The Butter Market, prior to its redevelopment, housed several rather shabby, low-key little shops//stalls selling freshly made sandwiches, O’ Hagan’s sausages (that I couldn’t eat but salivate after), pet supplies and other local-ish small businesses. When news came out that a complete overhaul was in the pipework, everyone was fully aware that this would also bring in a hefty rent increase which could only be afforded by retail chains at the high end of the market and most probably not local.
I liked the old Butter Market. With the WI stall and its ladies who sold clingfilm wrapped Victoria Sponges most definitely made with margarine and unmatching jars of jam with disproportionate sugar/fruit ratio. There was Splitz, the fresh sandwich stall that would make doorstop sandwiches to order. These weren’t dainty M&S sandwiches, you seriously had to open up and say ‘aaaah’ for Splitz sandwiches. They’re now selling pre-packs at the local newsagent, their sandwiches slimmer in order to fit into those clear plastic sandwiches wedges. There also used to be a fishmonger a long long time ago, back when I was at the delightful side of 20s.
There were no build-up prior to Patisserie Valerie opening. Around a week before their opening day, a poster was put up advertising some job vacancies from waiting staff, baristas and management.
So, we took a seat in the corner which allowed us a full visual of the establishment.
Seeing that we hadn’t really planned to stop for a bite (which is always the story of our lives), Slaveboy and I decided to share our sweet & savoury. He ordered a cappuccino for himself and I a hot chocolate. We went for an Eggs Benedict Royal (toasted brioche, smoked salmon, 2 poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce) and for sweet, I choose the Selva, which according to the waitress, was delicious and involved rum (she might have meant the other cake but I can’t remember and that was another bugbear, many of the cakes had fancy names with no description alluding to what they really are).
Let’s set the common ground rules here for cappuccino. We like a bit of creamy froth with the coffee. Not the other way around. Yes? Do we all agree with that? Well, it took Slaveboy several spoon excavation of froth to get to the coffee.
The coffee was bitter, and in no way smooth and there is simply no excuse to produce such substandard coffee when you have a decent coffee machine. I reckon this has more to do with the fact that Patisserie Valerie was still advertising for baristas around a week before their scheduled opening.
My hot chocolate, if someone had blindfolded me, was no different in taste and texture to the sort you get in packets from your local Travel Lodge. It was nothing special, powdery and left a gritty residue in the bottom of the mug a slightly saccharine flavoured unpleasant taste in my mouth.
And Patisserie Valerie, do take note, the cream on top of a hot chocolate should be decadently creamy. Not aerated nothingness.
Ok. So here’s how the Eggs Benedict Royal looked like. I promise you I have not doctored with the yellowness of the Hollandaise sauce.
The brioche upon inspection, looked toasted, but it didn’t taste like it had been. It was quite cold. The smoked salmon was plentiful but too chilled. The poached eggs weren’t rubbery (thank all the deities) but the yolks were overdone. I’m not sure if this had to do with some crazy food health & safety requirement or their research shows that the Chichester natives do not like their yolks runny but I would have loved it if they actually thought of asking me how I liked my eggs. The sauce was inoffensive, not velvety or buttery enough and the colour was mildly off-putting.
The Selva, as you can see, was squished. Now, I don’t know about you, I sorta expect near perfection if I am paying near enough £4 for a slice of cake. The was a chunk missing out of the bottom layer of the chocolate cake (which was your typical devil’s food cake concoction made out of cocoa powder and in this case, poor standard cocoa powder) and the blackberry and strawberry on the top of the cake had definitely been doused liberally with lemon juice and sugar to keep them looking fresh. Unfortunately, they failed at tasting fresh.
Going by the flavour of the cream layer in the middle, the bit that was mixed with chopped up fruits, would hazard a guess that the cake slice had not been freshly made and suffered from some freaky load of over-chilling. It really doesn’t bode too well for a newly open establishment (it was day 3) to be serving food that tasted aged.
The decor was light, airy and glitzy, with floor to ceiling mirrors at one end. There were some pretty impressive light fixings and even the obligatory dashing Robert De Niro-like waiter (I earnestly apologise for not getting a photo of him but ladies, you will know it’s him when you see him, he’s the Italian silver fox minus the grey hair). However, they were very much let down by various waiting staff congregating in the hub of the restaurant, looking lost and pensive. The carton of milk that they used for making the coffee more often than not was left on the same counter that was used to place the drinks that were waiting to be served, also the same counter that is used by customers who were sugaring their takeaway hot drinks. There was an uncleared pile of spilled ground coffee beans at the coffee machine and the cleaning staff was not briefed enough to answer any questions about their menu.
Like so many chains, Patisserie Valerie does appear to suffer from having muchos money financing what has become a drive for globalisation. The fact that they are a FOOD establishment is secondary. You couldn’t smell the passion. In fact, you couldn’t really smell anything. Just money changing hands and noone really standing up asking for better.
Marks out of 5?
An I-Should-Know-Better-Than-To-Expect-More 0.75 out of 5.
My advice? Save your pennies, walk a few yards up North Street, and have a Macari’s cappuccino. Seriously. I did a few days later. It tasted better and was half the price.
Patisserie Valerie is mere soft core food porn. Without the money shot.