Monday, 13 March 2006

How So Very Civilised

A few months ago, in our constant effort to find quaint, quirky and generally interested places, Slightly and I went to the famed Maison Bertaux, the 130 year old patisserie cum cafe on Greek Street (Soho). Although Slightly really liked it, and after all the hype I had heard about it, I must say I was rather underwhelmed by the whole experience. Apart from its name and perhaps some of the incredibly camp staff, there is very little French about the place. The place is cramped, very noisy, and rather dingy. With its Lincrusta-lined walls on the first floor looks like the (very English) décor hasn’t changed since the 1950’s (for the exception of a cheap looking lick of glossy paint). While this is not necessarily a bad thing, there is simply no charm or vibe to the place. As for the patisseries, you would probably never find any of those in a real French shop back in the old country. For me, it is very much English for all that it claims to be.

Yesterday we went to the slightly posher looking Patisserie Valérie, round the corner from Maison Bertaux on Old Compton Street (gay men must be particularly fond of pastries; Paul are about to open their own shop on the street). Although the patisseries on offer looked just as foreign and tailored to an English audience to me as the ones on display in Maison Bertaux’s window, the atmosphere felt more authentically French. It being a Sunday afternoon, the place was mobbed but we managed to find a table for two on the first floor, in a hustle and bustle not unlike that of a brasserie or a salon de thé.

We ordered Cream Tea, which, to Slightly’s amazement I had never had before. Very soon, appeared on our table, two metal tea pots (one for tea, one for hot water), tiny preserve (jam, to you and me) pots, plates with two scones cut in half and toasted (one plain, one with raisins) and a small pot with spreadable cream in it, and, of course, cups.

One suddenly felt like Dame Maggie or Dame Judy. It was all so frightfully delightful, my dear Count!

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1 comment:

  1. I completely agree. Neither of them has ever seemed very French to me, either. I still maintain that I would miss pâtisserie BIG TIME (although being gay, I'm not actually allowed to eat it :lol:) if I moved back to London.


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