Where to find some of the best eclairs in London?
Joakim Prat. Photo: courtesy of Joakim Prat
Joakim Prat worked as head pastry chef at some great two and three Michelin starred restaurants (read our last year’s interview with him here) before joining with his partners to open Maitre Choux pastry shop in South Kensington, which, as the name suggests, specialises in choux pastries. And what choux pastries! In a short time they have become known as undoubtedly the best choux creators in the UK - their eclairs, choux and chouquettes are divine! The form of each of them is perfect, the texture and flavour of the pastry itself and the wonderful fillings surpass even the highest expectations. So it’s not surprising that products, even if not cheap, are always sold out before the end of the day. We were curious what the secret of the best choux desserts in town is, so we had a chat with Joakim.
Maitre Choux eclairs. Photo: HdG photography
“My only secret is that I'm still working in the same way as I used to work at Michelin starred restaurants. Every element is freshly made in the last minute: the pastry is freshly baked every morning and creams are infused during the day, minutes before pastries arrive into the hands of customers. Many pastry shops prepare creams and mousses in advance and freeze them, we don’t. We do everything each day from scratch and always carefully select the best ingredients for our creations. Great ingredients and the highest quality pastry work are the only way to guarantee the highest level of products.”
The Maitre Choux chocolate eclair. Photo: HdG Photography
Amongst your wonderful selection of eclairs, is a tempting chocolate eclair. The choux pastry and the filling are both made of chocolate. This eclair was made using Cacao Barry chocolate. Which one and why?
“I'm always trying new chocolates and new recipes in order to get as close as I can to perfection. Right now I'm using the Cacao Barry Tanzanie chocolate 75% for a simple reason: the Tanzanie Origin dark couverture has a perfect balance of acidity and intense cocoa bitterness, lifted by wonderful floral notes.”
The inside of Maitre Choux chocolate eclair. Photo: HdG Photography
Flavours are perfectly balanced between the bitterness and sweetness, beautifully intense without being heavy. Is there a special secret behind it?
“The secret is in good processing by following the recipe, good equilibrium of flavours, choosing the best products and lots of love. :) ”
You have been testing a few different chocolate options before creating the ultimate chocolate eclair. What has this process taught you?
“I learned that even if you love different types of chocolate you have to choose one that works best for your recipe: for chocolate cream filling it needs the perfect flavour, colour, texture and the right strength and intensity.”
Do you create flavours based on your personal taste or based on the desires of the customer?
“I always start with what I love, but I adapt the recipe a bit in order to please as many people as I can. Everybody has different expectations, a different palate and a love of different things, so what’s most difficult is to make everybody happy ... Maybe the type of chocolate I love would be too strong and too bitter for you or other way around.”
The inside of Maitre Choux eclairs. Photo: HdG Photography
What is the main difference between what you prefer and what customers want?
“I see the main difference in combinations of flavours. I worked for a very long time in Michelin starred restaurants and I always loved to make unusual or unexpected combinations. Here I can’t play with such unusual flavours as much as I used to - our customers prefer more classical flavours and are not always ready to discover less usual flavour combinations. At Michelin starred restaurants it’s different - people who visit those restaurants are more adventurous and happy to be surprised, to pastry shop instead they come with certain expectations. Also, at a pastry shop they choose with their eyes while at restaurants they choose by reading the menu, not by the look of the product. So at Maitre Choux the visual very strongly influences the choice, while at a restaurant you have no idea how your dish will look until it comes to your table, so surprises are part of the game …”
Any new chocolate choux or eclair planned?
“Of course! New flavour for chocolate lovers will be caramel coconut and chocolate velvet eclair.”
We are very much looking forward to try it!
If the Maitre Choux shop in South Kensington is too far for you, you may be lucky to get their wonderful eclairs also at Fortnum and Mason’s and at Chiltern Firehouse - until they are sold out!