Just a reminder that this post is from a hot chocolate I sipped pre COVID (hence all the lovely crowds with no face masks). I’m writing up some 2019 experiences so that we can travel without travelling.
Angelina’s is a bit like the Eiffel Tower for me. I lived in Paris for 6 years before I went up the Eiffel Tower. I’ve had plenty of picnics in the park next to the Eiffel Tower but just never had a reason, or the desire to join the never-ending line of tourists making their way to the top (I’d go up Montparnasse tower for the view). Angelina’s had a similar queue every time I passed by. It was only years later when I returned to Paris that I walked by one day, saw there was no queue, and decided to finally take a look inside.
Angelina’s is generally considered to be the most famous hot chocolate in Paris. It is located on Rue Rivoli, right across from the stunning Jardin des Tuileries, one of the most beautiful gardens to have a wonder round. The gardens were created by Catherine de’Medici in 1564, who was not only the mother of three French Kings but credited as being the inspiration behind several famous French desserts including macarons and choux pastry. In the summer there is a small ferris wheel in the gardens, just across from Angelina’s actually. It is the most beautiful ride I have ever been on. The views…my gosh…I digress.
I love it when you step off the sidewalk, into a café, look around and find you have suddenly been transported into another world or another time. Europe is full of places like this. The years have blurred together and what was beautiful then still is today. Angelina’s was designed in the Belle Epoque style by famous architect Edouard-Jean Niermans. The décor hasn’t changed since then. Mirrors everywhere, marble tabletops, soft lighting, black and white uniforms. The door opens into a grand entrance with high ceilings, crystal chandeliers and brightly lit windows displaying a selection of their products to have in or take away (including the hot chocolate which you can buy in powder form to make at home).
Opened in 1903 by an Austrian confectioner it wasn’t originally called Angelina but “Rumpelmeyer” (what a name for a café) after his son. It was eventually re-named after his daughter law Angelina. Soon it became an institution with patrons such as Coco Chanel who went every day and was always seated at table 10 (if you are keen to follow in her footsteps) . It was family owned until 1963 and today is owned by a French company who have expanded it with chains across France, Asia, the Middle East, and the US.
The main room is jam packed with tables. The ceiling looks like you are sitting in a gazebo, patches of blue sky showing through (although this one is just for show). The walls have dreamy scenes of the country views from your gazebo. If it wasn’t for all the tourists….so many tourists. Most are devouring a Mont-Blanc, Angelina’s most famous pastry based on a recipe that has remained unchanged since they opened. My heart has already been stolen by my local pastry shop, so I focus solely on the hot chocolate today.
Their hot chocolate is named l’Africain or the African because it has been made, for more than a century, from cocoa from Niger, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire. This where the majority of all cacao is from but Angelina’s has their own special blend to create their “signature flavour”. After some complaints in the US the name was changed at a few of their locations and it is now simply called Chocolat chaud a l’ancienne” which means roughly means hot chocolate made in the traditional way. It is presented in the French style, which I love, with a little ceramic pitcher that holds enough for two cups for you to serve yourself with. There is also a little bowl of unsweetened whip cream to scoop onto your drink.
In terms of sourcing, their “commitments’ page on their website is completely blank and I wasn’t able to find anything in their annual reports so one can only guess. On the surface, it is a beautiful world they have created and, I’ll admit, their hot chocolate was quite nice. Is it the best in the world? No, but I doubt anyone that sits here is disappointment when they leave. I certainly wasn’t. In a city with so many delicious options, ‘best’ isn’t an easy title to grab. It is rich and decadent. Not sure how Coco Channel had one of these every day. I respect that.
After your hot chocolate, venture through the Tuileries and walk along the Seine. One of my favourite little secret spots is just around the corner. Walk through Palais Royal into the yard of the Domaine National du Palais Royal with its striped columns and then into the Jardin du Palais Royal. At the end of the park turn right, and make your way towards the 3rd arrondissement, my old neighbourhood.
Verdict: The most famous of the hot chocolates. 226 Rue Rivoli, Paris, France www.angelina-paris.fr .