When an in-the-know French friend recently declared that À La Mère de Famille was, by far, the best confectioner in Paris, I had to take notice. This is a woman who really knows her sweets, and also my aesthetic sensibilities, so off we set to this magical, sugar-infused emporium in the bustling heart of the ninth arrondissement.
The shop is picture postcard perfect – or, these days, totally Instagrammable – a candy cache that has been in the same location, on the corner of Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, since the late 1760s. I was charmed from the kerb by a striking green façade with original gold signage, enormous windows full of edible delights, and a colourful glow cast by metal chandeliers hanging within. Inside, I was delightfully overwhelmed by old-world bins of creamy caramels (€6.90), glitter-wrapped Lilliputiens (€9) and hand-painted candied apples (€8.50), as well as by tables stacked with elegantly packaged, precisely arranged boxes of ganache and praline.
I decided on the spot to do all my souvenir shopping at once and spent a good 15 minutes learning about the regional French delicacies on offer – uneven milk and dark chocolate discs (€23.50) known as Croque-télés, almond-studded bûchettes au praliné (€19) and Négus de Nevers (from €21.50), nostalgic tins of coffee-infused pastilles coated with hard caramel that melt in the mouth.
Simpler but no less delectable were the tablettes (€5) – slabs of chocolate in various flavour combinations such as 65 per cent dark chocolate and candied orange or a white chocolate variety studded with nuts and dried fruit. Jars of citrus and raspberry bonbons tempted me, but ultimately I settled on boxes of À La Mère de Famille’s delightfully gummy pâtes de fruits (from €13) in peach, mango and lime. I also stocked up on calissons (from €14) – the Provençal almond treats infused with candied melon, orange peel and honey.
I was so taken by this bijou sweet box, and the Dolfi family that now runs it, that I now send everyone here for exceptional edible souvenirs.