Maison Bertaux

 
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One of the jewels of London
A particular favourite of London's cake cognescenti, this French-English-hybrid patisserie dating back to 1871 is the domain of charming and effusive trained actress Michele Wade, who worked here as a 'Saturday girl' in the 1970s and bought the business in the mid-1980s. Wade added a theatrical touch (swathes of red, white and blue taffeta, painted mirrors, outdoor costumed and bare-breasted Bastille Day stagings etc) to what remains an unwaveringly analog olde-worlde-ness. Sweet and savoury gems are in a category of taste and texture of their own (neither outright French nor British), from morning Viennoiserie (French almond croissant, pain au raisin, plum Danish etc) to midday snacks (quiche, ham/cheese croissant, dijon slice) to afternoon patisserie (mille feuille, Paris-Brest, plum and almond slice, unusually light cheesecake, simple and yummy eclair, the perfect macaroon etc). And they know how to make tea here. And the coffee's improved. Quality of Viennoiserie can vary according to house temperament, veering from A+ to very occasional mild misfires. Readily gets buzzy, but there are tables next door, out front and upstairs in a café room that doubles as an art gallery, which is run by Wade's fabulously kittenish sister Tania, who plays shop maîtresse weekday mornings and early afternoons. Bertaux is a one-off for sure, and never without gay appeal. This was often the breakfast spot of gay artist/mentor/activist Derek Jarman (1942–94), who had a flat around the corner in Charing Cross Rd, above the Phoenix Theatre.

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