Patisserie master Cédric Grolet’s London opening at the Berkeley Hotel will begin serving a £135 tasting menu comprised of his trompe-l’œil fruits and elaborate “flower” tarts from 14 February. For those not wishing to spend an afternoon being tricked by fruit, a takeaway “a la carte” of Grolet’s pastries will also be available, costing £25 apiece.
At the centre of the operation is “Cédric’s Counter,” where eight pink stools (divided into two banks of four) sit around a counter of polished steel, with fruits and flowers carved on the walls. This is where to find the tasting menu, with five sweet and one savoury dishes paired with champagne.
Changing with the seasons, each of the “fruits” — some are nuts — is composed of various textures and forms of its imitation, raw and cooked. The quince, for example, comprises a molten middle made from jellied quince stock, infused with the peels and seeds of the fruit; quince dice cooked in the quince stock, half of which have been candied; a quince marmalade made without sugar; and a mousse infused with quince paste. Because he is arriving in London, and needs a London special to bolt on, Grolet is imitating a scone; the opening fruits and nuts on offer are a “lemon” and “hazelnut.”
The counter will be joined by a new cafe offering, “Goûter,” which is reportedly in keeping with a tradition of “sweet snacking,” though perhaps not one that costs £90 a go (for five miniature examples of Grolet’s craft.) As with the takeaway at the counter, individual items ring in at £20 - £25, with a pain au chocolat a mere £7.
This is not to imply that Grolet ought to cheapen his extremely sought-after wares, even if the pricing is indeed “aspirational.” More that he is coming from a city where paying these kind of prices for patisserie is significantly more embedded in dessert culture than in London, and coming to a part of London where the height of the price is so often tied to the value of being present than that of what is on the plate. How will it fare? More soon.