Wednesday 16 March 2016

Restaurant review: Pan de Vie matcha cafe, London

There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in London that focus on one dish or ingredient – be it hot dogs, cheese or arancini (deep fried risotto balls) – but Pan de Vie is the first one I’ve heard of to make a hero of the Japanese green tea powder matcha.
The café/patisserie opened not long ago and invited me along with lots of other bloggers to a launch event. Just off Leicester Square in New Row, the café is likely to get a lot of passing trade but I can imagine it’s somewhere that people will specifically seek out as well. You don’t have to be obsessed with matcha to eat here – but it helps!

The café has plenty of other things – some of their cakes looked to die for – including macarons and madeleines, but their speciality is Japanese treats, many of which are flavoured with matcha. At the launch, we tried a selection of sushi which was good, but to my untrained tastebuds seemed pretty much the same thing I can buy in Tesco or M&S. The more unusual items really stood out though. We tried buns stuffed with chicken teriyaki which were delicious; there is also a sweet version containing matcha custard which was a bit like eating a cream doughnut but intriguingly different. I was also told Japanese cheesecake is something really special – I’d never even heard of it, but tried a small slice (matcha flavoured, of course) – it was so creamy and light, I’m definitely sold! The café offers them by the slice or box of 5 and you can eat in or take away – there is a small seating area downstairs.

We tried a variety of other small treats, but I have to admit I didn’t get the name of a lot of things – there was a cake flavoured with red bean paste; the small green circle is a white chocolate tart (with matcha, as if you couldn’t guess!).
Matcha is an anti-oxidant and is supposed to be effective in improving mental focus; it is used in both Japanese tea ceremonies and in cooking (you can get matcha ice cream, noodles, cocktails and of course cakes). It’s not a fad that will disappear and I gather Pan de Vie wants to roll out more branches in London. Their cakes are not cheap but are delicious.

At the launch event they had hired someone to demonstrate origami; I chatted to him for a while and watched him make amazing flowers so quickly without even looking as he was looking at me while we were speaking! Samuel Tsang teaches origami as a mindfulness technique - I always find it very frustrating as I can't do it, but Samuel said that it's something you have to learn, and following the instructions is like being able to read music - you can't just expect everyone to open a book and be able to do it - but once you have mastered the technique it's very therapeutic. I'll have to take his word for that!

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