Papillon at Hotel Café Royal, London
Consider the following; Autumn is deserting us at a rate of knots in favour of his grotesque and hideously unwelcome cousin, winter. You’ve worn out your soles being dragged around Liberty by a person whom you used to refer to as ‘your best friend’, but with each trickle of ice cold rain water that permeates your shoes you’re starting to re-evaluate the entire friendship. In your mind they’re now the sadistic love child of a shopaholic and a megalomaniac with all the commercially motivated reckless abandon of a lottery winner.
You’re caught in the hostile, post-apocalyptic no man’s land of the Regent Street area and sitting on a temporarily vacated footstool in Sports Direct for a split second of respite won’t cut the mustard. You’re far too cold, wind-swept and starving at this point. In fact, only something rather special will fill the void. Papillon will be your saviour.
Standing at 70 Regent Street Papillon is, I believe, the only café (port in a literal and figurative storm) on the whole length of the street. What’s more, It’s open from 7.30am for the first flat white (if you work in media) or Cappuccino (if you’d really prefer a flat white but regrettably… you don’t work in media) and freshly baked croissant all the way up to the late doors of 11pm.
The staff are immaculately welcoming and everything is beautifully presented. The inside of the café is a sight for sore eyes, as you peel off your soaked jacket and admire the impressive marble décor throughout and flawless white table linen.
It straddles an extremely pleasing ‘half way house’ between elegance and informality which is why you only need to apologise four or five times for the rainy river trail you’re leaving behind you on entry from the traditional London weather, lashing against the window panes outside.
Time seems to slow down when you settle in at Papillon, there’s no sense of rushing things. It’s easy to forget that a few seconds ago you were locked in deadly game of ‘chicken’, as someone strode towards you on the street outside and as your eyes met it was clear that you’d both go down fighting.
One of the many wonderful culinary things worth singing about at Papillon are the pastries and desserts. The Head Pastry Chef is Sarah Barber who runs a team of no fewer than 16 other pastry chefs, and has an impressive 18 years’ worth of experience in creating truly show-stopping cakes, pastries and desserts.
You can get a sense of the devotion to that fine art by even a quick glance at the menu, which shows the weighting of your options is heavily on the sweet side. I tried the Roquefort and Broccoli Quiche which was delicious with strong, but simple flavours, but it was the Fig and Mascarpone ‘Petit Gateaux’ that really hit the spot for pudding. Other contenders that made my final selection incredibly difficult to make were the Cherry Bakewell Tart, the Salted Caramel Choux and the Lemon Curd Cheesecake.
Papillon is the perfect respite, the menu is short but well put together and for those with a sweet tooth, or even without but open minded to conversion, then this is the place for you. Expect spotless service and a dessert selection that’s impossible to forget.
Papillon at Hotel Cafe Royal
68 Regent St, Soho, London W1B 4DY