It must be getting on for 40 years since I first had tea (or coffee) and cakes at Patisserie Valerie located at 44 Old Compton Street, Soho in London (and, yes, that does date me!) I used to go there every so often as a student. Once I had started my PhD over in Drury Lane, my friend Vasken and I would potter over there (or to one of the other cafes in that area) to natter over a cake while our gels ran: this sometimes required turning the electrophoresis current down very low (this - of course - helped avoid unnecessary heating … or something like that… .)
Early in our relationship, before we were married, I would sometimes meet my then girlfriend there. Her mother (my mother-in-law) first went there, she tells me, when she moved to London in 1947 after being demobbed from the Wrens.
But, now, in an all too familiar pattern, Patisserie Valerie is essentially no more. It grew vastly in recent years, and represents a mass market chain, rather than the small specialist cakeshop I originally knew. It seems to have fallen victim to a particularly nasty fraud, and has collapsed. On 23 Jan, a large number of branch closures was announced - and to my great regret this includes the one in Old Compton Street. The Old Compton St branch was one of the earliest to open, and now one of the first to close. It was with great sadness that I saw the closed cafe yesterday as I walked past.