Why eclairs are all the rage in Singapore
Who would have thought that the humble eclair once available in less than a handful of flavours — more often than not in chocolate, coffee and vanilla — would go on to inspire a global revolution of sorts?
One can credit French pastry chef Christophe Adam and his recent success in taking the classic French pastry born in the days of Marie Antoinette to new heights, reinventing both its looks (using vibrant, glossy hues even Warhol would have been jealous of) to its near-limitless interpretation of flavours. This has led many to declare the eclair “the new macaron” in terms of its popularity.
The fad has also arrived on our sunny shores; and this has led to two concept stores taking root in the past six months: L’eclair by Sarah Michelle on Clemenceau Avenue, and the one-month-old Karafuru Desserts on Jalan Klapa near Arab Street, headed by pastry chef Michael Liu. While both boast some creative flavour combinations, L’eclair seems to be grounded by distinctly Parisian sensibilities, while Karafuru Desserts champions lighter but no less indulgent Japanese-inspired eclairs.
“I think Singaporeans are generally quite well-travelled and well-informed,” said L’eclair’s Sarah Tan. She and co-founder Michelle Looi went to Paris to train at Le Cordon Bleu for a year in 2013 where they developed a taste for creative eclairs.
“Certainly those who have been to Paris or Europe would have encountered the eclair phenomenon,” she mused, adding that the decision to launch a speciality store was partly based on the idea that it would help them stand out in the growing crowd of pastry shops.
“On the practical side of things, running a specialty shop helps us to streamline operations and allows us to become better and faster at what we do,” she added.
Given the eclair’s more versatile nature (unlike the macaron, it is not held back by a dependence on a lot of sugar), some have argued that it might just have the legs to outlast the macaron fad.
“The versatility of the eclair as a flavour carrier surpasses that of the macaron,” said Joseph Koh, a partner and director at Karafuru Desserts. He thinks that having a world-famous name behind it — like the macaron does in Pierre Herme — may not be necessary.
“It works both ways; a famous name will certainly help in market visibility and ascension. Likewise, a dark horse may also garner attention,” he explained, referring to Karafuru’s unique take on Franco-Japanese pastries. “Most importantly, it should taste as good as it looks; that’s a universal winner.”
He also pointed out how consumers today are seeking out not only deliciousness but also beauty. “Perhaps that is why the macarons and eclairs have much intrinsic room for aesthetic appreciation,” he shared.