I am a Hackney refugee living on the Thames Estuary, for the moment. You can read my blog at www.makemeadiva.wordpress.com
Published February 21st 2013
Calling all cake fiends
When an historic continental patisserie opens up a new branch locally, a cake fiend like myself takes instant notice. Patisserie Valerie opened its doors on Southend-on-Sea High Street early in 2013 and the first chance I got I visited with my daughter, aged 8, for a tea and cake treat.
You may be surprised to learn that the first visit was inconclusive and I was forced to make a return trip for lunch, with both children, before I felt fully qualified to write a review. This was not, you understand, due to any failing on the part of Patisserie Valerie, rather it was the result of my falling into a sugar-induced blissful stupor after the first occasion.
The cakes are, it has to be said, a thing of wonder and beauty. They are not cheap, £2.40 for a chocolate eclair to take away or £3.35 to eat in for example, but for a treat or special occasion I think it's worth it.
We went in for lunch during the school holidays and as such the place was pretty busy, so we had a short wait to be seated. The service was prompt to take our lunch order, the food took a little while longer to come and the bill even longer again, but to be honest for a relaxed lunch it was fine. If you are in a hurry, perhaps it's better to skip it for another day, as the food is really worth taking your time over.
The children ordered a mozzarella, avocado and tomato on toasted ciabatta, with a generous side salad and crisps for £7.95 and a chicken Caesar salad for £9.00. My two have good appetites so the fact that there were no child options on the menu wasn't a problem but it's something to bear in mind for families. However, when I checked the website it showed that there is a separate kid's menu available, perhaps you need to ask for it. Maybe my two didn't qualify given that they are 8 and 10 and fairly tall! Anyway, the chicken Caesar salad was huge and tasted great with lots of chicken, bacon and lettuce. My daughter said there was too much dressing for her taste, but ate most of it happily. The toasted ciabatta and salad went down very well with her sister who ate it all, apart from the black olive on the leaves which I nicked...
If you like an all-day breakfast then Patisserie Valerie will not disappoint. As well as the usual full cooked on offer, they also offer eggs, poached or scrambled as well as eggs Benedict and Florentine. A sample full menu is here. Personally, I cannot pass up eggs Benedict on any menu so I went ahead and ordered that. To my great delight I was asked if I wanted my yolks runny or well done. Now, I have never been asked that when ordering an eggs Benedict and as I really prefer my yolks well done I was very pleased. The dish, when it arrived, did not disappoint. Two perfect eggs sitting on a generous quantity of bacon on toasted brioche with a perfect hollandaise sauce. Fantastic!
We didn't have room to eat anything else after those dishes, but I can report, based on my first visit, that the strawberry tart is divine and the cupcakes to die for. I will be working my way through the entire cake menu over the course of the year and I was strongly tempted to take away a coffee eclair that I spied on the way out yesterday.
The drink menu is equally good, so far we have tried the hot chocolate, lemon iced tea, apple juice and a pot of tea. Coffee is the Illy brand in all the usual varieties: cappucino, espresso etc. so no problems there and they also offer ice cream milkshakes. Now a cup of tea is usually just that, a cup of tea, but I have to commend the Darjeeling to you - it is amazing! They also have a breakfast blend, Earl Grey and fruit and herb teas so you really are spoiled for choice.
Yesterday's lunch came to £32 for three of us. Patisserie Valerie is not a quick and cheap pit stop, but if you enjoy a leisurely breakfast and coffee, or cake and great tea then you will be glad you made the time to visit.