Before leaving for our honeymoon in Paris, I asked my friends on Facebook for any Parisian suggestions. Everyone responded with delicious things to eat, and the treat that our friends recommended over and over was “an ice cream at Berthillon on Île Saint-Louis”.
Well. I am not one to turn down ice cream. And after several palates that I trust mentioned that this was the best ice cream in Paris, I had to go.
So, in my usual style, I first read everything about it.
I think I like the anticipation of a trip almost as much as the travel itself! In preparation for our trip, I had been reading David Lebovitz’s blog and making lists of all the places I needed to visit in Paris. I also grabbed his book about all the delicious eats (and frustrating bureaucracy) in Paris: The Sweet Life in Paris. Lebovitz is a pastry chef, known for his ice cream recipes, and discusses his favourite ice cream in Paris on his blog. He recommends Berthillon, but also several other ice cream shops. (He also has a recipe for a caramel au beurre salé (salted caramel) ice cream that he says is “better than Berthillon”!)
I also took with us a copy of Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris by Clotilde Dusoulier, who also recommends a scoop at Berthillon. And Dorie Greenspan includes Berthillon in her The Paris Ten: Must-Tastes post, saying: “No one knows how Berthillon does it (and they’re not telling), but they make ice cream with the deepest, truest flavors ever churned.”
The original owners have been running Berthillon for over 50 years, and they are known for making their ice creams and sorbets without any artificial flavours or additives.
All of these raves convinced us to try this illustrious ice cream, and so I looked up the Berthillon website to figure out directions to their flagship shop on Île Saint-Louis (31 rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile). And there I saw a SHOCKING announcement: that they were about to close for the summer. They were open for only two more days while we were in Paris, and then they were going to close for summer holidays until September! Now, I have no idea why Paris’s most famous ice cream shop would close in the middle of summer, but we knew we needed to high-tail it over to their shop before they closed.
So on a lazy Saturday morning, Mr. KitchenOperas and I decided to make a day of it. We walked from our apartment up to the Seine, and over the Pont de la Tournelle onto the smaller of Paris’s two islands: Île Saint-Louis. As soon as we stepped onto Île Saint-Louis, it was like we were in a whole different land. All the streets were much narrower, and filled with quaint shops and restaurants. On each block were several cafés and restaurants with signs advertising Berthillon ice cream. But we were aiming for to the Berthillon shop itself — and we knew we had arrived when we saw a line coming around the corner!
We got into line, and stood behind a father with his young daughter, who must have been about 6 years old. Mr. KitchenOperas asked which flavour I was thinking of getting and when I instantly replied with: “caramel au beurre salé“, the father turned around and told me that was the most perfectly Parisian thing to order.
Once up at the front of the line, I asked for a cup with two scoops: the caramel au beurre salé ice cream, and mirabelle (little yellow plums) sorbet.
The mirabelle (top scoop, below) was sweet and bursting with yellow plum flavour. I love the little yellow mirabelle plums preserved in syrup, but have never had them fresh. This sorbet was pretty close to the flavour of fresh plums, and was refreshing with a soft (and not icy) texture.
The caramel au beurre salé ice cream (bottom scoop) was a highlight of the trip for me. It was super creamy and luxurious, with that dark flavour of ever-so-slightly-burned caramel. There was just a hint of salt that made the caramel flavour even richer.
Mr KitchenOperas ordered a sorbet — the fraises des bois (teeny wild strawberries), after I’d seen on the website that the seasonal wild strawberries were available RIGHT NOW and for a limited time. It was divine and tasted of nothing but wild strawberries.
We enjoyed our ice cream walking through the streets of Île Saint-Louis and peering into the windows of all the shops. But you could also take your time in the Berthillon tea room right next door, where they serve Berthillon ice creams by the scoop or in sundaes, fresh juices, tartines (open-faced sandwiches), pâtisseries and viennoiseries (pastries and yeasted pastries).
Although the flavours change daily, Berthillon does list all of their ice cream flavours on their website:
And of course, they also have an online list of their sorbets.
We wished that we could have gone back to Berthillon to try more ice cream combinations. But alas, they closed for their summer holidays and we had to get our ice cream fix elsewhere. We continued eating Berthillon ice creams at other restaurants around Paris, but it seemed that their texture became compromised. A scoop of caramel au beurre salé at another restaurant was disappointingly grainy, like it had been in the freezer for just too long.
For both excellent ice cream, and a wonderful atmosphere, nothing beats Berthillon itself on Île Saint-Louis. If you find yourself in Paris, make sure to stop in for a scoop — the line up is worth it, I promise!