If you believe Belgian entrepreneurs Dries Henau and Yuri Vandenbogaerde, cupcakes are a thing of the past as are macaroons.
They are betting on their favourite sweet thing: éclairs. In their two Chez Claire boutiques – in Antwerp and Ghent – the two are set to elevate their tasty grandma-made childhood treat from its current lowly, sticky and dull grocery-store fare all the way up to a luxury delicacy enjoyed in elegant surroundings with a glass their private-label champagne, Cuvée Claire, or with a cup of great coffee.
Chez Claire stores offer 13 different kinds of éclairs, including pistachio, salted caramel crisp, triple dark chocolate, cheesecake and mango passion. The éclairs are as much a visual feast as they are a taste experience. Some are decorated with edible flowers, some with nuts and most with an edible logo.
The owner couple – they have been married for more than six years – is known in Belgium as De Jongens (The Boys).
They became household names in Belgium in 2012 when they opened their successful casual restaurant concept Wasbar (they sold it in 2015 to Top Brands, operator of Pizza Hut, Paul bakery and Wasbar) that won local awards as the best startup and best new brand. They have also written several business books
For Chez Claire, the pair teamed up with Anwerp-based Pinkeye, the studio they also used for Wasbar.
The Pinkeye-designed pink take-out boxes resemble high-end jewelry-store packaging with each treat nestled in its own golden compartment.
The logo is a play on Clair, the imaginary brand muse, using her lipstick to transform the word ‘éclair’ into ‘Chez Claire’. Everything in the 80 square-metre (861 sq.ft) boutiques supports the idea of offering a eclectic and luxurious escape into the world of indulgence.
Gold mirrors and paneling, pink walls dark marble and dramatic black-and-white patterned floors, all contribute to a feel of dynamic passion. The cluster of round mirrors in the ceiling creates a fantastic, reflecting focal point while the pink neon sign behind the counter spells it all out: “que d’éclairs” (nothing but éclairs). Tuija Seipell.