Patisserie Valerie

March 20, 2012

I have fond mormories of visiting student friends in London in the early 80s and lingering over coffee and cakes in the Soho Patisserie Valerie. It had genuine cachet as a purveyor of heavenly cakes and pastries in a continental style – and remember this was before Starbucks or anyone else had rolled out the “Third Place” concept.

The brand slowly expanded to a couple more venues in central London until 2006 when the brothers who owned it sold a £6 million share to the investment vehicle of Luke Johnson, he who made Pizza Express the ubiquious sight it is now.  Since then there’s been aggressive exapnsion and there are now 49 of them, with several more due to open, including – and here we get to the heart of the matter – Highcross Leicester next week.

Now that anyone with a fiver in their pocket can get a cappuccino and a frangipane tart I’m duty-bound to complain that the place will not have the same appeal as when we would sit in Old Compton Street reading orange-spined paperbacks.  That said, a coffeee house that takes pastries seriously – well, I have to be supportive. I’ve not been to one of the roll-out Pat Vals but will go along when it opens in Highcross. Unless it blows me away,  any independent who woos me with decent coffee and a generously-loaded florentine is likely to take preference thereafter.

Any views on whether it’s a soul-less sellout or manages to be a fair facsimilie of a French cafe patisserie are welcome. I promise to feed back here later.

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