This afternoon, after a brief wander around the Oxfam Book Store on Marylebone High Street, the boyfriend (R) and I headed along swanky Marylebone High St looking for a cup of tea. Knowing the area, I kinda expected to walk away because I was not in any mood to shell out vast sums of money for a simple afternoon tea.
But then I spied my sister's favourite pastry shop, that I haven't visited in a long time. So at my suggestion, we headed into Patisserie Valerie. The patisserie's website describes its history
"Patisserie Valerie was originally conceived in Frith Street Soho in 1926 by Madam Valerie. She came to London on a mission to introduce fine Continental Patisserie to the English. ..... During the Second World War the Frith Street premises were bombed by the Luftwaffe and Madam Valerie subsequently set up shop around the corner in Old Compton Street where her legacy continues to this day in our Soho branch....The unique café-atmosphere includes the decor left over from the 1950's epitomised by the now famous Toulouse-Lautrec style cartoons by Terroni. A partnership of the three Scalzo brothers - Enzo, Robert and Victor - acquired it in 1987. We have grown steadily since then, having eight sites in Central london. "
Many a day has passed when I've had my nose pressed against the Marylebone branch's pastry-laden window, salivating at the various cakes and chocolates on offer, but not really wanting to push past the queues of coiffeur-ed Marylebone-types . Today though, we finally stepped in.
We seated ourselves at a table at the back and waited for our uniformed waitress to take our order. Distracted by the cake counter, I edged past the other guests trying to get a better look at the goodies on offer. Two rather tall ladies stood right by the counter, blocking my view and ignoring my valiant shouts of "excuse me please". I wasn't giving up though. I finally edged past them and managed to attract the attention of the counter-assistant. "Are any of these cakes suitable for vegetarians? ", I asked. She gave me a very quizzical look and turned to her colleague. My heart sank. I expected a muttered exchange followed by the classic shoulder shrug indicating that they didn't have a clue. I wasn't expecting a slice of cake anymore.
Instead, manager Paulo appeared. "All our cakes are suitable for vegetarians", he said, "except for the mousse which contains gelatine".
"Are you sure? No gelatine, no animal rennet?", I asked again, unable to believe my good luck.
"No, they're all suitable for vegetarians", he answered. I asked him for a recommendation. He suggested the Selva slice which was a combination of layers of fruit, chocolate, cream and zabaglione sauce. Mmmmmmm....
Soon after, the cake slice arrived at our table. R was already busy savouring his "cuppa tea". And not long after R was sighing with abject satisfaction. The tea was perfectly made and at £2.60 for a pot, R was pretty pleased on the value-for-money front as well.
I chomped through my cake. A bit rich and creamy, but then I had made the choice of this one over other less creamy options. The sponge though was absolutely light and the cake as a whole was perfectly baked.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the table next to ours being served a massive sandwich accompanied by frite-style chips. The chips looked absolutely fresh and yummy. I couldn't eat a morsel more, but I decided to check the veggie-friendliness of the chips anyway (for next time).
"Do you fry the chips with any other meat products", I badgered. Once again, manager Paulo took me by surprise. "No, we serve so many portions of chips, that we find it more sensible and indeed more economical to fry things like fish cakes separately", he noted. He added that they used the frier only for chips. Nothing meaty or fishy goes in there. In fact, they had a separate smaller frier for those items.
I was delighted and impressed. Finally and unexpectedly I had stumbled upon the rare occasion at an omnivorous restaurant where cross-contamination is not being condoned by restaurant management on cost or any other grounds.
As we headed out, I was already making plans for my return trip in a few weeks time with my cake-a-holic friend L. Shows you how good I thought it was ! And next time, I'll leave enough room in my tummy to taste and review the savouries ....
NOTE: According to the Patisserie Valerie website, their cheesecakes aren't suitable for vegetarians either. Please see http://www.patisserie-valerie.co.uk/about/faqs.html#3 for further details
105, Marylebone High St, London
ph: 0207 935 6240