Now, I have a Confession. Going into writing this I was hoping to reach a controversial conclusion. Akin to saying something like a Toyota is better than a Porsche. No. For those who can't be bothered reading (why are you here?) the result is as expected. The Ladurée macarons are better than the el cheapo generic ones. No surprises there. I was hoping, really hoping that the generic ones would shine through, but that hope diminished the moment I saw the generic ones in the counter. (made the mistake of buying the Laduree ones first).
Another confession. I ain't never heard of Ladurée until I saw the lines in Westfield. Yes I have heard of macarons (thank you mr/s cynical - I won't even go into macaron vs macaroon...) Tasted them even. But I'm not what you would call a connoisseur. So I'm looking at these little overpriced sweets from a layman's point of view. As in, would someone like me tell the difference between an 80 odd cent macaron and one costing $3.20? Sadly the answer is yes. And the difference I would dare say is more than $2.40 worth. Not that I think $3.20 a macaron is worth it. But bear with me.
No one expected the lines at Ladurée to last forever but the fact that there's a line at all us somewhat of a miracle in this economic climate. There is a great article here about masspiration. And these macarons, like your LV bag and Rolex watch is an aspirational purchase. It makes you feel good inside to enjoy a little bit of "luxury". And if you look at it this way - $3.20 in exchange for say, 30 seconds of luxury? How do you price 30 seconds of bliss? (well, actually that would depend on the flavour but we'll come to that. ) but enough with the philosophical thoughts and let us get into the actual macaron comparo. I did want to include zumbos but there was no easy way for me to get them...
|Even Laduree Macrons aren't perfect... But I'm nitpicking here...|
Appearance wise the Ladurée macarons are much more consistent in look, feel and size. Although they are by no mean perfect. Some fillings are thicker on one side making the macaron look lopsided. Some crusts are also cracked but I suppose they've come a long way (from Switzerland) so that's to be expected. The colours are vibrant but I'm not sure if that's a good thing health wise. However the vibrant colours does make them look much more appealing.
|The generic macarons. Much more inconsistent|
The generic macarons are anything but consistent. You get a variety of sizes and thickness. You kinda wish they would pick out the thicker ones as you get more filling! The colours are softer as if they been through the wash once too many. Advertised as freshly baked on site but you'd be hard pressed to see the difference.
|Side by side comparison between the Laduree and the generic|
Incidentally we passed by Pattison cafe and they were also selling macarons at $2.50 a pop. These are very close in quality to the Ladurée ones. Minus the fancy packaging. Which would run towards a dollar at least. From a layman's perspective the $2.50 Pattison ones are more than adequate. Plus they also make the all important salty caramel flavour.
|Pattison special - 2 for $4. Not too bad at all|
So it comes down to this. I wouldn't get the generic ones again. Ladurée and other name brands are just that- you're paying extra for the name. Or if you want to impress someone. I think you can easily get really good macarons freshly baked well in the $2 to $2.50 region. Practically speaking. But at the end of the day it's more than just simply the macarons. Isn't it?
Although the macarons by themselves are pretty good it's more about the whole experience in which you enjoy them. Eating by yourself next to a dumpster and they won't taste quite as nice as if you had great companions seated in a gorgeous cafe looking out into the sea with soft Spring breeze caressing your skin. It really is about the experience and that is something which cannot be priced. But it's yours for $19.95 plus tips.
The experience is priceless and that is ultimately what you're paying for. And that little bit of luxury escape before waking up to reality once again...