Second Chances

For the past several years, I’ve avoided Mariage-Frères in the Marais. Last time I was there, a friend who had just arrived from the states had to go there immediately for tea. As the afternoon wore on, he began the usual jet-lag wilt (I can mimic the facial expressions, complete with nodding-back head, but I can’t describe the feeling adequately at the moment.)
The best description that comes to mind–“Your body arrives one day…and your soul arrives a few days later.”


As my friend faded into oblivion, I unsuccessfully tried to signal one of the linen-clad waiters for l’addition. At Mariages-Frères, the waiters have perfected and refined the art of avoiding the customers gaze. So we waited and waited and waited. That was my last visit.

But last week a non-jet-lagged friend asked to meet me her there for tea, and I thought why not give it another chance? Three years is a long time to hold a grudge against something that’s a Paris institution.
Our rendez-vous was mid-afternoon, and the tea salon was calm and the servers were graceful and accommodating. I had a perfectly brewed pot of green Sencha tea along with a rather good wedge of tarte layered with fresh raspberries topped with a black tea chiboust.


In the grand tradition of tea time, we imbibed in small cakes as well: a lovely, moist financier scented with green matcha tea and a madeline with a subtle bit of Earl Grey tea leaves.


30-35, rue du Bourg-Tibourg
Métro: St. Paul

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  • June 11, 2005 1:10pm

    Call me a tourist. I love that place!

    I actually had a bit of an encounter with a waiter there. I had asked for lemon for Lee’s tea and the waiter indignantly huffed at me–you ordered apricot tea! No, a SLICE of lemon. Ok said the waiter with a hrumph. So I know what you mean about the service…

  • June 12, 2005 6:43am

    Oftentimes things become touristy because they’re good (Laduree), and other times, they are resting on fragile laurels! (Angelina). When I told my Parisian friends I went back to Mariage Freres, they replied ‘tres snob’…and in fact, Mariage Freres has a ‘snob salad’ on their menu-who says the French don’t have a sense of humor?

  • June 14, 2005 2:00am

    Hi David:

    It was great to read about your re-introduction/seduction at
    Freres. I was just in France, mainly in the South, sampling
    at every bakery from
    Avignon to Loumarin to Marseille. Do you have a reliable recipe
    for American ingredients? I have found most US recipes too dry and lacking in the ” almondy” density found in French pastries.

    (P.S. I have made your Almond cake many times– last night
    again- as strawberries are at their peak here in CA.)

    Best wishes,

    Hi Maria:
    I love the financiers at Poujarin bakery, and the recipe is in Patricia Wells’ book, The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris. Their financiers are the best in the world…and you’ll know why when you see how much butter is in them. Try them, I think you’ll agree. David