French eatery Patisserie Valerie is well known for its stunning cakes, but just how well does its afternoon tea go down? We sent our reviewer to find out…
In the heart of the bustling business district on St Paul’s Street, Patisserie Valerie is a popular daytime haunt for the busy workers of Leeds – and it’s no surprise with their mouthwatering selection of cakes calling you in from behind those floor-to-ceiling windows.
On this sunny Tuesday afternoon, it wasn’t just the cakes we were after though – it was the afternoon tea experience. The place was fairly chocker when we arrived at 2pm, but we found ourselves a little table at the centre of the cafe, and set about ordering.
If you’re the indecisive type, you’ll be relieved to know there are barely any decisions to make. There are five different sandwiches, five different cakes and two different scones to devour for £25 for two people – the only quandary is what to drink, with a hefty selection of hot drinks available, and the option to add a couple of glasses of Prosecco for an extra fiver – although we chose to stay sober today.
I plumped for the classic breakfast tea, while my dining partner opted for afternoon coffee instead, going for one of their lattes. The staff were buzzing around the place, making sure everyone was well taken care of, so the fact that it was busy didn’t slow things down. Within a couple of minutes, our hot drinks arrived at the table. The French eatery didn’t disappoint with my classic English brew, and the smooth latte went down well on the other side of the table too.
The hot drinks were soon followed by the afternoon tea itself, and its sudden arrival took us a little by surprise. Speed is a double edged sword. On the one hand, you want your food in good time, but you also want it made fresh, and I’m not convinced that was the case here.
The bottom tier held the sandwiches – cucumber, smoked salmon & cream cheese, egg mayonnaise & cress, ham, spinach & mustard, and chicken, pesto & sun blazed tomatoes, all cut into inch wide strips on a mixture of white and brown bread, alongside a duo of mini vegetable quiches.
They were very tasty. The chicken, pesto and sun blazed tomato in particular stood out, with tender, juicy chunks of chicken brought to life by the power of the pesto and zest of the tomatoes. The rest of the fillings, it’s fair to say, are difficult to mess up – but there is something to be said about the bread.
It felt a little dry, like it had been prepared ahead or left out, and that did the sandwiches a bit of a disservice. At least, they came alongside a pair of delightful mini vegetable quiches that made me wish they weren’t so mini – the filling was as smooth as you like, dominated by the flavours of the red peppers.
We then moved up a level, to two petite, but wonderfully warm, scones each – one fruit and one plain for both us. They came with a pot of strawberry jam each and a generous tub of clotted cream to share. For my dining partner this was becoming something of an experience – she was visiting from Estonia, and it’s safe to say she’d never had anything like this before. After a bit of direction as to how best to enjoy the scones, they went down a treat, with the soft, just cooked insides blending brilliantly with the jam and cream. A classic really well done.
By this stage, we were already feeling well fed – it’s possible that Patisserie Valerie are a little too generous with their afternoon tea, but we weren’t complaining. And so we moved to the third tier, the cakes. This is what they do best. We were treated to a mini chocolate eclair each, then a small Victoria sandwich, a mini double chocolate mousse slice, a mini carrot and walnut cake slice and a mixed berry mousse slice.
Now, the chocolate eclairs were very good, the choux pastry was wonderfully light, with plenty of cream in the middle and a big dollop of chocolate on top, but it was the carrot and walnut cake which stood out from the pack. The recognisable carrot cake flavour was definitely in there, but the texture of the walnuts gave it another dimension, while the icing on top was sprinkled with cinnamon, which might well have been our favourite part.
On the other end of the spectrum, the mixed berry mousse was a bit disappointing. All the flavours were there, but the texture of the jelly-like mousse just didn’t sit well.
From start to finish, the afternoon tea at Patisserie Valerie took around 40 minutes, which is absolutely great if you want to indulge on your lunch break, but over too soon if you want to bask in the experience – of course, there’s no reason why you can’t take your time, we just didn’t have the will power. But aside from that, the service was excellent, the cakes were divine and and we did feel like we got our money’s worth with the £25 price tag.
Patisserie Valerie, 8 St Paul’s Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 2LE.