SIMPLY MAROU-LLOUS!



How lucky can you get! That’s what A-Gent of Style thought when he came across his new topic yesterday in Fortnum & Mason. Three of his favourite hobbies – travel, food and design – encompassed in one product. Result.

As I was walking around the ground floor, I was suddenly drawn to the brilliant and colourful packaging and arresting artwork of Marou Faiseurs de Chocolat chocolate bars. Their visual identity is striking: colonial-like, art-deco graphics mixed with a panoply of vibrant colours and antique gold lettering that evoke nostalgia and exoticism.


Marou Faiseurs de Chocolat
are artisan chocolate makers based in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam who have created the first single origin gourmet bean-to-bar chocolate to come out of the country. Marou was founded over a year ago now by two adventurous Frenchmen who decided to use the small amounts of cacao beans harvested, fermented and dried on small family farms throughout the Mekong Delta and southern highlands of Vietnam, to make an extraordinary chocolate. Thankfully the country’s cocoa beans have been enjoying something of a revival in recent years.



The geographical location of the farm and its soil determine the characteristics of the cacao beans and therefore the flavour of the chocolate. Each bar is named after the province where it’s beans originated and ascribed a natural colour-shift from a greatly inspirational spectrum of hues. Deep vermillion to ochre yellow, grass green, midnight blue, and flushes of peacock aqua all appear.


The packaging is strongly linked to Vietnam: beautiful ceremonial papers that are still produced by artisanal printers in Cho Lon, the old Chinese quarter of Saigon, are hand printed with intricate traditional lattice patterns. Inspired by this illustration style, Rice Creativethe brilliant design studio responsible for Marou’s look, have hand drew their own original chocolate oriented ornaments of cacao pods, flowers and leaves, throwing in some heavenly looking clouds for the tropical monsoon. Their custom lattice pattern keeps a traditional look and creates a framework to incorporate some modernist typography, inspired by the old signage still found around the country. They also use the traditional silk-screen printing techniques to hand print the design in antique gold ink on each wrapper.


I now wished Marou had existed when I toured mesmerising Vietnam a couple of years ago. I now have to console myself in unwrapping those dark chocolate bars…Have a great weekend everyone!

 

“A LONDONER IN PARIS”: LADUREE’S NEW COURTISAN





Another day in Paris, another stroll, another district, another discovery, another inspiration…

This time A-Gent of Style was en route to the 1st arrondissement, rue Castiglione (round the corner from the bejewelled Place Vendôme and the shopping-spree heaven of Rue Saint-Honoré), for des chocolats (recurring theme, I know). But not any chocolates. Ladurée. And more precisely, Les Marquis de Ladurée. And what is special about them is that ALL their edible delicacies are made of chocolate. Sinfully finger-licking good, n’est-ce pas?


I was warmly welcomed in this sumptuous chocolaterie by Jonathan the manager who told me that Les Marquis de Ladurée is a brand new gourmet project by Ladurée (internationally renowned for their trend-setting macarons) and that it is their first and unique boutique in the world (so far – they will branch out internationally in the near future and might too go viral)



The attention to detail here is second to none:

Firstly, the chocolates, macaroons, patisseries et gourmandises of course which are perfectly constructed and executed



then the packaging with their ravishing collectable boxes




and also the interior decoration: an impressive library surrounds the big counter which front is completely made out of Carrara white marble. To emphasize its elegance, the counter is generously adorned with drapes and magnificient “Marquis” profile medallions and silver-leaf rococo shells atop small acanthus-leaves pedestals.



The decor is still inspired by the refined and regal French 18th C aesthetics of Louis XV but this time the new label has an edgier side. An imposing Murano-glass chandelier gives the space a more contemporary touch and a more masculine vibe with its grey-and-silver palette, compared to its pastel-coloured, Marie-Antoinette-inspired counterpart Ladurée. The understated yet elaborate silver and off-white painted ceiling adds to this effect as much as the stylish polished white metal lampshades on pewter brackets and posts.


IMG_1720


What I particularly liked was the walls covered in white plaster (they are actually panels) and their delicate and elaborate rococo patterns of foliage with their ubiquitous signature medallion. Brownie point here for the emphasis on artisanal craftmanship. Très chic.



I also liked the informal dark grey marble-topped kitchen island-cum-demonstration table at the back of the boutique with its fancy kitchen gadgets.


For a guaranteed pleasure of the eyes and tastebuds, make sure you include a visit to Les Marquis de Ladurée next time you are in the area!

Needless to say A-Gent of Style obliged to taste one  a few of their delicacies. Purely for the sake of research…


 NB: Éclairs are the new macarons. You heard it here first!

 

SPRINGALICIOUS



A zingy and citrussy cake to celebrate spring! Finally! Bon appétit and Happy Sunday!

This Tunisian citrus and almond cake is from one of my favourite recipe books: Tangerine Dream Café, a Year in The Chelsea Physics Garden

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