Galvin La Chapelle, London
Yotam Ottolenghi — himself a former pastry chef — has described the tarte tatin at this Michelin-starred restaurant as ‘the best one I ever had’. It’s served with crème fraiche whipped with calvados and icing sugar (£12.50). So enamoured are the Galvin brothers of the apple dessert that they hold an annual tarte tatin competition for amateur bakers. The prize? An engraved tatin dish, a magnum of Champagne — and free tarte tatin for life at the restaurant.
Holborn Dining Room, London
Executive chef Calum Franklin (pictured), a self-described pastry perfectionist, spent three months trying to master tarte tatin before putting it on the menu. It was worth the wait. He’s of the opinion that you can’t improve on the classic, although his magnificent version (£16, to share) — packed full of apples, and with puff pastry so caramelised it’s almost crunchy — is served with vanilla ice cream.
Wilsons Restaurant, Bristol
Restaurant critic Jay Rayner — no easy man to please — has lauded Wilson’s tarte tatin (£10) as ‘a classic, done perfectly… The Tatin sisters would approve’. Not bad for a small, self-styled ‘English bistro’ where the menu is based around ingredients foraged, grown or hunted by the team. They’re currently developing a recipe using malted puff pastry, served with goat’s milk and rosemary ice cream. What the Tatins would think of that is anyone’s guess, but it sounds fabulous.
Barley Bree, Perthshire
This little gem, located between Edinburgh and Glasgow, is a product of the Auld Alliance. Chef Fabrice Bouteloup hails from northwest France, while his wife and sommelier, Alison, grew up on the Isle of Raasay, off Scotland’s west coast. Although the menu is tweaked daily, one thing that never changes is the tarte tatin (£8.95), Fabrice’s signature dessert. “Our customers would not forgive us if it was absent,” he says.
Hotel Tatin, Lamotte-Beuvron
This classic provincial French hotel restaurant (a dying breed), is well worth a visit for what Michelin describes simply as ‘good cooking’, the crowning glory of which is, of course, the tarte tatin (€8/£7.20), served without adornment, as tradition dictates. Stéphanie Tatin’s oven is on display in the bar, should you wish to pay homage.
Boulangerie Marlau, Chailles
On the banks of the Loire, between Tours and Blois, the town of Chailles has no chateau or medieval cathedral. What it does have is an organic bakery whose tarte tatin scored 9.5/10 in the 2015 regional finals of TV show La Meilleure Boulangerie de France (‘France’s Best Boulangerie’), propelling baker Richard Gressent to the national final. He didn’t win — but if Boulangerie Marlau’s tarte tatin is the best in Loir-et-Cher, it’s probably the best in France. It has a second location in Blois.
Les Philosophes, Paris
This Le Marais institution is hardly flying under the radar (there’s often a queue snaking out the door) but any wait is worth enduring, especially if the tomato tarte tatin (€12/£10.75) — a jammy slab of a thing — is on offer. Authentic tatin addicts should note that the apple version (€8/£7.20) pops up on the €35 (£31.40) set menu, along with the tomato tatin, with a non-pastry main course in between.
As the name suggests, the menu at this unusual restaurant — more reasonably priced than you might expect, given its proximity to the Élysée Palace — is a celebration of the apple. It ranges from a watermelon gazpacho with Granny Smiths and cider vinegar to a tarte tatin (€9/£8). Not just any old tarte tatin, either, but a mille-feuille of slow-cooked, near-candied apple that’s almost too pretty too eat… but not quite.
Check out Felicity’s tarte tatin recipe.
Read ‘Tarte tatin: deconstructing the classic French dessert‘ by Felicity.
Published in Issue 3 of National Geographic Traveller Food.