By Andy Hall
For the average student who doesn’t speak the language of love, this latest café to open up in Preston isn’t, “Val’s Pasties,” oh no, mon cher/mon cheri, this is Parisian and therefore it’s “Valerie’s Pastries.” I can’t quite believe how continental Preston is getting.
Anyway. It’s opened within the past week or so and I figured today was as good a day as any to check it out.
It has opened underneath where Saints and Sinners used to be in St. George’s Shopping Centre (I refuse to call it a Mall) on Friargate. I attended at half 1 and it was extremely busy, in fact I think there may have only been one table free.
The décor works towards replicating a modern café in the heart of bustling gay Paris, it is quite lovely and the front of the café looks beautiful although like most other chains, I’ve a slight suspicion the décor is probably generic across the board. It is spacious but also quite obvious they want as many people as they can in there because the majority of the seating is rather sardine tinned; I would hazard a guess that it could seat around about 35 – 40 people.
The café, as a whole, was lovely and clean, which is exactly what you would expect from a venue on its opening week. Unfortunately nature didn’t call so I can’t comment on their bathroom facilities but I would be confident in saying I imagine they’re probably as spick and span as the café is.
While I say café, they do offer a range of savoury bites. From breakfast through to Lunch there are a variety of continental options: Fruit Salads, Croissants, Pan Au Chocolats for example as well as full breakfast options that seem to majorly focus on eggs for some reason. Getting closer to Lunch they have 5 choices of ‘speciality’ sandwiches that come with fries and salad and from Lunch through to Evening there are some more substantial dishes: Lasagne, Chicken Caeser Salad, Carbonara etc. It’s a menu that isn’t at restaurant level but it clearly offers way more than your average BHS Café options. Then, of course, is the Patisserie section. The host of sugary products (sorry Jamie Oliver) is on view in the front window in some wonderful displays where you can choose from a variety of chocolate, lemon and fruit delicacies. The breakfast menu averages between £1 – £4, the Brunch, Lunch and Evening menu averages between £6 and £10. If you’re after something a bit sweeter than you’ll be spending anything between £1.65 up to £6.45 and if you’re really feeling generous (or the student loan has come in) then they do offer an Afternoon Tea for Two for £25.
As my wife was working today I took along two of my very good friends which was handy because it gave me a bigger selection of food to look at. Between us we had the Chicken Caeser Salad with Breakfast Tea, the Soup of the Day with Darjeeling Tea and a Chocolate Mousse with Coke. To start off with the negative, I can’t say I was blown away with my chocolate mousse; it was presented beautifully but the mousse to sponge ratio was way out and I only ate half of it. The soup, which was Carrot and Coriander, received pleasant and positive feedback however we asked for a brown roll and initially got a white one and then brown toast, which was a first. However, the salad was the clear winner of the day. I’m not a salad man so we’re all fortunate my friend was there however she wouldn’t stop talking about how good it was. It offered a good array of salad ingredients (my knowledge sorely lacks here), was of a clearly decent portion and the handling of the dressing was masterful (apparently). I would never pay £9 for a salad however my friend did say she would happily pay for it again because it was absolutely worth it.
For Preston, I personally felt that the prices are too high, especially for a chain business where I didn’t get any real sense of individuality. If you’d asked me to pay £26 for a salad, soup, mousse and 3 non-alcoholic drinks then I would have very politely gone somewhere else. However, that being said, my friends wholly disagreed so unfortunately this is going to be one of those not overly helpful reviews where you’re just going to have to check it out yourselves.
If I returned again (and I probably will because my wife is miffed I didn’t take her) then I would absolutely not choose the crammed seating and I would try the warm waffle desert because it sounds like my mouth might get to experience heaven before my soul does.