Last weekend, after a light lunch at Jen Cafe and lots of food shopping in Chinatown and window shopping in Soho, the girls and I found ourselves in need of some light refreshment. As we were in the area, I lured them up Wardour Street with promises of Italian pastries and very good coffees. Actually, I only had the blogs to trust as I’d never yet visited Princi, Alan Yau’s latest venture, a London branch of a Milanese bakery-cafe chain. I love love love the cafes in Europe (the ones in London aren’t really the same) so I was really looking forward to trying it.
It was about 3:30pm on a Saturday afternoon when we rocked up and the place was packed; there were curious tourists, possibly curious locals and many many Italians crowding the place and the food on their plates looked delicious. We had no idea how the whole place worked though but it was simple enough to figure out. You head to a counter (bakery/pastries/salads to the left, hot food at the far end), order your pastries, take the tray to one of the cashiers where you also order your drinks. Then you fight for a place to sit – I think it was an absolute miracle that we were able to get three seats together.
As I browsed the selection of pastries, the girls had zoomed in to one, the Pasqualina, an egg, ricotta, and green vegetable (spinach? chard?) pastry (£4.00) and were oohing and aahing over it. If I’m not mistaken, this was a single pastry version of a typical Ligurian torta pasqualina made for Easter time. We wanted to try just about everything in the cases though and so agreed to split three pastries between the three of us. The Pasqualina would be the first. This very rich pastry was chock full of fresh cheese and greenery and our slice had the bonus of having two egg yolks. Here it’s presented already cut into three by the server.
Our second choice (ok, it was mine) was a cream and ricotta tart (£3.50) which I chose partially on its description and mainly on its looks. It was like a rustic little cheesecake with bonus bits of cherry within. Unfortunately, it was also laced with almond extract and this was not marked on the label – one of my friends has a slight allergy to nuts and this lack of labelling is a definite downside. If she had had a serious allergy, the day could have ended badly. If you do have any particular allergies, it’s probably best to really grill the people working at the counter on each and every product in the case. Otherwise, a fine tart.
A slice of passionfruit cheesecake (£3.50) made up the final cake in our order – I’d heard such wonderful things about it on other blogs that I couldn’t not have it. This was a light and smooth cheesecake with a tart and colourful passionfruit topping. I’m all for different textures when it comes to cheesecake – a New York style cheesecake is delicious but sometimes too heavy. This almost mousse-like cheesecake is the antithesis of that style and I loved it. The balance too between cheesiness (not too much) and passionfruit (not too sweet nor too tart) was just perfect.
To drink, I had a latte – and a very fine latte made with good strong espresso. They’re happy to also dispense glasses of tap water so don’t be afraid to ask. Oh, those famous fountain taps running along the wall? Can they be removed please? They just make us want the loo.
We’ll all definitely be back – I want to try more of their savouries and I’ll make sure to come earlier in the day to avoid the rush. Or is it always this crowded?
135 Wardour Street
London W1F 0UT