French Cedric Grolet is a big problem. He is one of the best pastry chefs in the world (he won the title of Best Pastry Chef in 2018). He has over 2 million followers on Instagram and is famous for creating sham desserts that look like fruits (sometimes also nuts and flowers). Today, he’s crossed the Channel to open his first patisserie outside of France with this ambitious high-end cafe and “patisserie lab” in The Berkeley Hotel. Since it opened in February, there have been endless queues and people have been going crazy for it on social media.
During my Monday morning visit, I was greeted by five pastries that looked like works of art displayed in their own glass bell. It reminded me of the enchanted rose from ‘Beauty and the Beast’, but with less faded blooms and more flaky, buttery goodness. I took a seat on one of the eight pink stools on the clinically white polished steel counter for my two-hour, seven-course pastry tasting menu which is simply labeled: bakery, savory, flower, fruit, sweet fruit and fresh frozen.
It’s straight from the oven and straight to you.
Unfortunately, there was no sign of Grolet himself in action, but his team of pastry chefs were on hand to explain ingredients and techniques. “We’re proud there’s no fridge here,” my pastry chef said, handing me my first plate. “It’s straight from the oven and straight to you.”
The menu started off with a bang: a delicate and intricate web-like croissant cracker with a luxurious swirl of Peruvian dark chocolate that felt downright decadent, both bitter and sweet. It was quickly followed by a transcendental flaky pain suisse au chocolat – a layered croissant with silky vanilla custard and a chunky chocolate core. I bit into the ASMR-worthy crackle ridged top. My eyes rolled up in delight and I’m pretty sure I heard angels singing at some point: a masterclass in silky, crispy textures and refreshingly rich flavor contrasts.
The same couldn’t be said for the next two courses, however. A croissant sandwich with avocado, spinach and smoked salmon, topped with a delicate dollop of caviar and a thick drizzle of Hollandaise sauce was prepared in front of me. Unfortunately, the lemon and vanilla marmalade was way too bitter and overpowering thanks to the citrus. It wasn’t too bad when the components were consumed separately, but it was way too rich.
Next, a nod to the UK, with a take on a scone. It arrived as a dense, crumbly chocolate covered cube that was pulverized to look like a scone. But it had nothing to do with the scone we all know and love. Although the accompanying plate of clotted cream, orange marmalade, strawberry and black currant jam was delicious and I picked up every last morsel with my finger.
To finish, a slightly too tangy lemon granita with thyme and lime (sparkling lemon caviar from Australia) palate-cleansing served in a hollowed-out lemon half. It was refreshing and cut through the heaviness of the previous dish. The menu then ended on a high note with a light and buttery madeleine straight out of the oven, presented in front of me to snatch the platter. I left the restaurant feeling hyper and dizzy like a kid (probably from all the sugar) but soon after I broke down (probably from all the sugar) and couldn’t do anything eat something else for the rest of the day.
So do I think this multi-course tasting menu is worth the tempting price of £135? No, probably not. But then where else can you experience a pastry chef’s table with such attentive service? This is definitely a place for special occasions. And for those on a budget more Greggs than Grolet, but still want to try pristine sweet creations, there’s an elegant 70s-style cafe attached to the restaurant, where diners sit on plush round chairs and try individual takeaways from £7 to £25 each.
Several of these dishes are available on the current menu at Cédric Grolet’s counter and some dishes change daily.
What is that? Famous pastry chef Cedric Grolet’s first London pastry bar.
Why go? For God-tier croissants and madeleines.
What’s the vibe? A clinical scientist’s lab meets a groovy ’70s-style cafe.
What is the food? Chic pastries, straight out of the oven and straight to your plate.
What’s the drink? Pressed juices, Jing and Laurent Perrier rosé teas.
Time Out’s tip It’s pure luck what’s available on the day, but expect masterful desserts