Patisserie Valerie: review

Queues outside the door on a Saturday morning, as others admire the cakes in the window ©Laura Reynolds

Since it opened in York last year, Patisserie Valerie has always tickled my fancy. Modelled on a Parisian patisserie, it reminds me of the novel (and film) Chocolat, an all time favourite of mine.

The fat kid inside of me longs to spend hours gazing wishfully at the delicious range of cakes in the window, which always look way to good to eat. My 20-year old rationale refuses the kid permission to do so, and so my experience of this little slice of heaven, as I imagined it, was limited to stolen glances in the window as I hurried about my business in town, until I visited recently.

A quick glance at the prices tells you that this is not somewhere that many people could afford to eat regularly, let alone students. However, it had been a long week in the library, so we succumbed to temptation and rewarded ourselves.

Arriving at about midday on a Saturday was, in hindsight, an unwise move. A very clever marketing ploy means that you are forced to queue next to the counter with all of the cakes, so that by the time you are shown to your table and asked for your order, you are ready to ask for one of everything (and a mortgage on the side to pay for it all).

Once seated, the service was quick (I guess they needed the tables for the evergrowing queue at the door)- our order was taken almost instantly and materialised within 5 minutes, although expectedly there was a longer wait for cooked food.

I ordered a hot chocolate and a cupcake, erring on the side of financial caution, which came to £5.25. Desperate as I was to try a slice of gateau, I could not justify the prices (or the risk of it being too good, developing an addiction, running up a serious overdraft by scheduling weekly visits, and dying obese at the tender age of 21). My friend ordered apple juice and an éclair, which came to roughly the same price as my order.

The hot chocolate was very hot, but bland, with little flavour, and little else to set it aside from any other coffee shop in the city centre. I would go as far as to say it was actually worse than hot chocolates sold at chain cafes such as Costa. The cupcake was a delicious texture and well presented, adorned with a white chocolate star. However, again the flavour was nothing above average, and certainly no match for the newly opened Sooty’s Cupcakery, just two minutes walk away, and only a little over half the price.

My friend, (a closet juice connoisseur, evidently) stated that her apple juice was from concentrate, which was disappointing for the prices they charge. The éclair, on the other hand, was delicious, she informed me, through mouthfuls of cream and chocolate.

Throughout our visit, the staff were friendly, despite being rushed off their feet, and were more than happy to split the bill for us to pay separately.

The atmosphere was definitely close to what I would expect of a Parisian patisserie, but with the Saturday morning shopping crowds buzzing around, it was hard to forget that you were in York. At the prices they charge, booking a trip to Paris may be a better option. Visiting at a less busy time, however, I imagine the atmosphere would be conducive to lazy days, romantic brunches and a much more relaxed pace of life.

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