Franck Desains on Mariage Frères' London tea emporium and restaurant

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Franck Desains Mariage Frères

Related tags: Casual dining, Tea

The deputy managing director of high-end French tea company Mariage Frères on the group's recently launched London flagship.

Mariage Frères was established in 1854. Can you tell us a little bit about its history?
The Mariage family started trading tea at the end of the 17th century. Then, in Paris in 1854, brothers Henri and Edouard Mariage founded the company Mariage Frères; we have been operating out of Paris’ Marais district ever since. We work in a niche market, favouring quality over volume. We have always had a special relationship with our planters because we share the same passion for tea and, like them, we want to obtain the best product that every tea garden can offer. .

How many tea rooms does Mariage Frères operate?
We operate about 50 tea emporiums around the world. Our Tea Emporiums are high-end boutiques where one can have a complete tea experience: buy at the tea counter, taste incredible tea cuisine and patisserie in the tea salon, and enjoy a cultural moment in the tea museum where we present a fabulous collection of antique objects and tea paraphernalia.

Who are the key people involved with the London site?
Our general manager, Lucas Gonzalez, had been trained in Paris for over a year before returning to London. He has become a fantastic ambassador for French tea and Mariage Frères. Most of the rest of the team are from our Paris shops and have many years of experience. I make a point to be in London every week so that I can help guide the training of our new recruits.

Tell us about the concept – how similar is it to the other places in the group?
With each new establishment we try to innovate and London is no exception. Our Georgian town house is the first of our emporiums to offer a tea-to-go counter with over 50 types of teas and infusions, as well as sweet and savoury patisseries to takeaway. The retail space houses the largest collection of tea in the world while the Salon de Thé (tea restaurant) is open daily for breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. We also have a tea museum and two private event rooms.

What style are the interiors?
The ambiance evokes classic French style inspired by our travels in the tea-producing countries. The interiors remain quintessentially Mariage Frères – a contemporary twist on a timeless decorative style that spans the centuries. Every object, piece of furniture and decoration has been carefully selected and fabricated to create a harmonious environment in which to host the most incredible tea collection in the world.

How will tea be integrated into the food menu?
Mariage Frères’ Cuisine au Thé concept uses tea as a delicate ingredient, spice or flavouring in every dish. Dishes include tea-infused patisseries such as the Coup de Soleil, a crème brûlée tart infused with fruity & flowery Marco Polo tea. We have over 1,000 different blends to choose from so we might choose matcha green tea for a fish sauce, while a blue or black tea might be better suited to jus for meats.

What’s the price point like?
Loose tea from our tea counter range from £5 per 100g to £110 per 100g. The cost of the restaurants is around £40 per head for two courses and a tea pairing.

What are the key trends in tea at the moment?
This year is all about embracing the spirit of adventure and we are inviting our fans to try new and exciting things in the world of tea. We invite everyone to step out of their comfort zone and explore new teas created with planters in countries that are just starting to export their harvests to the West.

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