Maison Bertaux, Greek Street

Victoria Sponge

Maison Bertaux is small and their almond slices are big. I didn’t manage to take a picture of the inside of the place because a) my camera’s batteries were running low, b) to be honest it didn’t occur to me and c) anyway, I couldn’t really move. Certainly getting the camera out of my bag would have been impossible whilst waiting for a table, sandwiched as I was behind the door and against a sort of balustrade thing and forced, by my position, to become a kind of commissionaire or doorwoman, despite my lack of gloves or a tall hat, for the whole complement of friendly cake-bearers shuttling between the counter and the even smaller overflow tearoom next door.

I got no discount for this service, alas (Maison Bertaux’s almond slices are big and expensive), but it did allow me leisure to contemplate the interior decoration. The place is got up as if for a children’s party, the children in question being upper-middle-class with slightly over-long hair whose parents are a bit green and probably drive a Prius – there was pink floaty stuff draped from the ceiling, one outpost of which had, excellently, a life-size plastic chicken suspended in it; jaunty writing on the mirror celebrated the birth of Daisy Tabitha (8lb 13oz) in 1996. Daisy Tabitha – you see?

Of course, when they were ready, after a good while, to serve me (Maison Bertaux is small and popular), I had neglected, in looking at the chicken, to think about what cake to have, and I hurriedly picked an almond slice because I like almonds and I also like massive cakes, or slices:

Lady Sponge, who was with me – this was her Mothers’ Day outing – seemed slightly put out that I didn’t go for the gooiest or most colourful thing in the window; but neither did she, so, quite frankly, poo to her with knobs on. As much as anything else, my slice was marvellous. It was greasy, but good greasy, in a high-quality, layers-of-filo-pastry, once-in-blue-moon-is-probably-good-for-you-and-what-kind-of-people-pay-heed-to-the-Mail-anyway? kind of way. Its flavour was subtle, but almond should be like that, as anything more would be like perfume or that shaving cream you buy in St James’s. Bursts of a stronger flavour were in any case provided at intervals by strategic currants. The tea was strong and in a proper pot with leaves, and whilst it didn’t have that almost spiced flavour of really good English breakfast, it didn’t matter because the people in charge are, after all, French, or make a good job of seeming to be.

In summary, then: Maison Bertaux is small, popular and recommended; its almond slices are big, expensive and ditto.


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