Tarte au citron

A superlative French lemon tart from Comptoir Gourmand

“Well, yesterday I ate two of them so yes, they are pretty nice,” says Lorenzo—when it comes to food, professional vouchsafes don’t come much stronger. Not only has the tart in question been tried and tested in the last 24 hours, but it was so good a man spoilt for choice when it comes to patisserie elected to have it twice in one day.

And he’s Italian—a fact which not only suggests superior culinary standards, but rules out any suspicion of national loyalty. Our Friday feeling this week is French: the bakers are also French, for we’re at Comptoir Gourmand enjoying a reliable headline act in the stall’s sugary cabaret: tarte au citron.

“It is not your average lemon tart. It is made with proper ingredients and proper passion, because everything we do here represents Comptoir Gourmand and French baking.” The butter in the pastry is French; the flour is French; even the lemons are French, though Lorenzo naturally can’t help but think they’d be even better from Sicily. Most importantly though, they are handmade, every day.

Every day,” insists Lorenzo. “They are only good for a day and a half, so to compromise on quality is not an option. We just wouldn’t sell them.”

Drops of sunshine
As it is, selling these drops of sunshine is not a problem, each one a deep pool of lemon yellow, crisply encircled in shortcrust pastry, ‘Citron’ piped on in calligraphic loops of dark chocolate across its surface. The bright, intense marriage of sharply sweet curd and biscuity butteriness promises to cast at least 99 per cent of all the lemon tarts we have ever tasted into the shade.

It is an invigorating experience, both in terms of the taste—which rings with freshness and quality ingredients—and texture. It is a sea dip on a hot day; cold cream on sunbaked skin; the round, sea smooth pebble among the stones.

“Each one is slightly different according to where it is in the oven and who made it, so you can choose which you prefer”; more browned and crisp, lighter and cakey, aesthetically perfect or with a small splodge of homeliness, the choice is yours. As, of course, is the option of having two.