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I have given up trying to get to Patisserie Valerie, which everyone and their brother tells me is the best bakery/dessert chain in London. Maybe it is. I wouldn’t know. Every time I’ve tried to grab a seat at their shops, I’ve been treated like one of the following:

  • a leper
  • some sort of used turd salesman
  • a suspected dog rapist

I’m sort of guessing. I’ve never encountered any of these folks in real life, so I don’t know how they are treated, but I assume it’s not very good.

On our most rescent ill-fated visit to the chain, we tried to grab a seat at their location in Covent Garden. The staff told us we could sit down as soon as they cleared our table. So we waited. And waited. This sums up the speed of how things were going:

I don't know WHY there was a tiled mosaic of a snail in a doorway, and I don't really need to know: it's just one of those things that makes London magical.

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Finally, the table was cleared, and we moved towards it, only to be promptly yelled at. Apparently our table was not quite ready. So we headed back to the front of the store and waited some more.

After ten minutes of staring at our empty table, I asked someone if we could sit. They looked at me impatiently, and explained that they would let us know, and promptly went back to ignoring us. So we continued to wait. Two women walked in, loaded with expensive shopping bags, pushed past us and headed towards our table.

No problem, I figured. They’d be told it was being prepared for us, and that they’d have to wait. Instead, they were handed menus and served water almost immediately.

I turned to Rand, my blood boiling. This happens to me with shocking regularity. I get it: I often run around in old jeans and beat-up Converse. I look like a poor, rapidly-aging grad student. But believe me when I tell you I’m willing to spend a small fortune on baked goods, so it would be financially advantageous for these places to seat me, regardless of my attire.

We walked out of the cafe and I did my best Godzilla impression on the pavement, stopping around clumsily and breathing fire. It did little to make me feel better. I was hungry and enraged.

Rand steered me towards an unassuming cafe we’d seen earlier. “PIX” said the sign across the front – and upon seeing the “x” in the name, I thought, “THE USE OF SUCH AN OFT-NEGLECTED CONSONANT CAN ONLY MEAN TAPAS.” And it did.

We walked in and were seated instantly (THANK THE HEAVENS). There was a large bar along one side of the restaurant, and it was covered in beautiful, meticulously arranged snacks.

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“Just help yourself,” the young man behind the bar said. Though I realize I might have been swayed by the fact that I was starving and he was offering me food, I remember him as being absurdly handsome and kind and smelling of roses and cupcakes.

Rand thinks that this claim might be slightly exaggerated. Whatever.

Pix’s system is pretty simple: tapas are laid out, buffet style. Each item has a skewer in it – either a long one or a short one – corresponding to the item’s price (in fact, pixtos, the Spanish word from which the restaurant gets its name, means “spike” or “thorn”). After your meal, a server comes and quickly tallies up the skewers and hands you a bill. It’s incredibly simple, easy, and doesn’t even require you to read a menu.

And did I mention you get to eat instantly?

Chorizo and machego at left, and toast with goat's cheese and balsamic figs at right.

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The turnover in the place was so fast that no dish seemed to be sitting out for very long. Everything was fresh and delicious.

Same as above, alongside a little bocadillo we demolished.

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Pan con tomate, topped with jamon serrano and quail egg.

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Full and happy, we left an obscenely large tip, even by American standards, and then wandered back out into the chilly afternoon with renewed vigor. So much vigor, in fact, that I might have uttered few nasty words under my breath as we passed Pastisserie Valerie. Don’t worry: like before, I doubt they noticed me.

Full list of categories:  City Guide » Food » Restaurants
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Comments (12)

  1. 1
    Kerry says:

    Have you been to Brindisa yet? By far my favourite tapas in London, and although the service is often a bit non-evident I’ve never had trouble getting a table or ordering – it’s just when you want eg another set of cutlery that they suddenly disappear. The food is super prompt too.

    I’ve just found your blog and am excited you’re in my hometown! Drop me a line if you fancy lunch in the City sometime (Hawksmoor is the only place for lunch and/or cocktails).

  2. 2
    Emily says:

    Hey you’re in London! Although you’ve probably left by now. Greenwich is looking really nice – been all done up for the Olympics and the Cutty Sark is back. I was thinking of your trip to see the observatory when I saw it. Patisserie Valerie is rubbish. Try Ottolenghis or Euphonium in Upper Street or Peyton and Byrne (several places but a nice one in the Welcome Institute in Euston). Must less snobby and I think nicer baked goods.

  3. 3
    Mandy says:

    I am envisioning a future post where you go back to Pastisserie Valerie all dressed up carrying loads and loads of take-out bags full of baked goods and say “Big mistake. HUGE!”.

  4. 4
    Becca says:

    Dang it Mandy! I was just about to write the same thing.

  5. 5
    Jane Babich says:

    Wow… goes to show ya that “great” is sometimes just right across from “unacceptable”. So glad that you and Rand ended up with an amazing meal and renewed energy to continue on the journey. Now that I have read and seen the pictures… time for lunch!

  6. 6
    Emily says:

    Ooh and I forgot Konditor and Cook. They are amazing.

  7. 7
    Sierra says:

    Yum! My favorite way to eat, quick with lots of variety and small portions so I can try everything…looks like you won after all!

  8. 8
    Edgar says:

    I’m from London and I’ve been to Patisserie Valerie with my girlfriend on more than one occasion. Each time we have been completely ignored at the till, since we wanted to take away some macarons. I guess that’s the store’s “policy” and soon we gave on them regardless of their cred.
    Next time you get the chance to visit London, you should try and go to Ladurée. They have darn good macarons and other baked French delights. And the service is impecable.

  9. 9
    CatCatAttack says:

    I get this treatment when I go to buy a car. Makes me crazy. Next time I’m just going to staple a big sign on me with the amount of money I’m willing to spend to make it clearer I’m not a hobo looking for free coffee and a 30 mph joyride.

  10. 10
    Deepa says:

    Hummingbird bakery in London. Red Velvet Cupcake. Enough Said.

    • 10.1
      Kit Nicols says:

      Been reading this blog and just had to comment to utterly, utterly agree with you. Hummingbird bakery in South Ken on a Saturday afternoon, followed by a walk around the market. And then a trip to the completely amazing new ice cream shop (can’t remember what it’s called…’Crush’ I think?) for homemade Italian ice cream on waffles.

      Ok, getting carried away now.

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