Patisserie Valérie, Soho
44 Old Compton Street
020 7437 3466
by Blake Pudding
Accompanying me to Soho's famed Patisserie Valérie were the godfather of molecular gastronomy, Harold McGee, fresh from a whistle stop tour of Europe's culinary hot spots, and his esteemed editor, Richard Atkinson. McGee's tour had taken in the Fat Duck at Bray and El Bulli near Girona and after such experimental cookery, I thought where better to take him than somewhere classic and dependable like Pat Val (as my great aunt the Comtessa de Castiglione calls it- dreadful woman that she is).
We all ordered eggs benedict reasoning that it is always good to order something that you would not normally prepare for yourself. When Harold had mentioned that it was impossible to get properly poached eggs in the States, Richard and I had smiled smugly at each other. We should not have been so confident. The hollandaise was runny and tasteless and the eggs, which had no flavour at all, had been 'poached' in an egg 'poacher' rather than prepared properly in gently bubbling water. To mitigate, the coffee was excellent as was the service and the company. The eggs benedict was £6 with the coffees costing £2 so this was a premium though not extortionate breakfast.
The croissants and the cakes here are always excellent so perhaps the mistake was ours to entrust a Frenchman with a cooked breakfast. With these things one needs an Englishman or perhaps a Greek Cypriot.