By Guest Blogger – Jill Woolf
As a savvy PR and marketing guru (someone else’s words, not mine), I’m always on the look-out for new and exciting places to hold informal meetings. And if cake is involved, so much the better.
Although I’d been to Patisserie Valerie a couple of times before (in Knightsbridge, darling), when my good friend and coffee and cake meeting conspirator Pete Jenkins asked me to write a guest blog about a venue of my choice, I plumped for the Hove café. I’m not entirely sure it’s a ‘haven of self-indulgence’ as their website promotes, but I certainly put on about 5000 calories just by looking in the window!
The selection of cakes and pastries on offer is mouth-watering and the prices aren’t too bad, considering (£2.60 for a huge Danish pastry, for example). Simply deciding from the wide range of Danish pastries is difficult enough. Some of their creations are works of art.
Patisserie Valerie prides itself on its 1920s heritage (there actually was a Madame Valerie) and the décor and ambiance support the theme. There’s a menu full of yummy-sounding snacks or meals for breakfast, brunch, lunch or beyond, and a take-away menu for those who want to succumb to their gourmet delights in the privacy of their own homes or offices.
The café opens from 7.30am to 7pm on weekdays and 8am to 7pm on Saturdays and Sundays (see www.patisserie-valerie.co.uk).
On this particular visit, I was welcomed by a most courteous waiter who opened the door for me and left me to choose at which table I wanted to sit. I sat down and pondered on whether he had simply been in the right place at the right time, it was a usual occurrence or if I looked especially old or tired that day, as it seemed no-one else was afforded this treatment and they had no idea I was to write a review! A quick, surreptitious peek around the room meant I spotted a couple of tourists taking photos of each other, a business man simultaneously using a laptop and mobile while juggling his coffee, and a couple of ‘ladies who lunch’ who’d got the time wrong and were, in fact, ‘ladies who coffee’ instead.
The staff were presentable and very friendly, while being discreet, allowing customers to remain for as long as they wanted. I wonder if this is the same on a busy Saturday?! The café itself was clean and tidy but there’s just something not quite right about the lay-out of the tables inside. They’re slightly too close together for my taste and it can get quite noisy and bustling. There are tables outside for those who enjoy the fresh air, although the busy Brighton/Hove thoroughfare that is Western Road probably offers some of the juiciest pollution around.
I sampled the hot chocolate and flat white coffee, throwing caution to the wind and mixing my drinks, as my ‘coffee and cake’ business colleague and I ploughed through our work agenda. The price point for this sort of hot drink (cappuccino, Americano etc) is £2.80 and the cup size is generous. My colleague told me the flat white coffee is the best around, and I have to agree. The pastries were delightful and if I had any complaint at all, it would be that the air conditioning unit is ungainly and a trifle noisy, the traffic can be quite loud when the door opens and the parking around there is dreadful – but there’s nothing they can do about the latter. The counter display of cakes and snacks is certainly enticing, but the background muzak is a bit cheesy.
There’s a great many coffee shop and take-away competitors in the area including a Starbucks on the opposite corner but with our enduring love of coffee culture, I’m sure Patisserie Valerie will flourish. If it keeps up its good service, reasonable prices and sumptuous cakes and meals, there’s no doubt it’ll be high on my meeting venue list when I’m in the area.
Their website says Barbara Windsor and Ronnie Corbett go there (presumably in London) so if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me!
Jill is MD of a non-fluffy PR and marketing consultancy, believing in communications with integrity. Follow Jill on Twitter at @chimeracomms