Papillon at Hotel Cafe Royal offers high-class patisseries and desserts in similarly sumptuous surrounds
What’s the background?
Papillon at Hotel Cafe Royal is the (rather prettily) rebranded version of what was in a previous life known as The Cafe. Its premise remains largely the same, offering a small and elegant French-influenced restaurant alongside a takeaway patisserie counter. Disappointingly, however, it seems to have done away with the short-lived dessert restaurant that once resided there (where else is it socially acceptable to have multiple puddings with your dinner?!).
Thankfully Sarah Barber remains at the helm of all things sweet, who is fast becoming one of my favourite pastry chefs in the capital; I highly recommend following her Instagram, and if you’re up for a challenge getting her fantastic cookbook. And I know it shouldn’t matter that she’s also a great female pastry chef, but there’s really not enough women getting a spotlight in the industry, as the fact that she’s the first female executive pastry chef in the hotel’s 150-plus year history attests.
As a relatively small space fronting onto a busy road, Papillon at the Hotel Cafe Royal is not the place for quiet or intimate meetings, but is perfect for holeing up for an afternoon of watching the hustle and bustle of Regent Street pass you by. Even if just dropping in for a casual cup of tea and a pastry it feels like a proper treat, helped along by the friendly and attentive staff. The decor has all the understated grandeur you’d expect from a five-star hotel, while still retaining a light and contemporary feel.
What’s on offer?
It’s worth making repeat visits, as the lineup of cakes is regularly overhauled according to the seasons. Not only is this is the obvious good sign that they are really getting the most out of the ingredients, but provides even more outlets for Barber to express her creativity. The stars of the show are the petit gateaux, and Papillon must have one of the largest selections on offer around. In the unlikely situation that they don’t divert all your attention, there’s also impeccably made macarons and chocolates to choose from. A new addition are clever desserts in a jar imagined in such traditional combinations as jaffa cake, Eton mess and peach melba, guaranteeing that your pick will make it home in one piece.
What to choose?
The summer collection is heavy on beautiful and light berry and citrus flavours, and retains all the characteristics of Barber’s refined, yet playful, style that riffs off English classics. The strawberries and cream picnic is especially whimsical, fashioned to look like a vibrant, red-hued sandwich, while the alluring peach melba looked fit-to-burst with deliciousness. It’s hard to go wrong, and the (many) gateaux I’ve had from there have all been fantastic. For my latest haul, while tempted by a rather gorgeous-looking red velvet cake topped with raspberry and vanilla, for structural reasons to survive the tube journey home I plumped for a raspberry, lychee and rose tart and banoffee pie, both of which tasted every bit as good as they looked.
What’s the damage?
Most of the individual petit gateaux and dessert jars are priced around £7. This is definitely high-end patisserie at high-end prices, but you are absolutely getting what you pay for.
Papillon at Hotel Cafe Royal, 68 Regent St, Soho, London, W1B 4DY; papillonlondon.com