip them in hot chocolate. Do not bother with good manners: the pastry chef encourages you to do so!
The Christmas Biscuits
The saucer contains typical Christmas biscuits which are meant to remind you of your childhood.
Everything is delicious but the citrus biscuit and marshmallow biscuits are truly scrumptious , with a powerful and yet soft taste.
The Christmas Sweets ★★★★☆
The theme requires simplicity, both in taste and appearance. No extravagant creamy cakes, no whimsical and colourful glaze, no excessive amounts of sugar… Simpler is better!
The lower part of the cake stand is dedicated to Christmas flavours: Brioche bread with cocoa beans, The chef’s marble cake, Gingerbread with quince jelly, Candied clementine and many other cakes. The video below lists the full content of the Christmas afternoon tea (unfortunately in French):
I especially enjoyed the Sweet tart made with Bresse cream, as Bresse is the home region of pastry chef François Perret and therefore his own “Proust’s Madeleine moment”. The pink praline meringue served with whipped cream is delicious and light, so perfect to conclude the afternoon tea.
The Service ★★★★★
The adjective “Ritzy” designates ultimate luxury. The Ritz Paris is worthy of its reputation of excellence: this is the best service I ever experienced while having afternoon tea. The staff is professional, courteous and passionate.
Steve is the manager of Salon Proust and will make recommendations if you require help for choosing your beverage. I had not seen such attention to details since enjoying afternoon tea at The Westbury Hotel in Dublin, which is now second place for me in terms of service excellence. I would also like to thank Clément (who presents the afternoon tea in the above video) and Sophie, who were able to answer all my questions no matter how thorough.
The conversation is very interesting and the fact that the pastry chef enjoys explaining the concept of afternoon tea à la française is much appreciated: the service is perfect.
Be careful though, the Ritz attracts a lot of tourists, which forces the staff to monitor the entrance quite thoroughly. Make sure to book in advance since it’s not possible to enter the hotel without a good reason.
Conclusion & Overall Mark ★★★★☆
The newly renovated Ritz Paris is a stunning hotel and serves a delicious Tea à la Française. The pastry chef François Perret has managed to imagine the perfect French version of afternoon tea. The beautiful Salon Proust and excellent service make it all a memorable experience.
However, the choice of not serving savouries may not be suitable for all guests and it may be hard to finish up all the cakes, even if you have a very sweet tooth. It is also regrettable that the priciest afternoon tea in Paris only includes a single choice of beverage.
If the absence of savouries is not a deal breaker for you, the Ritz Paris afternoon tea is a must-try. If you do not enjoy cakes and sweets that much, you may prefer the Bristol afternoon tea, which is closer to the British version and includes savouries and scones.
+: The Ritz Paris, a worldwide institution
+: The exclusive hushed atmosphere of Salon Proust
+: Excellent beverage selection
+: Scrumptious cakes and madeleines
+: Probably the best service in France
-: No savouries
-: Too much sugar
-: Only one choice of beverage per person
-: The most expensive afternoon tea in Paris (68€ per person)
Christmas tea is served from 10/12/2016 to 08/01/2017.
Afternoon Tea à la Française will be served at the same price after the holiday season.