One of the most renowned international cookery schools, Le Cordon Bleu, has just opened its first café in Europe. Tucked away on quiet Bloomsbury Square, it’s ideally situated to escape the crowds after a visit at the British Museum, or soak up the sun on one of the outdoor tables. On our visit, the premises were brimming with students in chef’s whites, taking a break between classes. The little café serves a small selection of simple sandwiches, quiches, pastries and French patisserie classics. We decided to try the vol-au-vent lunchtime special. It may have been stuffed with a dryish chicken and mushroom filling, but the buttery puff pastry nest was perfectly crafted. Disappointing was the use of run-of-the-mill French baguette – not the flour-dusted, artisan variety – for making the sandwiches. Since Le Cordon Bleu is especially popular for its pastry courses, the emphasis at this little café lies on a mouthwatering selection of sweet treats. However, a raspberry macaron turned out to be quite an unrefined specimen: the stodgy raspberry-flavoured cream filling could have easily been mistaken for a slap of Angel Delight. But a pear tart was perfectly lovely – the thin buttery pastry came deep-filled with almondy frangipane and soft pears. The experience of being surrounded by culinary professionals in the making is invigorating – but the café’s patisserie is more of a Paul than a Pierre Hermé, which is a bit disappointing for this prestigious culinary institution. Anne Faber
For info, see le Cordon Bleu.edu.