Snapshots of savoury and sweetIsabella Steinmeyer with permission for Varsity

The last time I ‘took tea’ was with my German exchange student. Between us stood a tower of fondant fancies, triangles of dainty sandwiches, bite-size cupcakes and a language barrier. The starched tablecloth was as stiff as our conversation; but that wasn’t going to put me off this time. Did you say Afternoon Tea at the newly refurbed Patisserie Valerie on Bridge Street? With a new menu too? Ja, bitte!

I am greeted by sunny staff who seat me at a marble table with a pink suede booth – it’s giving 2015 Zoella, but the cushions are comfy, so I can’t complain. The ambience is… well there is none; the Arc Café has more buzz, but I suppose it’s 2pm on a Wednesday so the average age of 60 is to be expected. I opt for the mint tea: it does what it says on the Premium-labelled tin, leaves of fresh mint soaking in a royal blue teapot. We are amused.

“The ambience is… well there is none; the Arc Café has more buzz”

Out comes the tea stand. A multi-storey cake park of sweet delicacies and perfect rectangular sandwiches to make Barbie jealous. I exercise some restraint by starting with the savoury. There’s a selection of four sandwiches and I dive into the cucumber and cream cheese first. Though simple, the pillowy white bread, fresh cucumber and generous dollop of cream cheese is a treat. Crusts off, it’s primary school lunchbox nostalgia in the best way. Next, I try the turkey and stuffing, which is not so good. The lack of sauce on a notoriously dry meat makes it stick to the roof of my mouth – chuck in some cranberry sauce fellas! The smoked salmon and cream cheese redeems the turkey debacle, but the winner of Round 1 is easily the egg and cress sarnie. I’m as surprised as you are. As someone who is often afflicted with the ‘egg ick’ I steer well clear of eggy sandwiches. It was pure journalistic integrity that forced me to give this one a go, but the sweetness of the brioche married perfectly with the creamy eggy mixture. This was no Meal Deal affair.

Next up, scones. There are two: one plain, one raisin – and in the interest of regional equality, I spread one with jam then cream, one with cream then jam. The scones were buttery and flaky, and the tart raspberry jam balanced the sweetness perfectly. I’d intended to take a bite of each and move on, leaving plenty of room for the proper puddings. Too late, they were so moreish, I gobbled them down with ease.

“I left the café as a Lothario leaves his mistress and sneaks back home to his wife”

Enough foreplay, it was time to get down to business. I warmed up my pudding stomach with a dinky chocolate tart, smattered with hazelnuts and coated in a glaze of… I don’t know what, but it tasted lovely. Lucky I was tea-ing alone: they were fit for a Sylvanian family, but I suppose you could call these one bite wonders ‘refined’. I moved onto the Smurf-blue macarons, which I have to say were the low point of the experience. They were sweet but beyond that I couldn’t say, and I didn’t return for a second bite. Not to worry because the cakes saved the day! I began with the gingerbread, it was moist (sorry) and had a subtle kick that warms the throat as it battles week 5 lurgy. But the pièce de résistance was the chocolate cake. With a decadent slab of fudgy chocolate goodness on top and a layer of chocolate frosting in the middle, this bad boy made me swoon. In a moment of weakness, I tore the one I’d put aside for my housemates out of its box and hoovered it up too, saving them the blood sugar spike. Am I Bruce Bogstrotter or Barry’s Bootcamp? Possibly both.


Mountain View

Flat Iron falls flat on its face

I left the café as a Lothario leaves his mistress and sneaks back home to his wife; I’d emptied my teapot, and my abandoned essay couldn’t wait any longer. But what was the cost of my decadent foray with my French mistress Pat Valerie? At nearly £20 a head, I might have to stick with PG Tips. Plus, if life wasn’t miserable enough for sufferers of lactose intolerance, coeliac and veganism, the menu doesn’t cater to most dietary requirements. I must dock points in solidarity.

So, save this spot for when a relative/generous friend/fairy godmother comes to town – food always tastes better when it’s free. Until then, Hobnobs will have to do.