the most incroyable creme brûlée i had was in Paris eight years ago
in Amelie’s cafe
where else would you go in Paris to have that epitome of all that is good in life?
you know of course that creme brûlée is all about cracking the crust. and so, in order for the crust to be perfectly broken, with a sharp snap before your spoon melts into the soft luscious seductive custard underneath, it has to be absolutely perfectly caramelised. too much and its hard and burnt. too little and it will crumble like sad wet sand. and you will only ever know if the crust is perfect by tapping it with your spoon. i think just like making a perfect omelette, the ability to
perfectly caramelise a brûlée should be a test of a great chef
the cafe looks just like the movie* in fact it was shot there. we all want to be Amelie, writing on the glass partition while falling in love with nino, melting into a puddle on the floor, dipping our hands into sacks of legumes, travelling the world with a gnome, doing random acts of kindness. and finally cracking the crust of a most succulent creme brûlée. the brûlée at Amelie’s cafe is like the sticky date pudding at Doyles - you just can’t find the good stuff easily, and boy have i been searching
and now here i am, eight years later, in dubai, in a random cafe sitting in the conservatory, on a friday morning, skeptically ordering
“the orange creme brûlée please”
half an hour later (half an hour) it arrives. a generous portion, with an almost translucent dehydrated orange slice and a lovely long rectangular stick of sugar-sprinkled shortbread, an intriguing crust and the delicious perfume of orange and vanilla and caramel
i pick up my spoon, tap the crust. frown. tap it again. tap. tap. it can’t be can it? the perfect crust. can it? where have i landed?
i break it. it cracks perfectly into shards. my spoon dips. i taste. and taste again.
the sugary caramelised crust for texture and burnt sweetness, the minuscule orange bits for fresh tangy-sweetness, the perfume of the dehydrated orange slice, the puddingy custard that held its shape yet wobbled.
i started writing this blog as i was delicately demolishing it, but i will finish writing later. you see, there is a very special final shard of beautiful brûlée - which reminds me of the stained glass windows in Sainte Chapelle - to slowly savour and disappear into elysian bliss
*in fact, it is my most favourite movie of all time