Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Embarrassing Dads at french capital of teatime chic, Mariage Freres.

My last visit to The Mariage Freres in the Marais district of Paris was unforgettable. Not because of the Mariage Freres insitution which dates back to the 17th century, nor the wonderfully aloof waiters draped in white frock coats, not even because of the lively bustle emanating from the aristocratic-boho-gay surroundings. This was my first memorable experience of EDS - Embarrassing Dad Syndrome.

ED (Embarrassing Dad) had come to visit me during a six month work placement in the capital of luxe. My daily uniform was a British take on the Jean Seberg in Paris look, pearls and twin set to boot. This contrasted with ED’s take on British style- flat cap, holey tweed jacket and trousers fitting a la Simon Cowell. Marching into the hushed tones of the Mariage Freres salon, ED yelled ‘ooh int this lovely and posh!’ and plonked himself down.

I winced and brought the menu up above my face. I ordered an iced version of the Peach tea and suggested to ED to point at the tea of his choice with true teenage daughter condescension. He looked up at me, bewildered by the pages upon pages of tea on offer and asked for me to get something as close to Yorkshire tea as possible. Yorkshire Tea? Bah non! Now calmez vous, you Yorkshire tea lovers, I am the first to praise its richness and caffeine kick. But s’il vous plait! Every tea in its place. ED thought I was being snobby and aloof. Actually I was just being French.

Our teas arrived, poured delicately from poker faced waiters holding charming 1920s style ceramic and metal tea pots. ED looked morbidly disappointed as a strikingly paler shade of tea than the builders brew that he was accustomed to filled up his cup. I pretended not to notice, loftily sipping my peach tea and fiddling with my pearls. ED peeked into his teapot, mashed up the water with great gusto. Then like a mad scientist he poured the tea from one receptacles to another in a vain attempt to transform it into his beloved Yorkshire tea. ‘How is your tea?’ he asked. ‘Delicious, very refreshing’ I replied. And it was. The peach was fragrant, but not over powering nor artificial and the black tea base was also good quality. I would have liked ice cubes made from the same tea, rather than plain water, but perhaps this was a diva request too much.

I hadn’t asked ED how his tea was, but he proceeded to tell me for the next quarter of an hour. ‘Damn French, no doubt they gave up and surrendered before learning how to make a decent cuppa’ he quipped. A few saving graces were the cream white waiters jackets and bow ties that got a big ED thumbs up, as well as the lighting and chic furnishings. The adjacent museum and shop were just a money making con, fooling silly parisiens and americans with too much money into pointless purchases. I failed to notice his remarks, drawn from my table by the aroma of some delightful little tea scented candles.

But then a remarkable thing happened. ED shot up behind me, smiled and paid for the bill, candles and all. Perhaps he was an Embarassing Dad, but he was also a Embarrassing Paying Dad. So perhaps he can come with me next time after all.

Mariage Freres tea salon, emporium, restaurant and museum
30 rue du Bourg Tibourg, Paris, France
Telephone (+33) 01 42 72 28 11
Tea Emporium - Restaurant - Tea Salon - Tea Museum
Open 7 days a week
30 rue du Bourg-Tibourg, Paris 4e
Other tea salons throughout the capital, some with restricted opening times. Check website for details:

Quality of tea: 7/10
Service: 6/10
Ambiance: 8/10
Food: N/A (We didn’t eat, but there is a good menu, with good brunch options)
Value: 6/10

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Fellow tea lover, thank you for letting me know what you think.