The simplicity of an éclair – South Kensington

When I was studying at Imperial College a few years ago, one of my favourite guilty pleasures was the Hummingbird Bakery, a little American-style cupcakery just off the station. By the time I was introduced to the bakery by a friend, however, it was already fairly popular, commercially successful and well on its way to open two branches in the Middle East. Even if you’re a tourist or local who prefers quaint, home-grown charms and would be put off by the popularity, I’d still suggest visiting Hummingbird Bakery. But for that cosier experience, you may want to make a trip to their first bakery, nestled in Notting Hill.

If you’re in South Kensington, though, I’d like to introduce another favourite for two years running: Maitre Choux, which offers specialty éclairs with an assortment of teas and coffee. Decorated with attention and finesse and signed delicately by the pastry chef – multi-award winner Joakim Prat – these beautiful éclairs – lined in the shop windows and on the counter – are a feast for the eyes. The shop interior is minimalist and white, and so these colourful éclairs speak for themselves. (For a photographer, however, it’s hard to compose wider shots, as there are always pedestrians walking around, peering through the window, gawking at the sheer exquisiteness of it all.)

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From left to right: Coffee Eclair (Jamaica Blue Mountain); Spanish Rasberry Pink Eclair; Hazelnut and Milk Chocolate Treasure; Very Dark Multi-origin Chocolate Eclair; Tahitian Vanilla and Pecan Eclair

A popular favourite has to be the Persian Pistachio cream, but chocolate is my Achilles’ heel, so if you too have a weakness for chocolate, definitely try the Very Dark Multi-origin Chocolate Éclair (Reves Intenses De Chocolat), which is light choux, filled with airy whipped cream and topped with decadent dark chocolate – a triptych of earthly delights.

Salted Butter Caramel Maitre Choux South Kensington

The staff at Maitre Choux are lovely hosts and will guide you through the assortment of éclairs. There is limited seating, but I recommend sitting down to catch a breath and really appreciate the vibrant patisserie with a slow cup of coffee; in fact, I’d even suggest strolling around the neighbourhood and coming back when seating is available. I’m yet to see someone camp out with a laptop, so it could take just about twenty minutes to find a vacant seat.

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Eating at a nice patisserie or a beloved local restaurant has to be part of my trip to a new place, however short the time duration. I know South Kensington is quite overwhelming with three museums a stone’s throw away, each of which can take up a day on its own, but if you’re running short of time, there’s no harm in cutting short a trip to a museum (the art fiend in me would skip the science museum, but that’s just me), and tick off Maitre Choux on your visit to ‘South Ken’!

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