Harry D Lalousis has a name that should be in lights but for the moment he’s Boutique Manager of Maille Mustard in London’s Piccadilly Arcade.
A man with a big personality and a huge understanding of all things mustard he took me on a journey from the revolutionary streets of Bastille to modern-day London via Dijon.
I’ve always been a big fan of mustard, my love for this condiment made with mustard seeds has grown over the years, along with my palate and I tend to enjoy the mustards with texture, wholegrain being a particular favourite. I’ve tried a few variations but I’m often let down and lumbered with a large jar of disappointment. At the Maille Boutique in London, you try everything the range has to offer before buying anything.
Small jars mean they’re not hanging around for years, gathering dust in the back of the fridge or cupboard, flavoured mustards tend to be at their best for six months. There are recipes for each jar, from dressings to marinades, dips to sauces, plenty of versatility to make sure that jar isn’t hanging around doing nothing but take up space.
The man behind Maille mustard, Distiller and vinegar maker, Antoine-Claude apparently saved lives which would have otherwise been lost to the plague when it hit Marseille in 1723. They doused their temples and palms with the antiseptic vinegar and swallowed a teaspoonful in a glass of water. In 1742 Antoine-Claude Maille’s son, of the same name is registered as a master vinegar-maker and this notoriety allows him to open his first boutique shop 5 years later. The House of Maille was the official supplier to the Kings of France and many European Royal Courts, including our very own Queen Victoria. A jar recovered from a shipwreck bound for Blighty is evidence that she was a little partial to Maille. Could this be the reason she was always so glum? No Maille. No smile.
Recipes left to heirs after their death are still used in mustard production to this day.
Maille is a recognised all over the world, but it’s only in Paris, Dijon, London and soon New York where you can experience the boutiques – much the same as Antonie-Claude’s Boutique allowed customers to back in 1747. Mustard Sommeliers work out of the Boutiques and it’s here that you can book a one-to-one with them as part of their Concierge Service
During the Summer, Maison Maille took its inspiration from the French Royal Kitchen Garden (Le Potager du Roy) with recipes for mustard based on the fresh ingredients from the season. That garden was where the finest produce was grown, culinary fashions made and followed, and was a highlight of the tour Louis XIV gave to his important guests. Louis loved cherries and it was an issue for the head gardener who had trouble growing these beauties throughout the year. Heads rolled and in honour of all those green-fingered gardeners who just couldn’t cut, well the mustard, the Maille Morelle Cherries and Almonds Mustard is an honour to them all.
Head upstairs in the London Boutique and discover a world of flavour, including fresh mustard on tap, much the same way it was sold back in 1745.
Oils, the quintessential vinegar, hand-picked mustard collections, cornichons
and ‘mustard gloves’, pottery mustard pots and spoons are all on display.
Stumped for a gift? Ditch the flowers and go for the mustard option. Mustard is king here and the sommeliers are educating anyone who steps over the threshold that there’s so much one can do with Mustard, regard it as a lot more than a humble dollop on the side of your plate.
It’s here I am wowed by aromatic herbs to fruits and berries and there are recipes for them all, some requiring just a brush of mustard over a chicken breast. I leave with the mustard that wowed me the most at the time of tasting, pistachio and orange, a jar of mango and Thai spices and orange and ginger, all great sizes at just over 100g. I also take the freshly pumped mustard, the delicious Sauternes, all are well packed and put in a gold and black boutique bag.
He’s a clever man, Harry, I’m beckoned back as I leave the store with “You must try this before you go, we’ve managed to keep a small jar here but it’s not officially back in store until October.” The flavours of Périgord’s finest black winter truffle and Burgundy’s famous Chablis white wine have remained with me, in a good way, throughout the morning. Hooked. I can imagine a simple mashed potato transformed with a generous dollop of this signature mustard, extravagance all year round! I’ll be back! If you happen to be in Piccadilly, go and visit this place, it’s worth a tasting session (which are free) and the recipe cards are inspirational.
Maille, 2 Piccadilly Arcade, London, SW1Y 6NH