Rue Bonaparte, Paris
Written by Chris Anderson Illustration by Marion Vitus
For French pastry chef Pierre Hermé, Rue Bonaparte has sentimental value – it has a mix of attractions, and its where he opened his first shop.
“I opened on Rue Bonaparte in August 2001,” he says. “I used to have my office above the shop, so I know the street well. It’s an interesting part of the city, with fashion, history, and food. Sometimes I head to Assouline, a very famous bookshop, or to the Louis Vuitton or Cartier boutiques. I have 12 shops in Paris now, but this one is still the busiest. It is less than 40 sq. m, with a pastry kitchen downstairs, but we have more than 500 customers every day.”
Perhaps one reason for the shop’s popularity is the Église St Sulpice nearby – only slightly smaller than Notre-Dame and so the second-largest church in the city. There is a small square in front of it, and Hermé recommends buying a cake from his shop, then taking a seat next to the Fountain of the Four Bishops, looking up at the church architecture.
But the street seems to be a hotspot for historic landmarks. Further down is the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, a very prestigious art school. Open to the public, it houses a huge collection of art, paintings, sculpture, and furniture. “There is a church inside too,” Hermé reveals. “In the past, we have used it to launch one of our collections.”
Naturally, talking to Pierre Hermé, the topic of food is never far away, with one venue here a particular highlight. “Les Deux Magots I like, and its one of the places you can eat our desserts,” he says. “It has a selection of our pastries, and you can also buy sandwiches or croque-monsieurs, then sit on the terrace – opposite the Église St Germain, the oldest church in Paris. But the restaurant is famous, and Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway would come here.”
Hermé reveals that the street still has a connection with famous names today, as a number of French actors call it home. “Pierre Arditi is known for his movies and theatre: he is a good friend and he loves chocolate,” Hermé smiles. “When he sees me, he always says, ‘I have put on weight, I hate you!’ as he likes to be slim for his roles.”
Pastry by Pierre
Pierre Hermé is said to be the greatest pastry chef in France, famous for a wide range of desserts, particularly macarons. His flavour combinations involve such ingredients as rose, lychee, or jasmine, creating intrigue around the globe – he now has 33 stores worldwide, including in Japan and the UK. In May, he opened in Hong Kong, and his first store in the Middle East was launched at Lagoona Mall in Qatar in June. Is he worried about the heat affecting his flavours? “We have a lot of air conditioning,” he smiles.