For all the talk of London’s emergence as a great foodie Mecca, the capital’s bakeries – or, rather, their paucity – are still something of an embarrassment. PÃ¢tisserie Valerie and Maison Blanc show that quality operations can survive, but in most areas of town the supermarkets have driven all before them.
Our friends across the Channel are riding to the rescue. Paul (France’s largest boulangerie/pÃ¢tisserie chain) started off with just a landmark Covent Garden bakery, but is now spreading to high streets and stations (most recently, Victoria) across the capital. In Belgravia, the only non-Parisian outpost of PoilÃ¢ne – home of the world’s most famous sourdough – has made itself something of a cult destination.
In the light of the other French success-stories, we approached this opulent new outpost of one of that city’s most famous pÃ¢tisseries with high hopes. We were not disappointed. Retail, as someone once said, is detail, and it’s not just the no-expense-spared marble interior which shows that this is a serious operation. It was the napkins which clinched it for us – ‘By Porthault for Laduree Harrods’. ‘Everything of the best, and nothing left to chance’ seems to be the motto here.
All this planning wouldn’t matter if the food was not up to scratch, and we were impressed by our lunch here. For a swish department store snack – a large salad and pastry, perhaps – you’d be hard put to do better. In fact, the place already seems to be attracting a following from non-shoppers (though small tables make this an intimate destination, rather than one for occasions requiring any degree of formality). A take-home box of the famous macarons is de rigueur.